Taylor Swift: Another Example of a Woman Using a Male Pseudonym

July 15th 2016

Lucy Tiven

Before Taylor Swift and Calvin Harris' recent split, Swift co-wrote Harris' hit single "This Is What You Came For" under the name Nils Sjöberg, according to a Wednesday TMZ report.

Swift may have chosen this particular nomme de plume because many of the biggest pop songs in recent years have been written or produced by Swedish men.

She's also worked with many of them, including Max Martin (Martin Sandberg), Shellback (Karl Schuster), and Mattman & Robin (Mattias Larsson and Robin Fredriksson), the Verge points out.

Though Swift has yet to speak out about her choice use of a male pseudonym, she also is not the first female artist to do so.

Many female authors published work under male names to circumnavigate publishers' and readers' sexist misconceptions.

In an interview, J.K. Rowling said that it was her publisher's idea to release the "Harry Potter" series under her initials rather than her first name "Joanne," the Telegraph reports. In 2000, a representative of Bloomsbury Publishing, who published the books, told the Telegraph that they decided to use Rowling's initials to make the books more appealing to a male readership.

Rowling also published a crime novel in 2013 under the name Robert Galbraith. On the site created for Rowling's alter ego, the author explained:

"I certainly wanted to take my writing persona as far away as possible from me, so a male pseudonym seemed a good idea. I am proud to say, though, that when I 'unmasked' myself to my editor David Shelley, who had read and enjoyed 'The Cuckoo’s Calling' without realizing I wrote it, one of the first things he said was, 'I never would have thought a woman wrote that.' Apparently I had successfully channeled my inner bloke!"

rowling crime novel

Mary Ann Evans published her seminal 1872 novel "Middlemarch" and other books under the name George Eliot "to ensure her works were taken seriously in an era when female authors were usually associated with romantic novels," the BBC explains.


The Brontë sisters also published novels under male names in the 19th century.

"We did not like to declare ourselves women because – without at that time suspecting that our mode of writing and thinking was not what is called 'feminine' – we had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice," Charlotte Brontë wrote in 1850, according to the Guardian.

The day "This Is What You Came For" was released, Ryan Seacrest asked Harris if he was planning to collaborate with Swift, his then-girlfriend, in a radio interview, TMZ notes.

"You know we haven't even spoken about it," Harris replied. "I can't see it happening though."

In terms of the music industry, it's possible Swift may have wanted her work on the song to fly under the radar after the massive attention German 20-year-old Bibi Bourelly received for writing the beat to "Bitch Better Have My Money," as illustrated by stories on ET online and Noisey. Women remain underrepresented in electronic music, so Swift may have chosen a Swedish male name so the song would be taken seriously.

Meanwhile, a Swedish communications specialist named Nils Sjöberg has enjoyed quite a bit of social media attention since the news broke, Gizmodo reports.