The James Chartrand Theory of Feminism
Remember James Chartrand, the female blogger behind "Men With Pens" who adopted a male pseudonym in order to earn respect, feed her kids, and pen privileged tirades against the feminist mommy-bloggers who "try to shave the balls of all males who dare to visit the blog"? Well, Chartrand has got some more scandalous revelations for the blogosphere today: Chartrand identifies as a feminist.
The F-word admission came courtesy of Taylor Lindstrom, an employee of Chartrand's who is described on the Web site as "the team’s rogue woman who wowed us until our desire for her talents exceeded our desire for a good ol’ boys club." In a post titled "Taylor's a Feminist—But So Is James," Lindstrom explained Chartrand's many feminist reasons for adopting a male pen name:
(a) The pay gap hits older women harder than it does younger women (Chartrand is 38, Lindstrom is 25).
(b) Unlike "Taylor," Chartrand's given name was obviously feminine, which affected her ability to avoid stereotyping.
(c) Chartrand was a single parent who had to make enough income to feed both herself and her family, which further justifies her decision to use a male pseudonym.
Makes sense. But then we get into the final section of Lindstrom's feminist manifesto: "Why Feminism Is Pissing Me Off." Lindstrom writes:
There have been a few blog posts and articles out there suggesting that James should have taken one for the team. That women have a responsibility to one another to keep fighting, to bust through the glass ceiling, to rip equality out of the hands of the men who are still (jeez, STILL) trying to keep it from us.
James didn’t help women, they say. He just stopped fighting.
Well, they’re right. He did. I can’t say as I see the problem with that.
The whole point of the feminist movement was that women should have the right to choose where their priorities lie. They should be able to choose to have a career, to live independently, to vote and own property and make mistakes and get famous and all the rest of it.
If they want to, though, they should also be able to choose to live exactly the way women had been expected to live for centuries—at home, taking care of the kids. They have the right to choose that life if they want to. And no one gets to tell them that they HAVE to get out there and hold down a job because women still don’t have equal pay in the workplace.
No one gets to tell a woman she has to do ANYTHING just because she’s a woman.
This part makes no sense. Let me clear something up right now: Feminism is about choice for women. The feminist movement is about working to open up all of life's choices to all women. It's about making sure that women have equal opportunity to pursue any education, career, or higher office, and to earn equal pay and respect when they do so. It's about allowing women to make their own reproductive decisions, whether the decision be to use birth control, to have an abortion, or to have a lot of kids and to raise them as a stay-at-home mom.
That being said, simply being a woman who makes choices for herself does not constitute a feminist act. Lindstrom seems to believe that choosing to do whatever she wants to do— whether it helps other women or not—makes her a feminist, and deflecting all criticism about her choices makes her some sort of double-whammy feminist (sound familiar?).
It doesn't. It just makes her a woman who has benefited from feminism.
Feminism is about working to make these choices available to all women—not just wealthy women, not just white women, not just straight women, not just cisgender women, not just women who adopt an absurd masculine persona in order to access male privilege.
Is adopting a male pseudonym particularly anti-feminist? I don't think so. But James Chartrand's male persona did more than simply not help women. It also hurt them—see her infamous testicle-laden tirade about how she respects women who blog, as long as they don't "wield their feminism like a spiked mace" and "try to shave the balls of all males."
I'm glad that Chartrand has decided to come out as a woman. Here's to hoping she'll eventually reveal herself as a feminist, as well.