Does Facebook intentionally limit who you can love?

Facebook Sex

I have better things to be doing, and I’m really behind on a lot of serious topics I want to write about, but Facebook doesn’t give its users fifty six different ways to describe their gender identity every day. My first pass, titled Are Facebook’s relationship status options a little bit sexist?, garnered the following comment on — appropriately enough — Facebook:

Let’s be real here: what the author’s upset about is the third gender, and is using the widow thing as a pretense B)

I wasn’t sure if this was a fair characterization, so I took the opportunity to interview the author and evaluate his true intentions for myself. As it turns out, the widow thing was, indeed, a pretense – however, the commenter got the rest of his/her/variant assertion wrong. The author is not upset that Facebook added a “third” gender — assuming he is “upset” at all — but simply miffed that the service deigned to limit its options to a mere fifty six.

Since when does Mark Zuckerberg get off on being the arbiter of what qualifies as a legitimate gender identity? The author’s point, he told me, is that if Facebook can give fifty six options for gender, why not do the same for relationship statuses? Better, why straightjacket us into those preselected categories? Why not just let everyone choose whatever the hell gender they want?

In the course of our interview, the author admit that he felt a shred of remorse about the article — not because he felt it belittled or diminished the tremendous achievement of the gender-interested community, but because his focus on relationship statuses as a foil to gender was a strategic and rhetorical blunder. A better option would have been to highlight the strict binary Facebook foists upon its users when it comes to their sexual preferences:

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Are Facebook’s relationship status options a little bit sexist?

Facebook small

[Editor's note: Granted, everyone's a little bit sexist. But because the headline might imply otherwise, I should really tell you upfront I'm only talking about one of them.]

Facebook made a lot of headlines today with the announcement that it will now allow its users to choose from among fifty different descriptors of gender:

In a nod to the “it’s complicated” sexual identities of many of its users, the social network on Thursday added a third “custom” gender option for people’s profiles. In addition to Male or Female, Facebook now lets U.S. users choose among some 50 additional options such as “transgender,” “cisgender,” “gender fluid,” “intersex” and “neither.”

[Editor's note: Gender fluid certainly does sound like it would go nicely with a seafood dinner and a box of chocolate.]

The new options appear to be quite progressive, but is Facebook really just trying to cover up some of the other ways in which it is insensitive to gender differences? Just take a look at the various relationship statuses from which the service asks its users to choose:

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Sharks prefer men – so why did this one attack a woman?


Judging by the reaction to Sharknado, people on the internet really like sharks. And while I don’t normally write for anyone but myself, I’m going to make an exception for the sake of making a truly tasteless* “joke.” OK, so I guess I am still writing for myself.

*1. Pun intended. 2. You’ve been warned.

A teenager was attacked and killed Monday by a shark off the coast of Brazil near Recife. She was in the process of drowning when the shark decided to lend her a hand… by biting off her leg. Per Newser:

It’s hard to imagine a worse way to die: Bruni Gobbi was drowning, with lifeguards on their way to help the 18-year-old and her cousin on Monday, when a shark attacked. It bit Gobbi’s left leg, and though rescuers were able to get her ashore, she died that night at a hospital, CNN reports. The Daily Mail adds that her leg was amputated before her death, but she had lost too much blood. Gobbi and her cousin were swimming at Boa Viagem beach in Recife, Brazil, at the time.

“The rescuers came in a matter of five minutes, but to us it felt like five years,” the cousin tells a local CNN affiliate. “We knew there were risks of an attack, but I didn’t think that it would happen in the shallow [water], but in the deep.”

I would quibble over the claim that it’s hard to imagine worse ways to die (there’s always ebola), but as things go, this one is pretty horrific. And I recognize that. Which is why I’m also aware that the remainder of this post is way over the fishing line. But the Newser article went on to share a curious statistic I was drawn to like a shark after blood — and quite frankly, I couldn’t help myself:

Such attacks aren’t exactly rare in the area: In the past two decades, about 23 people have been attacked off Boa Viagem beach. Gobbi is the first woman to die from an attack in the state of Pernambuco during that period. Officials believe she was attacked by a bull shark.

