Separate Spheres Again

I love just about everything about second wave feminism, especially those critical chestnuts that we haven’t really reconsidered fully for the past thirty years.  I’m obsessed with actually tracking down the truth of claims that women writers like Dinah Mulock Craik never signed their names because of a womanly need to protect their privacy (false people!  she signed every poem she published when she was 16!); that they used male pseudonyms to claim authority; and that writing was somewhat okay as a profession for women because at least they could do it at home.

Despite claims to the contrary, as in No More Separate Spheres! and Separate Spheres No More, I’m wondering if one critical chestnut that is proving to have some weight again in our digital age is that of separate spheres.  How are issues of anonymity, public writing and gender being treated in that most public of spheres, the digital sphere?   Some thoughts:

  1. Anonymity may be more relevant as an option for public writing than it has been since the nineteenth century, when the norm was for journalistic pieces not to have a byline.   Anonymity in formats like blogs seems to be a thing for both men and women.
  2. Some issues of internet privacy affect women more deeply.  In at least one case that I’ve heard of, Campus Police urge women not to use Twitter.  Especially I presume, for things like tweeting their whereabouts.
  3. Following on that point, professors who have students doing public blogs as part of a course requirement report that some women students really need to be careful of their online presence, because of issues with things like stalkers.
  4. In their recent profile, the New Yorker reported that J.K Rowling (who at the urging of her publisher signed her name using initials so that boys wouldn’t be put off her books) was a deeply private person who had only tweeted something like three times.  And that she had bad make-up. (Come on Ian Parker, was that really necessary?)  The whole article seemed to turn around the issue of Rowling’s need for privacy, and whether that was okay, or a cause for us to be suspicious of her.
  5. Not digital, but Beyonce will be touring as Mrs. Carter.  Really?  But, as Grace Dent argues in the Guardian, this decision can be read as a ruthless career move, designed to capitalize on her celebrity marriage.

What do you think?  Are we in a new age of separate spheres?  Maybe the digital sphere and the analog sphere instead of the public and the private?

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