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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

attention: I am a woman, sorry to disappoint

A very prominent blogger in the field of online marketing and copywriting came out this week. As a woman. “James Chartrand” of Copyblogger, it turns out, is female, and only assumed the male pseudonym when she discovered how much more successful she could be when readers, editors, and the people with the power to pay her believed she was a man:

One day, I tossed out a pen name, because I didn’t want to be associated with my current business, the one that was still struggling to grow. I picked a name that sounded to me like it might convey a good business image. Like it might command respect.

My life changed that day

Instantly, jobs became easier to get.

There was no haggling. There were compliments, there was respect. Clients hired me quickly, and when they received their work, they liked it just as quickly. There were fewer requests for revisions — often none at all.

Customer satisfaction shot through the roof. So did my pay rate.

Taking a man’s name opened up a new world. It helped me earn double and triple the income of my true name, with the same work and service.

No hassles. Higher acceptance. And gratifying respect for my talents and round-the-clock work ethic.

Business opportunities fell into my lap. People asked for my advice, and they thanked me for it, too.

The comments at Copyblogger in response to Chartrand’s post outing herself are enlightening, too, for all the many similar stories they reveal. And don’t miss this Jezebel thread on the story, especially the comments there. Or this comment, on another Jezebel story, about gender discrimination on Broadway, and how the same play with a male name on the byline is better received than if it has a woman’s name there. Or this Salon story on the outing, and the letters in response.

I’ve been despairing quite a bit lately that FlickFilosopher.com isn’t doing better than it is, especially when I see sites — which shall remain nameless — that are only a few years old and that feature writing so boring and uninspiring that I forget I’m reading it while I’m reading it, and they’ve got Alexa.com rankings so much better than mine (which means much higher traffic, which means more ad revenue). I do realize that I’m a bit too thinky to ever get traffic on a level of an Ain’t It Cool News or a C.H.U.D., and that I just don’t have the staff to be pulling off a Cinematical or a Cinema Blend. But I think I should be doing better than I am.

And I do wonder, sometimes, if part of the reason that FlickFilosopher.com isn’t doing better than it is is because I’ve never made a secret of the fact that I’m female. You cannot possibly imagine how disheartening that idea is.

But since I simply cannot figure out what I’ve been doing wrong in relation to these other sites, perhaps it’s because I haven’t considered the very basic: I’m not being read like a whole lotta other crappy male writers are merely because I’m not pretending to be male.

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  • JasonT

    If it makes you feel better, this is the only film critic site I visit, and have for the better part of the decade.

  • Drave

    It’s just you and Ain’t It Cool News, as far as my movie site habits go, and I check you more often. And I never use the AICN Amazon referral links, either.

  • Shaun

    I was aware of the pay differences, but to be honest I didn’t realise it was such a contrast. Things really turned around quite drastically for her.

    I loathe to think you’ve hit the glass ceiling on FlickFilosopher. The quality of the site and writing really deserves better than that. Heck I wish even half the game reviews I read were as enjoyable to read.

  • Stefanie

    If it’s any consolation, I read your site almost daily (at least 4-5 times a week), and Roger Ebert’s once a week.

  • Jo

    Well I come here for the quality of thinking and writing. But I’m a woman too, so my opinion probably doesn’t count!

  • Bluejay

    Holy James Tiptree!

    Yours is pretty much the only movie site I check daily. I second Jo about the quality of your thinking and writing, and the power of your posts to spark intelligent debate. Thanks for what you do.

    At the risk of sounding elitist, is it possible that you just offer a more cerebral take on things, and that kind of writing just naturally attracts a smaller audience?

  • markyd

    Like several others have already said, this site is the one I check the most, followed by AICN. The level of interaction here, along with the well-written(and often fun to read) reviews, have made this my favorite movie site. Your femaleness plays no part in it, and it’s sad to think that it would for some people.

  • MaryAnn

    Clearly the problem is NOT with those readers who are already here. I mean, you’re here, and I love you all, and I especially love that you keep the conversation so smart and interesting.

    The problem is the people who aren’t here — or who pop in and leave immediately, never to return — because they see my picture or read my name and get turned off. The problem is the job offers or other opportunities I don’t get because of my name. And of course, I’ll never know what they might have been!

  • Bluejay

    Gauging popularity or success (and the reasons for it) is messy and has several factors. I’m not familiar with all the other critics out there, but I wonder if there is a male critic at a similar point in his career, with a similarly brainy style, and running an independent website, whom you could compare readership sizes with? As a kind of pseudoscientific study?