Apparently, Brazilian sharks have a preference for men — just like Brazilian piranhas.

I find the existence of sex preferences surprising. Gun to my head, I’d have guessed sharks find women tastier (and I’d have been totally wrong). Indeed, it’s unlikely sharks find people all that tasty to begin with, meaning that the question of Why hangs over just about every shark attack.

So what prompted this shark to gobble up Gobbi? My theory: a case of mistaken identity by a really bad speller:

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Three lawsuits in the news and why they’re really so silly


Some lawsuits are a good idea. Some are not. This post is about three that have been in the news and that are not. None seemed worth a post on its own, but now that I have a little collection going, here we go:

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Kate Taylor’s piece about hook-ups on Penn’s campus eerily reminiscent of her own life

nytimes campus

Kate Taylor published a long piece in the New York Times this weekend, and because it was written about Penn, I haven’t been able to escape it. It’s everywhere:

Apparently, over the past year, so was Kate. According to one account by a current student, Taylor was a “ubiquitous campus figure — spotted at bars, at frat parties, [and] at downtown clubs.” The author used these opportunities to conduct a series of focus groups and interviews for the sake of vindicating her main thesis: that women are important drivers of “hook-up” culture at Penn.

Of course, what better place than the home of Wharton to turn up gems like these:

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The most annoying thing about Dove’s “Real” Beauty Sketches

dove real beauty sketch not impressed

By now, you’ve seen — or at least heard about — the Dove ‘Real Beauty Sketches’ campaign that made the rounds a few weeks ago. In case you didn’t, the following video is what the rest of this post is about, so check it:

[Editor's note: above is the full, six-minute version. There is also a three-minute version, with over ten times as many hits as of the time of this writing. I included the six-minute version for the sake of completeness.]

After watching the video for the first time last Thursday [it got lost in a sea of open tabs/general apathy], I knew something about the ad bothered me. I did a few googles to see if anyone had quite put a finger on what rubbed me the wrong way, and when they turned up nothing, I decided to write it up myself. And so, I proudly present my personal contribution to a long line of Dove’s ‘Real Beauty Sketches’ campaign critics.

To get you caught up, here’s a distilled sample of what other people didn’t like about it [every word in that sentence links to a different critical article]:

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You keep using those words. I do not think they mean what you think they mean.


By now, I’m sure you’ve heard them on the radio or seen them on TV. But it doesn’t matter how you’ve encountered the advertisements for a supplement made to counter so-called “male menopause” – Ageless Male — because without fail, they all share the single element that is the subject of this very post:

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What we can learn from that *other* horrific schoolyard incident on Friday


On Friday, someone brought an assault rifle to Sandy Hook Elementary School and shot 26 people and then himself. Some people blame easy access to guns. Other people blame this country’s treatment of mental illnesses. I think they’re both right — but I also don’t think that the existence of one problem excuses dealing with the other.

What follows is a selection of statuses that appeared in my Facebook newsfeed. I’m citing them as a representative sample, since I’m way too lazy to search the internet for others. But I’m sure you’ve seen this sort of thinking before, so I’m not going to lose too much sleep over being somewhat less than scientific:

There are definitely changes I would like to see to gun laws in the United States. But I am saddened that there is so much talk about that and so little about the lack of a good enough societal and mental health safety net to notice and help the perpetrator of this heinous crime before his life had to end like this.

I agree with almost everything people have been saying about guns. But I think more importantly we need to figure out what the hell is wrong with our society that people keep wanting to go on killing sprees.

I don’t think the problem is with gun control, I think the problem is with the people. Strict gun control won’t change that… The US government should instead focus on the underlying reasons that cause those events instead of gun prohibition.

It seems to me that these shootings are becoming more and more common, and yet the availability of guns has been relatively constant (and according to some sources, going down)…this speaks to a cultural issue, not an access to weapons issue.

the real problem isn’t guns, it’s insufficient treatment for mental illness

Say all you want about gun control, it can only go so far… these tragic mass shootings all have a common thread in that their perpetrators were troubled or disturbed individuals who desperately needed psychological treatment and social outreach. There are always signs that an individual is withdrawing from society before something like this occurs, and it is on us to notice them and speak up, or even try to reach out to the person.

