Geek Feminism Wiki

Pseudonymity means using a pseudonym instead of one's "real" name. Examples include pen names of authors such as Mark Twain or Cecil Adams, as well as stage names of performers such as Woody Allen or Ice T. Usernames used online, if not connected to a person's legal identity, are examples of pseudonyms. Compare Anonymity.

Pseudonyms are typically assumed to be the same person (or collective working as one entity) over time. Most websites have login controls so that a registered username must be unique, and that whoever is posting under that username must know the password or have access to the email address controlling the account.

Use of pseudonyms by women[]

See also: Who is harmed by a "Real Names" policy?

To hide gender[]

For use of pseudonyms designed to hide women's gender, see Gender neutral names.

To protect themselves against harassment[]

Online, women are often encouraged to use pseudonyms or to be anonymous in order to protect themselves against Online harrassment or real-world issues such as Hiring discrimination or Physical violence. At least anecdotally, women use pseudonyms online to a much greater degree than men.

To protect their families' privacy[]

Women writing about parenting or family life, especially if also writing about contentious issues such as disability, homeschooling, etc, may choose to use a pseudonym for themselves or for their family members (eg. "YoungerKid") to protect their privacy.

To frankly discuss sex and sexuality[]

Reactions to pseudonymity[]

In blogging there is an increasing hostility by journalists to the use of pseudonyms, and press articles often use bloggers' real names if they can be discovered. See Outing.

Myths about pseudonymity[]

That it's the same as anonymity[]

See: Anonymity

That you can't know who someone "really is" if they use a pseudonym[]

That only people with "something to hide" use pseudonyms[]

That it is correlated with bad behaviour online[]


Writers using pseudonyms are generally expected to maintain a single pseudonym in one venue. The use of multiple pseudonyms in a single venue, especially if those pseudonyms interact with each other as if they were several separate writers, is known as Sockpuppetry and is disliked in most online forums and widely considered grounds for outing, at least to the extent of revealing that the several pseudonyms are one writer. Generally the pseudonym identity should avoid discussing the legal identity and vice versa, unless the writer outs themselves: this is also regarded as sockpuppetry.

Pseudonyms should not be used for impersonation. Creating a Twitter account in the name of an author who does not use Twitter and interacting as that person might (adding the author's actual friends, answering questions about books) might be a case of impersonation. Impersonation can be used as a form of harassment. On the other hand, parody accounts, which are often difficult to confuse for the genuine item, may may in some cases be a form of protected speech in the United States.


Responses and commentary[]

"In the mediafan world, pseudonyms have been customary for a long time, for the simple reason that nobody wanted their employers or families to know that their hobbies included depicting what Kirk and Spock got up to in their spare time. This established custom is just as valid as the Usenet custom of using full names." (As of 19 January 2011 this appears to be a locked entry.)
Specifically, I’m “out” online as being “crazy” I’ve spent most of the past year blogging about having a mental health condition – one that I’ve referred to as being considered “dangerous” to have someone with around... This is one of the reasons why I get angry when people talk dismissively of those who choose to use pseudonyms online. “Oh,” comes the dismissive sniff. “You’re not willing to stand up behind what you’ve said.” Or “If you really believed that, you’d say it behind your ‘real’ name.”
A site which requires real/verified names is automatically flagging itself as a potentially/probably unsafe space for women, or for anyone else at risk of harassment, violence, job discrimination, and the like.