Who Are You on Facebook Now?

Facebook Customizes Gender With 50 Different Choices

On his driver’s license and passport, at his doctor’s office and insurance company, for online dating and social media, and on every application or document that requires checking a box for gender, 24-year-old Ryley Pogensky is a “male.” But to his friends onFacebook, he is now a “trans man.”

Facebook recently announced that it would offer users 50 different possibilities and permutations of gender identification. In the gender category under “Basic Information,” the drop-down box now includes such “custom” choices as non-binary, intersex, neutrois, androgyne, agender, gender questioning, gender fluid, gender variant, genderqueer and neither.

The gender project was developed at a “hackathon” — an all-night coding fest at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. — with input from Glaad in New York. “Over the years, we’ve seen a lot of requests for additional terms,” said Allison Palmer, former vice president for campaigns and programs at Glaad. “It speaks to how important Facebook is in people’s lives. Having only two options was a big problem.”

Some of the terms are not found in standard dictionaries. “Cisgender” is officially defined as someone who identifies with his or her societally recognized sex, but it has come to have a more L.G.B.T.-supportive subtext: I’m O.K. with what it says on my birth certificate, but I realize that’s not true for everyone.

“Other people might see one of these terms and think it’s a typo,” said Sasha Kolodkin, a 19-year-old student at Purchase College in New York, who chose to be identified as a gender nonconforming transsexual female. “It’s sort of a secret language that not everyone will understand. I was born male and feel that I should have been female. But use of the words ‘male’ and ‘female’ is very confining. When you have to choose between the two, the complexities of your identity are lost. It’s like looking at a painting in black and white instead of color.”

There have been a number of successful, albeit temporary, hacks into Facebook to allow gender-neutral pronouns, so that a profile reads “Wish them a happy birthday” rather than “him” or “her” — common usage in the L.G.B.T. community, even if grammatically incorrect. “A lot of friends who are tech geeks did that,” said Mr. Pogensky, who is a blogger and events planner. “I think Facebook caught onto it. This change made me so happy, hearing something as huge as Facebook admit, ‘Sorry, we left these people out in the beginning.’ ”

So far, the new labels are only available in English to Facebook users in the United States; it will take a while to figure out the translation of “pangender” in Japanese or Finnish. “In a lot of languages, there isn’t an easy way to express a human being without including gender,” said Alex Schultz, vice president of growth at Facebook, who spearheaded the project. “But we’re interested in giving people options to express who they really are, allowing them to be their authentic selves.”

Facebook has not revealed how many users have chosen to partake of the new options. “It’s not about the percentage of people who will use them,” said Ms. Palmer, who worked closely with Facebook, “but those who do are some of the most vulnerable members of the community, and like everyone else, they deserve to express themselves.”

Younger Facebook users may be more comfortable with public declarations, but some older users more concerned with privacy are coming onboard — guardedly. “I made sure to read carefully through the description of the options before I did something that seemed like a big deal,” said Christina Mazzalupo, 44, an artist in Brooklyn. “It’s just Facebook, but it’s everybody I know.”

Ms. Mazzalupo identified as androgynous. “It was sort of titillating but made sense,” she said. “I’ve been out since I was 21. I don’t want to be a boy, but I don’t feel like a girl. I have feminine sensibilities but have gotten more boyish in how I look, how I dress. My dad calls me combo-kid, and for my mother to tell me I look handsome was a big deal. ‘Androgyne’ felt like a final validation, and I’m quite old for that to be happening.”

Aster Max, a 52-year-old graphic artist in Seattle, chose “two-spirit,” a Native American term that conveys having both male and female aspects. “In many tribes, there’s an honorable place for what we call gay people,” he said. “Among the Lakota, it was almost mandatory to have a two-spirit person go on a war raid as a good-luck charm. When I saw that offering on Facebook, I went for it.”

Mr. Max considers his choice a bit of digital defiance. “I came out of the womb gay,” he said. “I was a ballet dancer for 22 years — it was part of my ID always. But I’m making a choice to stand out. The more of us who choose a different gender, the better it is for those who want wiggle room. I’m waving a flag in the face of others who might be more conservative. It’s my own little Act Up.”

Written by Aimee Lee Ball. Nytimes.com is where a version of this excerpt originally appeared.


How to Stop the Online Harassment of Female Journalists

“Happy to say we live in the same state. Im looking you up, and when I find you, im going to rape you and remove your head.” That’s a tweet Slate writer Amanda Hess received from her stalker. Unfortunately, Hess’ situation is not uncommon. In fact, female journalists being harassed and threatened online has become an epidemic.

