A few days ago, I posted an article on my blog (and on GroupThink) which was essentially a long rant about Doctor Who following last Saturday's 50th Anniversary special. And, much to my surprise, it blew up: I have now had more visitors to my blog in the last 48 hours than in all of the last two years combined.
I've also had over 150 comments on the article so far, and a lot of people have been sharing the piece over various social media platforms. Most of the people on Tumblr agree with it, a good portion of Twitter does as well, but many of the comments I've received on the blog itself have been negative. And the weird thing is that I didn't notice.
At least, I didn't notice until a handful of people began saying something along the lines of, "Well, I don't think you deserve all of this backlash!"
Wait, backlash? What backlash? People disagreeing with my article? That's criticism, that's debate, that's argument... that's not backlash. Backlash is being called a stupid whore, or a fake fan, or some dumb bitch who should shut her mouth. That's backlash.
And I realized after reading a few comments and looking at a few Twitter and Tumblr responses why it was that I wasn't receiving that kind of feedback. With nothing to go off of other than the article (because nobody clicks on the "About Me" page, as my hit counter proves), everyone assumed I was a man. This despite the fact that my blog title — Tea Leaves and Dog Ears — sounds like a collection from Land's End.
It's both deeply frustrating and incredibly refreshing to have my argument taken seriously, and debated seriously, because people don't realize I'm a woman. And to a certain extent, I didn't even realize that I'd been dealing with that kind of backlash on nearly everything else I've had mainpaged on i09 or Jezebel in the past — where people know, based on the site it's coming from, that I'm a woman — because it was part of the expected reaction.
None of this is mindblowing information, of course, but this lack of reaction, if you like, is something that I've been wrestling with for the last few hours. As much as it's disappointing to see authors like JK Rowling using male pseudonyms, there is an unfortunate precedent for it. As wealthy and successful as JK is, much had been made of her single motherhood, her alleged inability to break from children's books with The Casual Vacancy, her new marriage and her past divorce. Meanwhile, God love him, Steven King has been very open about his rampant and destructive alcoholism, but that doesn't really make the headlines.
Those are two tiny examples, but taken as a whole, all of this adds a lot of weight to my future decisions as a writer. Will I consciously choose to obscure my gender going forward? Will I go the opposite route and actively draw attention to the fact that I am a woman, even if it means I'm taken less seriously and opening myself up to more off-topic ad hominem attacks?
I'm not sure, and that — more than anything else — is what bothers me.