While reading this week’s reading by Carstensen, I was constantly wondering how the gender binary in social media sites has changed in the years since the article was written. On Facebook, I can change my sex at any time, but I still have to choose between “male” and “female”. I don’t have to display it on my profile, but I can’t choose a third option, or choose not to answer like I can with my religious beliefs, political views, or even my sexuality (more on this a little later). Only being able to choose from these two options bolsters Carstensen’s argument of the strict binary that’s common though out Web 2.0 sites. This binary excludes people who may have both female and male genitalia, ambiguous genitalia, or are intersex. According to the Intersex Society of North America as many as 1 in 1500 children are born “so noticeably atypical in terms of genitalia that a specialist in sex differentiation is called in”. When these people get old enough to create a Facebook profile and they’re signing up for the site it could be a confusing thing for them to choose, and could not make social media as friendly as it could be.
However, as the saying goes “where there’s a will, there’s a way”. While I was playing around on Google and looking for stuff to write about for this blog assignment, I found this post from GenderQueerID.com that explains how users can make their Facebook profile gender neutral.
I think the nature of Web 2.0 is being embodied by these people who are playing with the HTML code of social media sites, modifying said sites to include different genders/sexes and making it gender neutral, and sharing this information with others. Even though this may go against Facebook’s terms of service (the wording is kind of murky).
One way that Facebook and other social media do combat against binaries though when a user chooses their sexuality or what sex they are interested in when creating their profiles. For Facebook, you can choose that you are interested in men, women, both, or neither. While at first glance this may seem to cover all of the bases, if you think a little bit you can see where some sexualities may have been left out. For example, what if someone is attracted to men who dress and look like women? Which box would they check when making their profiles? Just some food for thought.
What do you think?
Are the people who change the software code to make their profile gender neutral doing it in an ethical way?
Should Facebook persecute people who change their software code in this way?
What are some solutions that Facebook could make to keep people changing their software code?