    I wonder too if it’s not so much that you’re a woman as that you have a very outspoken feminist perspective on things–which is a very good perspective to have, but one that sadly may not appeal to all those who just want quick info and easy-to-digest reviews.

  • Bluejay

    Adding: I admire you for having the integrity to present yourself for who you are, but I wouldn’t blame you at all if you decided to go by a pseudonym. Many authors and actors (not just women) have changed their names in the hopes of being more commercially viable, as you know. If you do go that route, I hope you’ll leave enough clues so that your old readers can figure out it’s really you! :-)

  • I’d like to jump into the fray here as well: I’ve been a frequent visitor to this site for *years*. When I’m talking to my wife about movies, I refer to MaryAnn’s reviews.

    The only other site I look at for reviews is RottenTomatos, and only because I love the aggregate overview number from a large number of reviews. (I like statistics.)

    All that to say – I’m sorry this other writer seems to have been less respected because of her gender. That certainly has never played any part in my enjoyment of MaryAnn’s writings.

    I have to wonder, though – did taking on a new persona change the way this woman wrote or presented herself? Not because it was the persona of a *man*, but because it was simply something other than herself? Is it not possible that she reinvented herself and found a spark that others identified with *other* than the implied presence of a penis?

  • LaSargenta

    Unfortunately, this doesn’t surprise me in the least.

    Apropros of this topic, although there is no mention of salaries, I would like to mention the story of Dr. Ben Barres, a neurobiologist: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Barres

    And here’s a Q&A with him: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/18/science/18conv.html?_r=1

    Very interesting.

  • Marshall

    I dig you Mary Ann for your insights into movies, but I think it’s because you’re a woman why I like your sight so much. I.E. your bring a different viewpoint than a man could, and this makes me think about the movie or show in a different way. You stand out in a good way. I also love the fact that you’re not afraid of being who you are. It’s not you who needs to change, its the fact that the rest of the world needs to catch up.

  • Sorry, I’d like to add one other thing. MaryAnn said: “The problem is the people who aren’t here — or who pop in and leave immediately, never to return — because they see my picture or read my name and get turned off.”

    Have you not considered that the opposite might also be true? That possibly an equal amount of people come here, see your picture, see the quality and quantity of your work, and want to stick around?

    Gender issues aside, not only have I always enjoyed reading your articles, I’ve also noticed that I agree with your opinions about 90% of the time. I’ve gone through archives of your articles to look at movies I had already formed strong opinions of, and you often wrote of the same opinions. Thus, I have a strong level of confidence that if you enjoyed a movie, it will probably be one I end up enjoying too.

    Simply: I stay because I agree with you. It may be that others leave because they disagree.

  • pjowens75

    Wow. I was never aware of the issue, although I probably subconciously knew it existed. I follow several other film blogs as well, probably all male dominated, but I’ve never checked. But I originally came to this one BECAUSE I was looking for an intelligent female perspective. Since then, I visit regularly and prefer it over almost all the others, maybe because of that perspective.

    But there SHOULD be equity. How would you suggest we followers can help to change that?

  • Bluejay

    Simply: I stay because I agree with you. It may be that others leave because they disagree.

    Unfortunately that can lead to the “echo chamber” problem on many a website. Here, I’m impressed by the folks who stay even though they disagree (with MaryAnn and each other), and stick around to fight it out; I’ve got scars from the Twilight and political threads to prove it. ;-) I’m glad to see different perspectives, and glad that some folks choose to stay and fight for their ideas.

  • Muzz

    I’ve always found the reviews interesting. I don’t expect them to line up with my tastes all the time, but have enough personality that I can see where tastes might intersect. No doubt that’s true for most, I’m just being general. So, thanks for that.

    Looking at the way people bicker on Rotten Tomatos and so on I wonder if that’s a pretty rare way to read reviews these days (if ever).

    Anyway, regarding the crappier new web sites’ greater hits and so on: I wonder if it’s like other media businesses I’ve encountered, where it’s not so much to do with superior craftsmanship or anything like that but marketing. These others probably play the game more. Getting linked, pimping, referals, rankings, trackbacks. Whatever they’re using nowadays. Heck, it’s probably the thing they spend most of their time doing. They’re in the business of getting reviews read as much, if not more so, than writing them. And it probably takes more than one person to do all that.

    I don’t know, nor am I suggesting it’s the way to go, but it’s one explanation that occured to me.

  • Accounting Ninja

    I actually used to frequent only Rottentomatoes, GameFAQs and IGN, but now I only come here. Why? For the intelligent, feminist perspective.

