Robert Joyce

Facebook recently added over 50 new options, which users can select to identify as their gender for their personal profiles … and you shouldn’t care.

Don’t get me wrong: There is absolutely nothing wrong with what Facebook has done.  In fact, it is great that Facebook is allowing their users further customization in how they choose to identify themselves on their online profiles. There is, however, a problem with how people are interpreting this small addition as a big step towards equality.

This isn’t a step forward nor backwards; it is a step sideways. It represents a minor addition to a popular website, not an immediate global acceptance of advocacy for gender identity equality.

Sure, Facebook has 1.2 billion active monthly users. That’s a scary amount of people.  These people use the site daily to propagate their personal political opinions, sharing memes and statuses they choose to identify with. As consumers of this daily newsfeed warzone of propaganda, we are creating a sense of apathy towards political activism.

The generations of young progressive thinkers at college campuses who banded together to stand up for what they believe are right now sitting behind their computers and sharing posts, as opposed to making a sign and nailing it to a post and marching around for the change they believe in.

At the very least, society should just accept this new feature as a minor change for Facebook. Facebook periodically revamps their user interface adding many new changes to their site with little to no media coverage.

Arguably, most users’ profiles relay very little about themselves.  Progression was probably the last thing on Facebook’s mind when they added this feature.  Why not just delete gender from Facebook? Then they cannot use profile gender identity to target users with certain advertisements.

Facebook deserves no credit as an advocator of equality. They are still trivializing complicated concepts of self-identity to exist in their digital realm via a fill-in-the-blank text box.

Shauna Mitchell

Imagine you’re filling out an important questionnaire. It asks you to provide your name, age, home address, and, among other things, race. However, when you get to the race question, it only provides two options: white or black. How would a Latina woman respond? How would a Native American man respond? These people would feel trivialized that their race wasn’t included as an option on the form. This is something transgender people have struggled with, and continue to struggle with every day.

As nothing more than a social construct, having a gender binary (man/woman dichotomy) limits the way people can acceptably identify themselves. Very recently, a discussion has been growing louder within the LGBTQ community about the language we as a society use to define genders, and Facebook is an outlet that is reflecting this new vocabulary. Many are seeing gender not as a binary, but as a spectrum, allowing for several different combinations of traditional genders (ex. male to female, cis male), and even places on the scale for completely new ones (ex. Neutrois, intersex).

See, it’s problematic to assume that a person identifies as a man strictly because he was born with male anatomy. So this recent change to the Facebook interface — allowing users to identify as genders other than man/woman — is a great idea. It allows people to portray themselves more accurately because it doesn’t force them to choose between just two labels.

 Social media is used as a platform for self-expression. If we can’t use language to precisely define ourselves, then how else are we supposed to do it? Being able to accurately define our gender is a step in the right direction: forward. I hope other social media outlets, and organizations and institutions of all kinds, follow the example Facebook is setting. Nothing is black and white, especially not gender.

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