Ancrene Wiseass

A would-be medievalist holds forth on academia, teaching, gender politics, blogging, pop culture, critters, and whatever else comes her way.

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Yes, this really is yet another blog by a disillusioned grad student. I sympathize, but that's just the way it has to be. For hints as to what my bizarre alias means, click here and here and, if needed, here and here. To get a sense of what I'm up to, feel free to check out the sections called "Toward a Wiseass Creed" and "Showings: Some Introductory Wiseassery" in my main blog's left-hand sidebar. Please be aware that spamming, harassing, or otherwise obnoxious comments will be deleted and traced.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Bloggers Anonymous

Okay. So, I have been promising for months now that I was going to do some massive "rethinking-my-blog" post. And I think this here is gonna be about as good as it gets, for now.

The Happy Feminist has recently wondered whether anonymity is the key to blogging happiness, saying that she believes she can be "more authentic and honest than I would be otherwise. It's not that I am dishonest in real life, but I don't reveal everything to everybody in my real life either--because I want to maintain my professional reputation and avoid making waves in my family." I'm in hearty agreement with that.

I'd add, though, that undercover blogging also allows me to develop a persona--one which is a bit more frank and outspoken than the one I usually adopt in the non-virtual world. It's a persona that allows me to explore issues I have a hard time tackling quite so directly otherwise. And it's a persona that feeds itself back into my life in ways that I generally think have been very positive. In other words, one of this blog's purposes is writing myself into the kind of person I want to be--with a little help from my friends.

Another of my blog's functions is networking. How, you might ask, could I possibly network without revealing my identity? Well, for one thing, I'm learning and benefitting a heck of a lot from reading the work--and receiving the comments of--many other bloggers, anonymous or not. And I'm also not entirely opposed to the idea of "outing" myself to other bloggers I've come to trust. That's particularly true if those other bloggers are also anonymous, so we can rely on a "I-won't-tell-if-you-won't-tell" pact. (That's a strategy I learned from my little brother a long time ago, and it still works pretty well most of the time.)

Unlike Happy Feminist, though, I am very concerned about the possibility that people I don't want to discover my identity might manage it anyway. Some of you will remember a recent brouhaha over at Bitch, Ph.D. in which a misguided grad student took offense at the proceedings and threatened to "out" her as part of a potential lawsuit. Now, my blog is nowhere near as interesting as Dr. B's, and I have no over-inflated sense of my importance. Nonetheless, I was seriously rattled by the idea that someone with technical savvy and malicious intent could discover my identity and spread it around for all to see.

Why would I be so het up about that? Well, if you might want a reminder of the whole Ivan Tribble episode from this summer, I blogged about it here and here, then commented on here, among other places. If you don't relish reading all that, let's just say that there are plenty of reasons to be guarded about blogging when
(1) the job market in the humanities is so terrible that it's fodder for both nightmares and superstitions,
(2) Fear of a Blog Planet looms large for some search-committee Luddites, and
(3) Academia would generally prefer that her devotees minimize the appearance of anything which approaches Having a Life.
That's a trifecta which is unlikely to be friendly to blogs like mine, which promiscuously mix the personal, the political, and the professional.

To (rather annoyingly, I'm sure) quote myself from comments I made over at Belle's place,

"I blog anonymously because it gives me freedoms that blogging under my own name would not, and it's a freedom I sorely need if I'm going to do what I started blogging for in the first place.

Namely, I need to find a space where I can say things that I can't normally say within the sometimes claustrophobic world of my own department, where I can work stuff out partially by getting feedback from smart and honest readers, and where I can find the strength I need to survive grad school by staying in touch with my own voice. 'Cause otherwise, I might well lose it in the polished diplomacy and jargon of academic journal-speak."

In other words, this blog is meant to help me survive graduate school and find my way into a professional self I can live with so I can, one sunny day, make something that approximates a living. It is explicitly not meant to undermine my chances at getting a job once I finish.

While I'm still not sure that I want to work with or for people who'd categorically dismiss blogging as a frivolous pursuit, I'm also realistic enough to know that I have to be very careful.

And that a smart Wiseass tries to keep her options open.