Image: George DieboldIn the beginning, it was taken for granted that a girl in Saudi cyberspace should never write under her real name. First names can derivate from Samar to Susu, Reem into Mimi, Baraa into Batta. But to actually see an Aysha Al-Kusayyer, Muna Siraj or an Hadeel Al-Hudaeif? Only recently. And only amongst very supportive families.
Why the pseudonym?
Security is the obvious reason. Where I grew up, Saudi Arabia was such a small, small place. As many Ghamdis, Otaibis & Sharbatlys as you can find, everybody's related to everybody else by marriage or education or work. And it was relatively easy to pin them out: The old money and the abroad-graduates grouped together in Northern Jeddah. The drug dealers and shady businessmen around the southern part of Jeddah. And the rest of us in between.
The groups dynamics shrunk even further if you're a second and so-forth generation immigrant, with a surname such as Felemban, Khan or Seeni. I don't know about you, but just like in Jhumpa Lahiri's poetic depiction of Bengali immigrants in the US, the Asians in Jeddah cluster together, rarely opening up to the natives.
It wouldn't be so much a big deal if giving away your identity didn't get you in trouble. We still hear about fathers and brothers practicing (and legally protected for) honor killings in these parts of the world. The point is, it's not always out of vanity that pseudonyms are maintained and may take a while of testing the waters until you dare leave the comforts of anonymity.
Why not use the pseudonym anymore?
- Because I haven't been living in Saudi. The inherent cyber-paranoia has slowly been replaced with a sense of "fuck if I care what the Citizenship has to say about my work".
- Value for my work. I tend to think that credibility is increased with real names. Not that content is defined by that. Just credibility. It is credible that the writer of this blog is a pompous self-proclaimed curmudgeon, wherever she may be seen in the cyberspace.
- The tendency to self-destruct, which also has been the reason that I'm protecting my relatives from being affiliated to me has also been sublimated into other directions. I'm into demon sightseeing these days.
- Besides, most people already know that Alia, Adil and Anggi Makki are related, and all three are equally passionate about their unrelated fields of work. So if anyone of us starts screwing up, we don't directly harm each other's professional reputation. If anybody cares, really.
- And most folks don't care, really, about who you are or to whom you're related. Most people care more about what you can do for them. How you can inspire and entertain them. It's just the way the world works, right?