    Before coming here it never sunk in just how much of a geeky boys club those other sites are. I knew that I got argued with all the time, or ignored (I had a feminine handle on IGN and GameFAQs), or told I don’t “get” things if I dared complain. But it never clicked why until years later. In fact, back then I probably would have scoffed at the idea that sexism played a role. I liked to pretend at the whole egalitarian thing. Really, it is too painful to imagine that it’s just my gender, so I was convinced it had to just be a shortcoming on my part.

    When even other women are blind to how much they are devalued, it makes changing the world so much harder.

    BTW, that’s why I use* Accounting Ninja everywhere now instead of “Jenn”, my Woman Name. ;) Unless I out myself, people assume I’m a dude.

    *well, not the only reason I use it. First and foremost, it’s a joke name and I think it’s funny. But the added gender-neutral privelege did not escape my notice.

  • ashok

    At the risk of going against the tide, I’m going to have to say that the ‘thinky’ issue might have more to do with it than the gender issue. One of my favourite film review sites is Film Freak Central. All their writers are male. But their reviews are thinky to a point that far exceeds even Maryann’s. I looked them up on Alexa and they have a traffic ranking that’s well below this site’s. The same is true for a couple other super thinky film review sites I visit (also all male).

    I tend to believe that its the thinkiness of the reviews that has more of an effect than the gender factor.

  • Mimi

    Accounting Ninja, a woman?! Fetch my smelling salts!

    Reading your comment, AN, made me realize that while I use “Mimi” for most things online (a nickname, and one I can easily remember for consistency’s sake), there are times and places when I switch to “M” or some combination of my initials… now I’m curious if that’s a subconscious acknowledgement that I get treated differently if I’m gender-neutral.

    The whole James Chartrand thing is depressing, and I’m glad to see MAJ discussing it here. Maybe we should all pledge to call MAJ “MAJ” in 2010, and MAJ can delete MAJ’s photo and tweak MAJ’s bio and stop discussing feminism in reviews (since as we all know, dude don’t think about feminism) and stop linking to the AWFJ stuff and… yeah… don’t think that’ll work. But it would be so interesting to find out.

  • It’s truly sad that something as simple as a male moniker can make that dramatic a difference. I’m lucky enough to have been surrounded by intelligent, powerful women my entire life, and it baffles me that anyone would have more respect for a male name than a female one. Even though I know intellectually this happens all the time, I’m still stunned when I run into actual examples.

    I’m hoping your ever-present awesomeness will help change that idea for anyone who sticks around long enough to appreciate the intelligent, witty writing. I’m one of the many people who says, “Well, MaryAnn says,…” any time a movie comes up, even when I don’t agree with you (because even if I like a movie you don’t, I have to agree with most of the individual complaints when it comes to a discussion of the film’s merits and flaws).

  • Paul

    I actually keep coming because your reviews are the wittiest, even when I disagree with you. I use the variance “wit” because it implies humor + intelligence, as opposed to either of those standing alone.

    But as an experiment maybe should you think of another subject you would like to blog about, and do that under a male pen name, and see if you make more money. How about Mars Andersen Johanson? Would that be masculine enough, or if it’s too over the top, Mark would be fine.

  • It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not.
    –André Gide

    ‘Nuff said. Or maybe it isn’t.

    As much as I understand the temptation of the George Eliot/Remington Steele tradition and as ironic as this may sound from someone who himself posts under a pen name, I’d like to think that there’s a lot of us out there on the Net who like you just the way you are, MaryAnn, and many who would be very sad if you were to give in and try passing for male.

    A male pen name is no guarantee of anything. If it were, I’d have a larger readership than I do–and no, I don’t kid myself that I put as much work into my site as you do and indeed, the amount of time I have to put into my modest efforts have made me that much more aware about how much hard work really goes into this site. But still the fact remains that there are a lot of male published writers–the late Philip K. Dick, for example–who didn’t exactly die wealthy despite being much famous for their work–and despite publishing under male names.

    But when it comes to the arts, the grass always looks greener on the other side of the laptop screen. There are undoubtedly female writers out there right now who are feeling frustrated because they receive no recognition for their literary efforts and who undoubtedly wonder if they would be more likely to be published if they wrote under a more “American” name like Johanson instead of some more “ethnic” like Singh, Nguyen or Moro.

    No, I don’t expect that alone to cheer you up, but it would be nice to note that in a world with so many evils, you have managed to obtain a lot of blessings. You get to write about what you love, you get to see free movies, and you get to be recognized for your work under your own name. A lot of aspiring writers would envy that.

