July 16th, 2010
Talking about why I blog or being introduced at any event as a blogger involves mentioning the name of my blog. ‘Dr Petra’. Or ‘Dr Petra’s Blog’. Which I find a bit embarrassing.
Why? Well, given the amazing, witty, fun and quirky names many people have for their blogs, particularly in the areas of health and science, mine seems to have a very dull title. Or perhaps seems to be the work of a raving egomaniac.
The truth is I had a website called ‘Dr Petra’ long before I had my blog, and so when I added the blog five and bit years ago I didn’t think to call it anything fancy. Mainly because it was largely experimental and I wasn’t even sure it was something I’d stick with.
As I became more familiar with blogging I realised how some folk had truly fantastic names for their blogs. I also learned how giving a blog a title based on your name is probably not the best idea – although a lot of that advice comes more from the world of commercial blogging rather than science blogging. Either way, but the time I’d realised it may be a plan to think of another title people had got used to ‘dr petra’ and I worried a rebranding might lose or confuse readers.
This didn’t stop me fretting the blog’s name implied a certain kind of arrogance I didn’t wish it to have. And disconcertingly that played out in real life where people I met seemed to be under the impression I wanted to be called ‘dr’ at all times. Which in spite of me getting a PhD being a very big deal to me (more on this in a bit) I’m actually not that fussed about.
All of which got me thinking what I might have called it if I’d been foresighted enough to consider a snazzy name might be important.
‘Confessions of a sex researcher’ was my first choice. Quite catchy, and I’d already written a short piece using that title for Libido Magazine. But then the blog’s not always about sex or research so I felt it might make it seem too focused and abandoned that idea.
On a naughtier level I considered ‘Red hat, no knickers’ or ‘Fur coat, no drawers’ either of which are a nod to my interest in sex work and represent my fascination with how we talk about female sexual behaviour. But I discarded these as they implied a blog that was someone talking about their sexual experiences or fantasies. I’m a fan of blogs that do just that, but my blog doesn’t detail my sexual diaries, and people arriving hoping to hear about some erotic encounters might be sadly disappointed by the regular discussions of research governance, ethics and survey design.
So then I thought about ‘The Ruined Maid’ again focusing on my interest in sex work, but thought that might suggest I was a sex worker and detract from the many excellent sex worker blogs out there. I also didn’t want to offend sex worker bloggers who have complained about ‘faux ho’ websites that describe fictitious encounters, speak for sex workers (rather than being an ally) or talk about pornography/prostitution in ways that put sex workers at risk.
Still on the fallen woman motif I tried ‘No better than she ought to be’ – a hat tip to how women who study sex are often sexualised through what they do (and are put down for it by academic colleagues and sometimes the public). But that reminded me too much of my schooldays when I was told I was ‘thick’ and to leave at 16 without going on to further education. In fact, still feeling bitter about being pigeonholed as ‘the kid who wouldn’t amount to much’ I toyed with using that line for the blog. Changed tack when I realised Robbie Williams had got there first with his poem Hello Sir, which is sampled in One Giant Leap’s fantastic ‘For My Culture’.
As a psychologist I ought to know dragging baggage around isn’t all that helpful and I don’t feel a blog title based around past problems is all that healthy. Besides I’ve preferred to work through those demons by doing action research on access to higher education for disadvantaged young people (examples here and here).
Leaving the opportunity for passive aggressive blog titles behind I considered an historical take with ‘The Net Braider’s Granddaughter’. My maternal grandmother was a net braider as well as a wife, mam, party activist and all round wise woman. I owe her a lot and strongly identify with the life skills and values she taught me. I still love the idea of this as a title for the blog as it sums up a sense of weaving together different areas of my work and life. But while it holds sentimental value to me it doesn’t really tell anyone what the blog’s about, which I felt might be confusing.
Focusing back on my academic work I thought about The Research Companion, as a lot of my lecturing is based around making research accessible, ethical and safe for people working in the social and health sciences. Having published a book using this title I thought it was too nice to not recycle. Then I worried that as the blog often deviates from discussing research and prances into sexy chat, those people turning up who only wanted to talk about research governance, ethics and survey design might be somewhat offended – or wildly aroused.
My work is a mix of many things. It straddles the sexy and the scientific. Sometimes it’s about advice, sometimes about activism. Often both. Sometimes the sex topics are highly sensitive and serious, other times they can be erotic or humorous. In between there’s interrogation of method, discussion of media processes and reflections on research in the social and health sciences. So finding a blog title that accurately represented all these things proved pretty much impossible.
My readership is also fairly broad and I didn’t want to exclude anyone with a title that seemed overly flippant, explicit or dull. And since a lot of the work I do focuses around sex education and the rights of young people I also didn’t want a title that would prevent younger people from reading the blog.
So there you are. Due to a lack of real forethought the blog is what it is. Call it what you will, just keep reading and keep telling me what you like and dislike about it – and what you want me to talk about.
After all, the blog is for you and represents something for everybody.
While you mention it ‘Dr Petra: something for everybody’ has a nice ring to it.
(And I believe someone I admire a lot used it as a catchphrase too).Tweet