In short: guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Or more charitably: guns kill people a little bit, but really it’s the people so focus on them.

Again, I agree that more should be done to help mentally troubled individuals. But I don’t think that means we should dismiss proposals for stricter gun control out of hand.

This morning, the front section of the New York Times ran eight stories about the tragic events in Newtown. But — believe it or not — it also covered another schoolyard incident: Man Stabs 22 Children in China got, maybe, eight column inches on A9.

The editorial decision is understandable. After all, what happened in Newtown took place about 60 miles from New York; what happened in China happened in China.

But the similarities between the two tragedies are arresting. Both incidents took place in a school. Both happened at the beginning of the school day. Both were perpetrated by men, and police discovered no motive for either attack. Perhaps most strikingly, both involved a roughly equal number of students of similar age.

But more illuminating than the similarities are two crucial differences: in Newtown, 21 students were shot, and only one survived. In China, 22 were attacked, nine were admitted to the hospital, and every. single one survived. I’ll repeat that: Every. single. one.

Also, the attack in China was perpetrated with a knife.

I have to imagine these differences are somehow related. Yes, knives are a deadly weapon. But there’s a reason humans invented assault rifles, and it’s probably because they’re a lot more efficient than everything they’re meant to replace.

So sure, bulk up on mental treatment all you want, but the difference between meaningful gun control and what we have in this country today is whether one crazy person can walk into a schoolyard and maim 22 small children — which is, of course, horrifying — or whether he can choose to simply end their lives.

The War on Men comes to – where else? – Queens

war on women2

This is the first in a series of posts building off Something got you down, FOX News?* Specifically, it explores another article trending on FOX at the time that post was written – The war on men – which a number of my friends posted on Facebook. (This is actually how I came across Practical suggestions for handling the great sadness, but that’s neither here nor there.) This series may grow to as many as two posts.

In The war on men, Suzanne Venker argues that women are at fault for the shidduch crisis:

So if men today are slackers, and if they’re retreating from marriage en masse, women should look in the mirror and ask themselves what role they’ve played to bring about this transformation.

I don’t really care about Venker’s argument or dissecting it or refuting it or whatever. The important takeaway is this: the war on men — waged by women — is actually a war on women. Women take jobs, take away incentives for men to work, and men are too tired to get married. And the solution is simple: women should “surrender to their nature – their femininity – and let men surrender to theirs.”

And leaves me to point out that Venker’s got a steep climb ahead of her. Even within her target audience (readers of FOX News), there doesn’t seem to be a consensus that men should work and women should not. This shouldn’t be controversial. After all, if her readers already agreed, she wouldn’t have had to write the article.

But I think my illustrative story on this point is humorous, so I’m going to go ahead and share it anyway.

I spent Thanksgiving with my brothers in Kew Garden Hills, certifiably one of the Romney-est places in New York City.** (Queens qualifies as New York City, right? Or is that only Manhattan? New Yorkers, please clarify.) There, I noticed a local restaurant had taped this ‘Help Wanted’ sign to inside of the window:

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Something got you down, FOX News?


The #2 trending article right now on is titled Practical suggestions for handling the great sadness. “The great sadness” sounds unbearably morose, so I had to find out what everybody’s so sad about:

This is a time of year, for various reasons, that many of us experience a deep sadness.

Various reasons? Tell me more.

It’s difficult to explain if you haven’t experience it. It’s heaviness a blanket, a looming cloud. It might be a form of depression but it also might also be a heavy dose of reality. Or maybe depression is a heavy dose of reality. A dose far too potent. Because of a divorce, the loss of a child, family tension . . . the fact that your favorite NBA team is 1-8. You know, the important stuff.

The author was obviously too sad to edit his own piece. I guess it could be SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Or, you know, sports problems… the important stuff. I couldn’t imagine any other reason why readers of FOX News might be having a bad, say, month.

Until, that is, I peeked at the full list of trending/suggested articles/videos: Continue reading