    Does it suck that you see yourself as capable of so much more–and no one seems to be helping you to get there? Yes, it does.

    But you didn’t get where you are overnight and indeed, a decade and a half ago, a site like this might have seemed like something out of a dream. So what will the next fifteen years bring for you?

    I don’t know about you but I can’t wait to find out.

  • Tim1974

    I believe that being yourself is most important and I feel that you do just that. You seem to have stayed true to your writing and film evaluating style. For me, many times the reviews get too technical and it loses what I am looking for and that is simply is it enjoyable. But, that is just me. You have a following that enjoys that type of review and for them it is a place to discuss those aspects with you or amongst themselves. I like your site for the fact that you include many topics other than just reviews where you discuss things related to films, etc. However, for me, my biggest problem is I feel you are sexist and hypocritical. You care nothing about nor seem willing to acknowledge issues facing males but regularly present and discuss issues facing females as if they are the only ones facing exploitation, double standards, etc. I realize this is a feminist site but in my opinion until there is more equality in presenting and discussing these issues then the readership will not increase.

  • Peter C

    This story cuts close to the bone for my family. My wife is in the legal profession and is easily the leading practitioner in her particular specialty in this city. The number 2 is a male yet he can charge 3 times the fee my wife can bring in for the same work. No matter how highly recommended my wife comes or how much the people actually running a case may want to use her, the client will not pay that kind of money for a woman but will pay it for a man of lesser ability.

    In this country (Australia) significantly more women graduate from university with a law degree than men yet the number of people actually holding practicing certificates remains heavily biased toward men.

    With laws in place supposedly to stamp out gender bias, law firms manage to keep women out by creating a work environment that is hostile to young women with long and irregular working hours, assigned to dangerous and hostile clients and working with subject matter that women in particular would find distasteful.

    My wife’s first job as a law clark (intern in some places) was cataloguing crime scene photos from a serial killer. 3 other female clarks resigned after the first day of this. After a week of not eating lunch for fear of throwing up my wife was invited to the pub after work as now “one of the boys”. Life as a lawyer has been a series of these tests where you need to achieve at the highest levels simply to be accepted as part of the team. About the only people who have a worse time of it in the law are gays and that from the personal experience of several friends.

  • chuck

    I think I originally arrived at your site through some Doctor Who connection, I don’t really remember what it is was. I read some of your reviews and found your tastes in shows and movies to be similar to my own and that helps when deciding how to spend my movie money.

    It never really occured to me that it made any differnece whether you were a man or a woman, at least until I started reading some of your links to the Women in Film and Journalism columns, and then it seemed that it did make a difference, at least to you, it still does not matter one wit to me. I either agree with you or I don’t, when it comes to movies, I mostly do, and politics…well that might be different matter. Sweet and sour sauce does not scare me.

    I did read the article from James Chartrand last night after seeing it referenced on Twitter, sad, and a little odd. I am not sure that this is always the way it has to be.

    My wife is a writer, and has been for twenty years. She freelances for corporations big and small, interviewes the famous and not so famous, writes feature articles for magazines and has published books. In the twenty years she has been doing this I don’t think she has ever mentioned any kind of sex based bias against her. She just does what she loves and gets paid well for it.

    I think one of the biggest factors for your lower traffic might just be that many people have not heard of you. I love movies but never heard of you until recently, maybe I just live in a cave. But I suspect the caves are just full of others like me.

    It would not hurt to explore some additional ways to promote your site, advertising, viral marketing, achieving name recognition etc. etc. the usual marketing suspects.

    Otherwise maybe your only other alternative is turn this site over to your brother, Morgan Johanson. ;)

  • Nick Stryker

    I’ve been despairing quite a bit lately that FlickFilosopher.com isn’t doing better than it is, especially when I see sites — which shall remain nameless — that are only a few years old and that feature writing so boring and uninspiring that I forget I’m reading it while I’m reading it, and they’ve got Alexa.com rankings so much better than mine (which means much higher traffic, which means more ad revenue).

    I don’t care what gender you are, but in another article you published today, you wrote off and insulted the Wizards of Waverly Place movie without watching it. Therefore, your opinion is invalid.

    By the way, Alexa rankings mean nothing. Alexa relies on fools who install toolbars and spyware to track Web site views. Knowing this, you could interpret your lower Alexa rankings as an indication the average reader of your Web site is smart enough to avoid spyware and useless toolbars.

