Hey Fellas, We’re Not Here For Your Ambiguous Pen Names
If you read a lot of thrillers you may have recently realized some books with pen names that are ambiguous when it comes to the author’s gender. It may make you think of pen names like J.K Rowling, except this is nothing like that. In the case of Rowling, and other women who write under male or ambiguous pen names, they are trying to fight the sexism in publishing and society. In the case of men writing under an ambiguous pen name to be marketed to women they’re just trying to dominate in the space that was finally opened up for women.
After the success of thrillers like Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train it seems the publishing industry finally took note that women do write thrillers as well as men–ha, most likely they probably just saw the dollar signs in neon lights. The sudden payday lead to an influx of women written thrillers starring women, the catch however is that the books are marketed to women. It seems men have a hard time wanting to read thrillers where the main character is a woman and the publishing industry has a hard time wanting to market things to men that are not male-made-male-centered.
So it isn’t enough that the mystery/thriller genre is still dominated by non-marginalized male writers they now also have to “trick” their way into the space non-marginalized women are creating? The reason offered by the men writing under ambiguous pen names is they think women won’t believe they can write good female characters so they won’t pick up the book if they know before hand. Basically, women’s roles in the mystery genre were mostly as femme fatales or the dead/mutilated/abused characters often times written with so much misogyny/sexism that it oozed out of the books and it took two popular female written thrillers to open the publishing doors for women writing mostly feminist thrillers and now men need in on that space by pretending or alluding to be women.
Women haven’t even leveled the playing field (and let’s be honest, we’re talking about white authors) and already there’s a form of push-back. I have no issue with men writing domestic-thrillers/chick noir, my issue is actually that the women’s subgenre get these ridiculous genre names so that the neon sign of “by women, about women, so only for women” is seen by all and tells men to stay clear of picking up the books.
And then we have the always annoying praise for the male writers that can write a good female character. We are praising writers for being able to write a believably human character that makes up half the population? I have never seen a woman praised for writing a good male character. As girls, we are entrenched in male-centered stories from books to film and thus grow up with a pretty good understanding of men where if we sit down to write a male character we don’t have to think and research and treat it as a species from another planet. Boys, on the other hand, are not only not given girl/women centered stories growing up, they’re discouraged from reading and watching “the girl things.”
Instead of trying to be tricky and creating pen names that make readers think you’re a woman, why not draw attention to the sexism in the publishing industry? It sounds a lot like these male authors want the success these women authors have created without having to endure any of the sexism, harassment, and misogyny that women writers have to battle every day.