Pseudonyms and cultural appropration?



LOL Or a sex symbol named Norma Jeane Mortenson?


Er, I would? Because I know a name has no bearing on one’s ability to sing?


While a name doesn’t affect one’s ability to sing, it’s part of the marketing. It’s possible they want a stage name as they want to be known by that, or producers want something more marketable. A name could be long to pronounce and having a shorter name may be marketable.


Here’s an example of the temptation. My father is Mäori. I grew up in New Zealand. Mäori characters and language take a central role in my work.

But, my parents divorced when I was very young and I was brought up by my Mum as a pakeha (anglo) child. I got a taste of te reo Mäori at college, but didn’t seriously study it until my late twenties, and am still not confident speaking it. The same goes for the history and tikanga-a-iwi, which I’ve learned mostly through reading, not from elders or friends.

In New Zealand there are opportunities for Mäori writers, such as presses that specialise in work by tangata whenua. But I was born in the ‘States and my father is about as detribalised as can be. When I told him I was studying te reo, he said it was a waste of time.

Since I qualify by blood quantum, it’s tempting to adopt a Mäori pseudonym in order to get work accepted and published. But given the facts of my life, that would be cheating. The NZ writing community is small and close-knit, so my deception wouldn’t last.

(Insert sigh.)


I know. My original point was, it’s stupid even if it’s reality.


Dropping my two cents on this (keeping in mind i didnt actually read all of the comments) subject.

The ideals behind using Psydonoms are probably older than literature itself. And many great authors have published under names other than their own for many different reason throughout history. In past times the use of a fake name could serve to save your life. It could protect your family and property from those who would do you harm. It could keep you from being burned at the stake by Christian fanatics for hundreds of years during most of written history.

Cultural misappropriation itself is a relatively new concept that has only recently became an issue. Speaking as a indigenous person who is a recognized member of the largest tribel group in the state of California I can say that at times the liberties tooken with our various (there were hundereds of different tribes here at one time each with a unique culture and belief structure) native cultures does great harm.

The misconseptions that result when people who know nothing more than what they surfed off the internet have cause much damage to many cultures within the native communities here in America.

I grew upon a reservation. I know the history. And I have far more knowledge about my people’s history than any so called professor from U.C. Berkley ever thought possible. But i cant talk about it because to do so in this day and age means that someone will misinterpret what I say to mean something far from its original intention.

We as a people are entering a dark age of information suppression and deception. An age where very few truths will ever come to light. A time when people will misappropriate a simple truth to support an unbelievable lie. An era of history that shall be notable only for its total lack of moral content and the distinct absents of worthy social accomplishments.

We sci-fi writers felt it coming. Dystopian future here we come. And some of you dummies will actually thing this is a good thing. (Shakes head in denial) when it’s your family, when its your loved one, when all you care for is about to be destroyed in the name if some unimaginable ‘progress’…only then will you understand.

Some things dont have a price. An ideal can never be replaced by any items of monitery value. A culture once lost can never be found again. A history forsaken will never forgive those that forgot the lessons they taught.

No person on this planet is so great that they can afford to ignore the lessons of our own past. To do so is folly. History has taught us that.


i actually know of an author who used to write on here who despite not being chinese, using a chinese pen name. it doesn’t sit well with me.


This is an interesting question as I use a pseudonym to post online. I personally would find it very off putting to find somebody was using a pseudonym that had been deliberately chosen to make them seem part of an ethnicity or culture they are not part of, but which is the subject of their writing. Although rather strong words, manipulative and dishonest, are the ones that spring to mind for me about this.

The issues surrounding pseudonyms and gender identity as well as pseudonyms and sexual orientation have been raised in this thread, and I broadly agree what has been said, especially with regards to female writers trying to appear as male in the gay male romance genre which is definitely an issue. The only thing extra I would say on this is please remember that there are trans and nonbinary writers out there. I mention this not because I fall into this category, I don’t, but because some of my friends do, and i hate the idea of people telling them that they only chose those names to gain readers.

I use a pseudonym because my own name is too distinctive and somebody could easy find me by googling it. Because some of what I write does border onto the gay romance genre I felt it was very important that my pseudonym was clear that I was a female writer. So I chose a mix of my middle names and a grandparents surname, and use a picture of myself to hopefully remove any doubt.


Exactly my point… and I truly love the freedom the pen name allows me. While my family and friends do know about my writing, I have no intention to let anyone know on my workplace…


I used a pen name for years…went through several in fact. Recently I’ve been forced to using my real name so as people would have a harder time trying to steal my work. It was not actually by choice mind you.

I had kept my true identity secret far longer than I thought would have been possible. It was fun, something I enjoyed. It was a simple way to get away without going anywhere. I would simply become someone else.

Now having finally been snitched off by a staff member (thanks asshole) of the e-zine no less. I decided that I had to change to a name that was directly related to my real name. This was done in part for security of my work. But not entirely, I would have prefered to remain anonymous.

I was betrayed. Which has led me to remove or ghost most of my social media accounts.