  • dgrhm

    Mary Ann,

    You rock!! You’re my favorite movie critic. If I knew you personally, I’m certain you and I would be film geeks together talking about why the movie was just saw sucked and how to improve it. :)

    I’ve read your reviews for years, and you’ve held similar opinions to my own about movies and storytelling. When a new movie comes out, I check your site first.

    That being said, perhaps you can utilize the internet a bit more to get more traffic? Have you tried using Twitter? I was listening to Guy Kawasaki talk about how he uses it to market things. Perhaps you could use the little birdy to market your site a bit more?

    Use Facebook too. Everytime you do a new review, post it in both Twitter and Facebook.

    You could also look at design sites like http://www.smashingmagazine.com for ideas too.

    Keep up the great work!

  • JoshB

    I first noticed you on rottentomatoes roughly ten years ago, I can’t remember exactly. Every time I saw your review on the list I would read it, until eventually I started coming straight here before heading to rottentomatoes.

    Before I came here I supported feminism in a general sense, but really didn’t think about it very much. I certainly didn’t view movies through that lens. Now though, after all these years reading your work, I can’t watch a movie without hearing your (writer’s) voice in my head critiquing the movie’s treatment of its female characters.

    It’s kinda maddening actually. I might need prescription medication.

  • James Van Fleet

    Mary Ann, I’d hate to think that your disappointing amount of readership stems from the fact that you’re a woman, but I suppose that your fears may have some validity.

    However, it’s also worth noting that your site tends to emphasize your reviews and opinions over basic film news. Consider: AICN, Chud, Slashfilm, and CinemaBlend are all sites devoted primarily to information. Most of the readers come for updates on what’s happening, not necessarily for the sites’ opinions, which are often quickly (and gracelessly) shoehorned into the bottom of the news articles.

    I’ve been reading your site for about two years now, off and on, for the reviews, which I continue to enjoy. I think you excel at analyzing and writing about movies, even if I sometimes disagree with your judgments. Jim Emerson and James Berardinelli are similar bloggers who sometimes include news but focus primarily on analysis. Maybe you’re more of a piece with them.

    Regardless, my hope is that your level of popularity doesn’t dissuade you from continuing to do what you’ve been doing (and doing well).

  • aWookiee

    MJ, I enjoy your reviews, don’t always agree, but love your take, got hooked since Zork met Tomb Raider. However, as far as ratings go (and not just for online movie critics, but for TV shows, movies, hell even music) one truth stands above all others:

    Intelligence is not mainstream.

    No matter how you plug it, be it man vs woman, famous versus obscure, intelligence rarely if ever sells. That’s why soundbites rule over discourse, sensationalism over substance, New Moon over Invictus, Beck over Stewart, you can go on and on.

    Why that is, well, that’s another debate. Keep up the good work.

  • bracyman

    I’m with JoshB on this one. It’s not all that germane to the topic, but I really feel like the years I’ve been reading here have opened my eyes to the lip service I was paying feminism. And also the many layers of subtext and symbolism that I was missing in some of my favorite movies.

    I doubt we’re the only ones who’ve gained more than an appreciation of film from this site and its revered author.

  • MaryAnn

    That being said, perhaps you can utilize the internet a bit more to get more traffic? Have you tried using Twitter? I was listening to Guy Kawasaki talk about how he uses it to market things. Perhaps you could use the little birdy to market your site a bit more?

    Use Facebook too. Everytime you do a new review, post it in both Twitter and Facebook.

    Jesus Christ.

    Maybe this comment is spam, but if it isn’t, then I obviously have not made myself clear. I’m not discouraged because I post my little reviews up in the Net and, oh dear, I have no idea if anyone ever reads them. I’m discouraged because I have been busting my ass for the past 12 years, doing everything you’re supposed to do to promote yourself online — including offline promotion — and I’m still discouraged.

    Look, I was a relatively early adopter of Twitter — when I joined and started using it to promote FlickFilosopher.com, I had to explain to most people what Twitter was and why it could be useful. I was a contributing editor to *Yahoo! Internet Life* magazine for years in the late 90s and early 00s. I’m a member of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Science, the organization that awards the Webbys. I’m a member of two film critics’ organizations, and I’m on the ruling bodies of both of those organizations, in which capacities I’m constantly striving to raise the profile of film criticism online.

    I am, in no sense of the word, a neophyte when it comes to the Net. It’s not a stretch to say that I’m something of an expert on the Net. And I still cannot figure out why I’m not as successful as a lot of other sites I see online. And I say that — as I noted in the original post here — even in the context of acknowledging that what I write is not everyone’s cup of tea, and that I simply do not have the hours in the day to do what very-high-traffic sites with multiple contributors are able to do.