Hess recently wrote a lengthy piece on the subject for the Pacific Standard. She discovered that of all the people who reported being stalked and harassed online from 2000 to 2012, 72.5 percent were female. “No matter how hard we attempt to ignore it, this type of gendered harassment — and the sheer volume of it — has severe implications for women’s status on the Internet,” Hess argued.

How can we change this situation? Ann Friedman has some ideas. Friedman, a columnist forNew York, among other publications, often espouses on controversial topics (gender, politics, sex) and has had her share of harassment online. 10,000 Words spoke with Friedman about trolls, Tumblr and the true meaning of masochism.

“My first online home was at Feministing.com, and nothing has managed to come close to the amount of hate mail I got for writing for that site,” Friedman said. “I had a guy who would come to events, who was clearly mentally ill and thought everything we were writing was about him. At Feministing we had an appointed FBI agent, who we forwarded all our hate mail to. So I wrote this guy and told him I was forwarding his info to our agent. He backed off after that.”

We asked Friedman what she thought of Hess using the term “civil rights” to discuss women’s sexual harassment online. Friedman said she understands why Hess used the term, but that it’s actually more complex.

“There’s a bunch of different layers here. There’s people, most of them men, who publicly try to silence women. There’s also private communication,” she said. “A lot of the stuff isn’t really a threat. Obviously, Amanda’s situation is horrifying and many pro-women sex writers I know have been threatened at some point in time. But the bulk of it is just hate mail… supremely nasty reactions that are gendered and disturbing.”

We asked Friedman what she thought of Tumblr’s new and improved terms of service, which gives a detailed overview on what is and isn’t acceptable on the blogging platform.

“It goes a little further than a lot of sites’ community guidelines do in terms of what we expect from our users,” Friedman said. “Twitter, [on the other hand] isn’t active in policing users on any number of things. I use the block button reflexively. I feel like having those types of settings is absolutely imperative. Women [need to] be able to get the attention of Twitter or Tumblr to get that person’s access revoked when it comes to communicating with them.”

What about taking away the comments sections on articles altogether, as some publications have recently done? Will it just make the trolls angrier?

“I don’t really care about their feelings,” Friedman said, laughing. “I write for lots of different outlets. If you asked me which have active comments sections [and] which don’t, I would not be able to tell you. I don’t read them. I think it’s just masochistic to read the comments at this point. No site really has the [ability] to the do the kind of super-involved moderation necessary to create a really awesome dialogue. I would say the one exception to that rule is The Hairpin, where my pie charts run. I will look at the comments there because it is a small community. It’s not like writing for a major site.”

Friedman said one way to stop trolls and harassers from taking over the comments section is to make it harder to sign in.

“I think it’s worth having a conversation about how sites can have more accountability in comments,” she said. “I do think that sites where you have to sign in through Facebook, so your real identity is showing up next to the comment, has a pretty good effect. Or even if you have a sign up barrier. That’ll weed out a lot of people who are just there to troll. There are some low-level things that sites can use to decrease hate speech.”

What do you think? Is there an effective way to prevent the harassment of women journos online? Let us know in the comments below.

Written by Aneya Fernando on January 31, 2014 10:00 AM. This post was originally appeared on 10,000 words   

Different ways men and women use social media and mobile

Social media and mobile use give us a treasure hoard of insights about our general habits as a community, so it’s only inevitable that we find numerous surveys about the two platforms based on one of the most popular categories: gender difference.

These converging platforms are considered to be one of the biggest disruptive trends, as trivial as changing society’s shopping habits and critical as changing government through popular revolutions. And as in real life, men and women differ in using social media and their mobile devices.

We’re already familiar with the disparity in words used by both sexes. We have a comprehensive collation of words used by men and women in their social networks, which, interestingly, showcases the f-word as one of the favorites in men’s comments and posts. Likewise, we’ve shown before in our previous infographic how women dominate men in social media.

Apparently, the gender difference revolves around three distinct areas: our personal and professional relationships, the need for information and entertainment, and consumer behavior. On that note, this infographic is takes a broader look at how men and women differ. There are distinct variances. For instance, men are more likely to use social media for business and dating, while women for relationships, sharing, entertainment, and self-help.

Surprisingly, women ignore paid advertising more often than men. This makes sense because women are more conscious of their social circle and ads are intrusive strangers. Moreover, women seem to use their smartphones in more ways than men. Here’s a mini-shocker: women play games on smartphones ten per cent more often than men. In fact, women dominate men in almost all the top smartphone activities such as, visiting websites, downloading apps (surprise!), messaging, texting, and camera use.

By Alex Hillsberg and David Adelman. Visit realbusiness.co.uk where a version of this excerpt originally appeared.