I did not like being fronted out to the public by those whom I actually trusted with my content. And I must admit to still harbouring quite a bit of resentment over the incident. I felt it was a betrayal of trust on the deepest levels. When an author uses an psydonom in a certain venue it is a gross betrayal of faith for the editor of an e-zine to address said author on a public forum thread by the persons actual name.

You see I didn’t use my persona to operate my psydonoms. I used a made up persona (usually based on a character i had created) that would provide a buffer between the real me and the wattpad ‘I’ that I portrayed. This was for your benefit.

What was really forced on me was a choice to maintain the illusion of the created persona or not. I decided ‘phuck-it’. I’m not maintaining an illusion whereas the base principle behind creating the illusion has been rendered false. i.e everyone knows the truth so why bother.

So now thanks to someone I won’t name your stuck with the real me…and I’m a bit of an asshole on occasion, plus I’m short tempered and a bit mean at times. Furthermore the only other thing (my wife) that lended a calming influence to my posts died recently.

Additionally she was my main source of inspiration. Without her my desire to write is greatly deminished. And without her I dont enjoy writing. It feels laborious, an action without joy. Sadly if I don’t resolve this soon I’ll probably just drop writing altogether.

On the up side, I do have a lot more spare time than I used to. Just nothing that i want to do with it.


I disagree with using a name to appear like you belong to a certain culture/ethnicity, but I completely agree with using a screen name in general.

I use one and prefer not to talk about myself or my upbringing/background too much because I want people to judge me purely on my content, not on whatever biases and preconceptions (positive or negative) they have about my identities.


I don’t care when people use culture appropriation because, as a curious person by nature, I love reading about other traditions and trying different things.

We have to remember that we are first and foremost all humans, of the same species. Why get petty about someone ‘copying’ your culture? There’s no copyright for that, and for a good reason. Little traditions and parts of cultures have been traded and shared and copied throughout the millennia, it’s not something to get angry about, I don’t understand those people that get irritated for it :woman_shrugging:t2:

I mean, I am Italian, but you don’t see Italians getting angry at everyone around the bloody world eating spaghetti (which by the way were originally created by the Chinese) or pizza, so…


Im farely certain that no amount of explaining will ever allow you to understand.


What you described called cultural exchange not appropriation.

This confusion over what these terms mean reminds me of when a certain politician took the time out of his day to drink coffee at an Ethiopian coffee shop to ‘trigger the libs’ with cultural appropriation.

As if liberals are not all for cultural exchange and multiculturalism.


So cultural appropriation (or in-appropriation?) is basically an attempt by people who do not only familiarise themselves with cultures foreign to them, but also having the intention to defile and mock them in bizarre ways.

Like, for example, unethical travellers stepping into temples and holy places, making loud noises, chanting prayers randomly, touching statues of gods, and wearing traditional clothes like a street punk just stole them from boutiques or something like that.

Well, I completely agree if that’s the case.

As for pseudonyms, well, mine is mixed with the help of an online fantasy name generator. Though I’m Asian and using an English name, and my country being ruled by Brits for so long, our cultures are too assimilated for any sort of cultural appropriation. What do we like to share the most? Tea time!


It also involves instances when the person ‘borrowing’ the culture gives credit to themselves. This is an old example, but ‘JAZZ’ has always been the copyright free for all music. But a few white musicians created albums and gave themselves songwriting credits for Jazz songs that have been popular and originated in African American Jazz circles.

The issue here is not performing the song. The issue here is performing the song and claiming you wrote it.

So with Pseudonyms, the issue wouldn’t be having an Asian pen name or writing Asian fantasy. The problem would be pretending to be Asian because you think it’ll make your Asian fantasy sell.


Ah, then it’s also a matter of stealing credits from the original culture creators. Wait, that sounds really familiar. Okay, I completely understand now. I’ve been participating in getting riled up about other nationalities stealing local food recipes and called them theirs, while having the authentic ingredients imported from my country. Ugh.

Especially this part. This is extremely rampant between Chinese and Japanese media, at least in my observation. Some are quite genuine, but some are really, really disparaging, particularly if they involve each other’s ancient history.


I do this sometimes. I want to honor a part of my heritage that most people don’t know about. I don’t feel I am culturally appropriating by doing this


As you can see, my username is very ambiguous, it actually stemmed from the nickname of a character of mine.

I have written plenty of characters that are not of my heritage, but I believe this is not cultural appropriation. I don’t want to take someone else’s culture and twist it, rather treat it with respect and humility. After all, that is how we should treat our fellow human, no?

I was surprised to read that many of you think some readers may be turned off if a username/pen-name denotes a specific ethnicity/gender. It is true in many cases, well, look at JK Rowling.

Have any of you had that experience? I would be interested to hear your thoughts.


If you’ve ever had a library job and someone asked you to recommend books for their sons for example, they’d say something like ‘No, he’s a boy’ if the book you give them has a female sounding author.

People who pride themselves on ‘high class’ reading generally subconsciously avoid books that have authors with very ‘exotic’ names.