    Here’s one example of something unfathomable to me: Why is James Berardinelli on Metacritic, but not me? Metacritic is ALL corporate magazines and newspapers, except Berardinelli (and Emanuel Levy, but he’s a former Variety staffer). Why is Berardinelli a Top Critic on Rotten Tomatoes — the ranks of which are similarly otherwise ALL critics for corporate publications — and I’m not?

    I mean no disrespect to Berardinelli, but among critics who run their own sites, with no other contributors, it’s pretty much me and him. So why does he get more respect than I do?

  • Sean Riley

    Berardinelli is a hit because, for reasons I cannot comprehend, Roger Ebert went to bat for him early on. His insipidly banal reviews are just… bogglingly dull. (Rob Blackwelder, by contrast, did pretty good things with Movieolla and Spliced Online, but he too was brought down hard. So it’s not JUST a gender thing — Random chance also kicks in.)

    But as a thought: How do you know some of the more successful movie sites/critics out there aren’t female as well? We know at least some women writers are still going by male pseudonyms…

  • ashok

    MaryAnn, I do like this site but look two entries up at your reaction to the poster dgrhm. The guy/girl said you rocked and gave you some useful advice (albeit useless since you already do that stuff). But he was nice/well intentioned. And you take him down with a ‘Jesus Christ is this spam’.

    Ever thought that its that kind of attitude to the readers that don’t bend over to agree with you 24/7 that drive would-be regulars away. I don’t see a single thing in dgrhm’s post that merited a rude reaction like that. If I were dgrhm, I’d think twice about coming back. He/she doesn’t need me to defend them and may even disagree with me there but I did a double take at that reaction, I have to say. And I see it happen very often. I’ve been coming to this site from the beginning and I’ve noticed over and over a lot of readers post to your reviews and a lot of the time, you take them down in a fashion that you no doubt call ‘snarky’ but most people would call rude. I’m sure a good chunk of those people don’t come back. Some of those readers post rude comments that deserve your ‘snark’. Others however don’t. I don’t have the time to go digging through old response threads for examples but they’re there.

    Also maybe not Everything that goes wrong in your life can be blamed on your gender. As I mentioned earlier in this thread there are plenty of other sites on the internet that do much worse than your’s trafficwise even though they feature equally strong (and, actually, occasionally better in the case of FFC) prose written by males. I think it’s more of a question of the level of analysis and less of the gender issue. People prefer cookiecutter corporate reviews. It’s unfortunate and it sucks but there it is.

    Am anticipating some of your patented ‘snarky’ responses now but am only pointing out what I’ve watched happen for a long time that almost undoubtedly has an effect on your repeat traffic.

  • MaryAnn

    Also maybe not Everything that goes wrong in your life can be blamed on your gender.

    More condescension. Fantastic.

  • ashok

    Or maybe just an accurate but unpleasant fact of life.

    Why is it that any time someone even mentions anything gender-related on this site in a way that disagrees with your POV, it’s condescension/sexism/stupidity/spam? Surely it can’t be true that you and a handful of your loyal readers are the only enlightened, progressive people on the Internet.

    Is it really that impossible for you to consider that the comparative lack of traffic is not caused primarily by your gender?

  • MaryAnn

    You’re totally right, ashok. Best I should just be a good little girl and keep my mouth shut.

  • ashok

    Wow. Are you really going to yank out the sexist argument to take down absolutely Everyone who doesn’t agree with you? I’m not saying sexism isn’t a problem. I’m not saying sexism doesn’t exist. No one’s suggesting you need to shut your mouth and roll over for the Man. If a guy said some of the rude things you’ve said to people on this site, I would point that rudeness out to him just the same. All I’m saying is that there might be alternate explanations for the site haemorrhaging repeat traffic and that one of them might be your kneejerk rudeness to a LOT of people that have taken the time to comment around here over the years. And not all of them or even most of them were trolls or abusive or any of the other things would merit abuse. And for suggesting that, I’m sexist???!?

    This is pretty much exactly what I’m talking about. But obviously this isn’t going anywhere and I’m probably one post away from being banned or having my comments deleted so I’m just going to stop here.

  • MaryAnn

    Clarifying some more: I. Am. A. Bitch. Including sometimes to some readers of this site. This is no secret. This is already factored into the “why isn’t this site doing better” thing I’m talking about.

    But women are used to this, too: When we object to being condescended to, we’re told that the condescender is just trying to be nice and helpful, and we’re simply being horrible for not appreciating being condescended to.

    I mean, seriously: Facebook and Twitter? Am I a small child who needs her hand held crossing the street?

