O, I’m not about to come out as an anonymous stripper. I was tempted, actually, because it’d probably give me back the anonymity I’m angry has been stripped from me, but no. This is kinda a more explanatory follow-up to ‘Unmasked,’ given that that is probably a bit enigmatic. I think I’ll just try to articulate some of the experience of having anonymity stripped, because whilst it’s a topic lots of written about, it’s one I think we all continue to negotiate (even if we don’t/no longer write anonymously).
When I started this blog, I considered decided to do it under a pseudonym. Whilst I knew that if people who knew me stumbled across the blog, they’d know it was probably me, not having it confirmed for them that it was me was really important. Some, I knew, might know me/have known me well enough that they would have no doubt it was me. I had hoped they’d ask before sharing, or alternatively keep their fucking mouths shut. (Clearly far too much to expect.) But for those who weren’t sure whether or not it was me, that uncertainty, the thought that ‘well, maybe it’s not really her,’ was enough to make me feel more able to post.
There’s a few reasons for this. The blog acts as permission for me. Increasingly as I’ve worked on my PhD, I’ve found it hard to write stuff without feeling like I have to get it right. First time. Pseudonymity meant that rawness, uncertainty, ambiguous, partial, hole-y, testing and even out-and-out wrong arguments were okay. It was a space of incompleteness, of parentheses, partial fulfillment of promises, of uncertainty, one of the few spaces where I owed nothing and nothing was expected of me, but I could simply put ‘it’ out there. A space that could let me make mistakes; even though I have an aversion to deleting posts, I know that I can. And more complexly, the blog is palimpsestic, continual; no one post has to do everything, to answer the world. I don’t have to offer a single sheet of paper as the entirety of my work (part of the terror of the PhD), but can develop a sheaf, layered one on top of the other, allowing meaning to accumulate, shift slowly and dramatically, to develop (and maybe even in response to and alongside the work of other bloggers I had respected for a while.) I knew that if I fucked up too horribly, made an argument I thought better of later but couldn’t find a way to take back, or if I was attacked (which I’d seen happen enough to worry about), I could just take the blog down. It wasn’t something I planned to do, but it was an out if I needed it. And those decisions weren’t ones that I would have to wear outside the blogosphere. I could make these partial arguments without feeling like they had consequences for my broader work: if I changed my mind, or argued a point differently in a paper, or at a conference or whatever, it would be fine. This safe space of experiments, which I actually think it’s a significant thing to share because it demonstrates what the academy often seeks to hide, would be detached from my more strictly academic persona (I’m thinking of Foucault’s ‘What is an author?’ here: academics do seem to spend a bit of time cultivating their Author’s Name, and however much I don’t really like it, I can’t pretend not to be conscious of it and its effect on the context that I’m, you know, hoping might be one I keep participating in the future). It would allow me to fuck up, be partial, make wild and incoherent statements without it affecting who Real Name was for the academic world. How many spaces are there for making mistakes (so often necessary) without them having enduring consequences?
It makes me feel really uncertain about the whole thing that it turns out that a number of people have known that this blog was mine for quite a while, while I didn’t know they knew. There’s stuff I’m really not sure I would have posted had I known people were reading it knowing that it was me, stuff whose interaction with me in the ‘real world’ might have significances I hoped I’d escaped. Pseudonymity allowed me a self-indulgence I don’t often permit, and it allowed me to post risky stuff, personal stuff, and to write more cheerfully, more carelessly, more brazenly than I otherwise would, perhaps without every step of an argument justified, but also an escape from the careful delineation of ideas the thesis demands. It permitted me to make myself vulnerable without the anxiety of having that vulnerability be live in the rest of the world. That was precious to me, and it’s given me the fucking shits that a particular person thought that was okay to take from me (though with the stark clarity of retrospect, being surprised is probably a bit disingenuous. I always hope for better.) The other thing that irritates me about having been unwillingly outed (to a few people I know, a few I don’t(/didn’t up til now!) is that I didn’t get to out myself, to open up that vulnerability willingly, having got my head around it, decided to do it; actually demonstrate a trust. I’d done this with a few people, and whilst it felt risky, it also felt like a significant sharing, for me if not for them.
Stripped, stripped, stripped.
I guess this experiment just took another turn, one that I’ll have to see how happy I am to continue; how to negotiate posting knowing more of my readers than I thought know my Real Name, even know me. I wish that this hadn’t happened; the losses are surprisingly significant, hence my anger (well, okay, fury might be a better word!); and maintaining the tone and space of the blog, which I’ve really liked, will probably be difficult knowing that people know it’s me! I find it intriguing that I seem to think it’s a safe enough space to share this, though, so I can hope. Somehow I think the lovely NP, supportive as ever, has something to do with that!