Women Who Posed As Men (To Get Ahead)
Society has long been kind of a boys club, and only very recently has it become a little less so. So how did women get ahead back in the days when female positivity was something that most men agreed was a sign of being a witch? Well, they often either hid their gender, or just outright pretended to be men. Look at how ...
Countless Famous Female Writers Needed Male Pseudonyms To Get Taken Seriously
The problem here isn't that readers won't buy books written by women -- it's that they seem to think women can only write for other women. Thus you get the Bronte sisters (the ladies behind stuff like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights) using male pen names because their writing wasn't considered "feminine." Mary Ann Evans (who wrote Middlemarch) went by George Eliot for the same reason. Even Little Women author Louisa May Alcott took a male pen name so her non-March-sisters stories would be considered credible. Using a female name often relegates your work to the world of fluff, as Jane Austen could attest, were she alive and able to complain about the frilly pink covers on her biting social satires.
The practice continues today, even though we're past the point where medicine could argue that the female brain is physically incapable of writing on universal themes due to the loss of blood during menses. Even J.K. Rowling, the first person (man or woman) to become a billionaire through writing books, had to publish crime novels under a man's name. Although to be fair, nobody seemed to take Robert Galbraith seriously either. Rowling's real name is Joanne, and she originally was told to publish Harry Potter using the unspecified initials "J.K." so that boys wouldn't be ashamed to be caught reading fantasy books about a little wizard boy written by A GIRL.
If one of the most successful writers of all time has to pretend to be a dude, what hope does the rest of us have? Not much, if your experience is anything like author Catherine Nichols, who submitted proposals under her real name and then under the pseudonym "George." George's manuscript was requested 17 times, while Catherine's manuscript was only requested twice.
Kathrine Switzer Dispelled A Stupid Marathon Myth
A long time ago, when medical science wasn't as advanced (the 1960s), women weren't allowed to run in the Boston Marathon. It was believed that the distance was too much for their fragile bodies, and there were too many risks involved. Their uteruses could fall out, and oh the horror, their feminine features would turn into that of a man's. You can't exactly have women jogging when it could make them into infertile uggos.
It finally took a woman using a name that looked like a man's name to teach people otherwise. 19-year-old Syracuse University student Kathrine Switzer had been running unofficially with the men's cross-country team because her school had no women's team. After talking with her coach, Arnie Briggs, she decided to run the Boston Marathon. She hadn't gotten to the point where her reproductive organs were tumbling out of her, but she could run 26.2 miles, which gave her the confidence to know she could do it.
There wasn't an explicit official "No girls allowed" rule, but no woman had ever participated. Switzer signed up for the 1967 marathon as "K.V. Switzer," because if there's anything that throws off the patriarchy, it's initials. And that was all she did to hide her gender; she even wore lipstick on the day of the race. It was all fine to a point, as some of the men running with her thought it was pretty badass. Then everything went to hell.
The race manager, Jock "This can't be his real name" Semple, appeared out of the blue. He tried to rip off her bib while screaming and cursing at her. Switzer's boyfriend, a 235-pound former All-American football player named Miller, shoved him away, allowing Switzer to continue the race. Switzer and Miller pressed on, but they later got into a huge fight and he ditched her. Because if there's anything you need while running 26.2 miles, it's getting into a public fight with your significant other.
Switzer felt more determined to finish the race because Semple had tried to kick her out. "I turned to my coach and said, 'I'm finishing this race on my hands and knees if I have to.'" she later said. Not only did she finish, but she finished before her boyfriend, who had called her "too slow" right before he peaced out. They must have made up, since they got married in 1967 (though they divorced in '73).
As a result of Switzer's run, the Amateur Athletic Union (AUU) ... banned women from competing in races with male runners. (It was just too much drama!) A group of women, including Switzer, worked to get the decision overturned, and women were officially "allowed" to run the Boston Marathon in 1972. Switzer went on to have a long career as a runner, and even ran the Boston Marathon again in 2017. Her number was then retired by the race's organizer. No word on her uterus, though.
Rena "Rusty" Kanokogi Broke A Martial Arts Gender Barrier
If you've ever seen a six-year-old girl flip over a grown-ass man in a judo class, it's all thanks to one woman. Rena "Rusty" Kanokogi first became interested in judo after a male friend showed her a move. She wanted to fight in competitions, but there was one pesky problem: She was a woman.
Just like with the marathons, there wasn't a written rule preventing women from entering a YMCA judo tournament in Utica, NY, because they didn't need one. It was unthinkable. So when Kanokogi entered the 1959 tournament as an alternate for her team, she signed up as a man. She cut her hair short and taped down her breasts, because having the ol' fun sacks front and center is a dead giveaway.
A male teammate got injured and was unable to compete, giving her the opportunity to make history. Knokogi won the match, but would ultimately lose her medal. After the competition, she was asked if she was a woman, and since the thing was already in the bag, she thought it was OK to come clean. It wasn't, and she was promptly stripped of her award. Every hero has an origin story, and what happened at the YMCA was Kanokogi's. From that day forward, she vowed revenge ... or at least advocacy.
"Had I said no," Kanokogi told The New York Times, "I don't think women's judo would have been in the Olympics. It instilled a feeling in me that no woman should have to go through this again." She believed so passionately that women's judo should be an Olympic sport that she mortgaged her house to help finance the first women's judo championships at Madison Square Garden, knowing a world championship was necessary for her goal. Kanokogi ended up becoming a seventh-degree black belt, and became the first woman allowed to train with the men's group at the famous Kodokan Judo Institute.
Dorothy "Denis Smith" Lawrence Went Undercover To The Front Lines
As a woman, journalist Dorothy Lawrence was limited to writing fluffy entertainment stories and interviews. But when World War I broke out, she saw an opportunity to write a compelling story. It was a big dream, considering how even seasoned war correspondents with big bushy beards couldn't get to the front lines. There was no way a paper would send a woman.
Fortunately for Lawrence, she had a few tricks up her lacy lady-sleeves. She fooled The Times into thinking she was going to do more entertainment reporting overseas, and they got her a passport to Paris. While in France, she hung out at cafes for intel, but ran into problems when many of the soldiers thought she was hitting on them. Even back then, guys had a hard time differentiating between a girl simply being nice to them and wanting the D.
So Lawrence crafted a plan to embed herself on the front lines. She had two British Army soldier friends smuggle her a uniform, piece by piece. She forged papers and took the name "Private Denis Smith." She disguised herself as a man, cutting her hair, flattening her chest, and even gave herself a fake tan using shoe polish and shaved her face to get a shaving rash. "Smith" lasted 10 days on the front line, developing constant chills and rheumatism, which eventually turned into fainting fits. Lawrence feared she would get in trouble if her true identity was discovered while receiving medical attention, so she revealed her true identity ... and immediately got in trouble.
The commanding sergeant was embarrassed that a girl snuck by him, so instead of admitting that he messed up, he accused her of being a spy. She was questioned by 20 men, some of whom accused her of being a "camp follower," which is another way of saying sex worker. She didn't know what "camp follower" meant, because who really does, and a Three's Company misunderstanding ensued, but with more guns. Lawrence was told she wasn't allowed to publish her experiences, but she did anyway. Her autobiography was released in 1919 and ... was promptly dismissed. Maybe she should have published it under a dude's name?