  • MaryAnn

    But obviously this isn’t going anywhere and I’m probably one post away from being banned or having my comments deleted so I’m just going to stop here.

    No, you’re not a step away from being banned. Not at all.

    But if you want to believe that anything I’ve written here implies that I believe that “Everything that goes wrong in [my] life can be blamed on [my] gender,” go right ahead.

  • chuck

    I think on the whole most of the comments written here are supportive of you and your site. You are certainly the expert on everything you have done here and what you have done to promote your site. No one else can match what you know about your own business. Certainly someone who comes here to casually read a movie review won’t know everything you have done to make this site what it is.

    Still I think people care about the comments you made in your original post and want to help in whatever way they can. You have probably considered or acted on these comments at one time or another, it doesn’t mean that the people who try to help are being condescending, they just aren’t experts at your buisness.

    I don’t know what you have done to try to improve your status or the traffic to this site, so whatever I say may seem condescending as well but it’s said with the best of intentions. None of what I say is said to be mean or abusive, it’s just my opinion.

    It’s extremely likely that you know what you need to do bring about improvement but for one reason or another you don’t act on it. It’s the curse of the small business owner.

    You are an entrepreneur, with a small business who wants your business to be a bigger business. This is the point where many small concerns either fail or succeed.

    I have worked in very small companies (1-3 people) and large ones (3000+ employees). The small company experience’s were quite enlightening. One or two people visualize a product and concoct something in their garages and start marketing it. Sales happen, word of mouth, maybe enough income to start advertising and pay the bills. It’s equivalent to where you are at. The question is do these entrepreneurial types have what it takes to bring it to the next level or are they so lost in the trees of getting their small business product out the door that they can’t see the forest.

    I think people often ignore the little voice in the back of their mind that is trying to tell them what to do next. The reasons to ignore the voice are many. When I find myself in that spot it’s usually because the voice is telling me I must leave something that I find familiar and comfortable and take it to the next step, which is always painful, unfamiliar and awkward. But it must be done. Another reason is that many people don’t see themselves as others do. These small business people are just that, small thinking. “what I have been doing has brought me this far hasn’t it”.

    I found James Chartrand post really odd. For instance I just can’t figure out how someone who wants to make any kind of business succeed can hide behind the computer screen. Yes I know it’s the internet age, sure email is fine, but my holy crap, you need to actually talk with clients, on the phone at least, smooze, you need to go out into public, do trade shows or conferences or whatever fits your business. Yet James hides, using her privacy and children as an excuse. Totally fucked up. It’s a great example of being small business minded and closed.

    She’ll never be more than she is today with that attitude. I suspect she knows this at some level, and it might be why she came out of the closet, but then she turned around and ran right back in again. I would not hire her to write a thank you note.

    Only you can look at yourself and what you’ve done to see if there is any James in you.

    It was interesting to read your exchanges with Ashok

    You’re totally right, ashok. Best I should just be a good little girl and keep my mouth shut.

    Clarifying some more: I. Am. A. Bitch

    Seriously ask yourself, how many people in this world would want to work with someone like this.

    Nobody wants to work with a bitch, or a dick, or
    an asshole of any gender.

  • Muzz

    I think that (the bitch thing) probably does fall under gender (yes I know what ‘bitch’ means, hold on)

    I’d bet there’s not very many female writers who can do the snarky combative thing outside of gossip columns and not put people off. Women being the warm and fuzzy side of the equation is the typical assumption.
    Ebert doesn’t really mince words and I’d wager that’s part of his appeal. But women are supposed to be “nice” and spread love at all times, particularly in public.

    Anyway, there’s probably an interesting article in all this for someone (might already be). There’s usually one or two feamle writers at big sites doing movie reviews (Salon’s Stephanie Zacharek and Heather Havrilesky for starters) It’d be interesting to hear their experiences.

  • Pat Mustard

    Going off at a slight tangent – mainly because I’m too chicken to stick my head above the parapet of the male/female debate above – I do wonder if perhaps my perceived Anglophile slant of FF should be factored in?

    Coming from Craggy Island (UK!) as I do, I have to say that the humour, snark and wit that’s displayed here greatly appeals and comes across to me as more English than American. Certainly, no other US website that I’ve found matches its particular tone.

    That’s the main reason for my visits; the fact that such quality writing comes in the form of film reviews is almost coincidental. Indeed, most of the critics names mentioned above are just that to me – names. Usually, if I watch a film I watch it on my own judgement (then there’s no-one else to blame when it turns out to be crap!).

    This slant may well be simply my personal perception; I’ve no wish to disparage anyone or open up the old ‘UK v US cultural debate’. I can’t offer any evidence or, indeed, provide a alternate Transatlantic viewpoint; but I do wonder if perhaps this slant/tone may be offputting for at least some potential US readers..

    PS: Chuck:

    I think I originally arrived at your site through some Doctor Who connection

    Scary! I first arrived at FF via a Doc W Series 3 review. Something about Derek Jacobi not doing vaginas, I think..

  • MaryAnn

    Still I think people care about the comments you made in your original post and want to help in whatever way they can. You have probably considered or acted on these comments at one time or another, it doesn’t mean that the people who try to help are being condescending, they just aren’t experts at your buisness.

    Yes, you’re probably right, chuck.

    I apologize to dgrhm and ashok. I’m sorry I flew off the handle. Obviously, I really am doing something very wrong if someone who says I “rock” doesn’t even realize I’m on Twitter and Facebook.

    I’m really very sorry. I’m having a really shitty week, and I’m very depressed and discouraged right now. But there was no reason to take it out on you.

    Please accept my apologies.

  • “I’m having a really shitty week, and I’m very depressed and discouraged right now.”

    I’m sorry you’re having a shitty week, Maryann… If it helps at all I’d just like you to know that I visit your site every day now, religiously, not even necessarily for film reviews but just for the general artistry and excellence of writing. And of course, the humor, which is totally awesome. =) I told all my friends about you. I don’t care how many avenues there are now to get oneself out there, be it twitter or facebook or whatever. Word-of-mouth is still pretty damn effective, maybe even more effective in some cases. I’m sure a lot of people have been turned on to you in this way, and maybe exposure on facebook or any other online source isn’t necessarily the biggest indicator of success…. Sometimes it’s so much more effective to just get people talking, and if you don’t mind me saying so, I think the quality and intelligence of your opinions are practically made for this sort of direct, person-to-person exchange. This is just my opinion, but maybe you’re not necessarily unsuccessful; maybe it’s just a more hidden, not-so-conspicuous sort of success, which unfortunately by patriarchy is considered practically worthless. It’s too bad a person isn’t considered a success in this society unless a red carpet is unfurled before their feet every time they step out the front door or manage to make headlines in The Enquirer….

    I hope things get better for you. I know as a woman and feminist the statistics and personal experiences can get discouraging at times. But just know you’re not alone and that you have a really solid fan base that is obviously very devoted to you! I doubt James Bernardelli (sp?) can say the same.


  • Anne-Kari

    Obviously, I really am doing something very wrong if someone who says I “rock” doesn’t even realize I’m on Twitter and Facebook.

    You’d be amazed at how many people are only a little aware of Facebook, Twitter, and many things internet. I include myself in that number. It’s only in the last year that I was even made aware of what Twitter is, never mind the fact that you were on it!

    And I considered myself fairly internet savvy. I could have easily written a post similar to dgrhm’s 6 months ago. I’m glad you can see that it’s probably just lack of information on that person’s part and not an insult.

    I hope your week improves. And just as a precaution, I’m telling you know that I may post suggestions for publicity that you totally already knew about :)

  • Accounting Ninja

    On the internet, it’s hard to tell who is just making an innocent suggestion or who is treating you like a silly female who doesn’t know anything. I probably would have reacted exactly like you did, MAJ, at the facebook/twitter thing. I mean, it’s right on the front page that you have all those things already. At least poke around this site a bit before offering advice, guys.

    You have strikes against you, MAJ, according to the public. For one, you are a woman AND a feminist. Given all the misconceptions surrounding feminisim, especially on the internet, I’m not surprised. Also, you are an atheist with left leaning political views. There are just as many misconceptions about atheists out there.

    Recently on facebook, a religious relative of mine was shocked that I could actually like a christmas song that mentioned Jesus. :/

    Finally, you are an intellectual. Lots of people (again, especially on the internet!) are threatened by that. They think you think you are “better than them”. Look how many times they have taken your deconstruction of a movie as a personal attack.

    Though I haven’t been back to Rottentomatoes in a long time, when I was there, it was filled with anti-feminist, anti-intellectuals. Sadly, it’s like that most places.

    But, like Tonio above me who quoted Andre Gide, I can’t see you compromising who you are for anything in the world.

    That being said, (((hugs))). I hope you find the light out of the tunnel soon. Your fans really do love your work.

  • Anne-Kari

    — and wouldn’t it be great if I proofread things before posting them. That last line should read: “I’m telling you now“, not “I’m telling you know”.

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