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:
Seriously, Facebook? You acknowledge the existence of fifty six different gender identities and then assume that everyone is interested in a) male, b) female, c) both? What if I’m into the gender questioning? Or have a soft spot for pangender individuals? What if I’m — thank you, Slate — awesomesexual? How about if I get off — like Facebook, apparently — on telling other people that their choices of attraction are limited to three? And Facebook rolled out these changes just in time for Valentine’s Day, for God’s sake!
So what if the “widow” thing was a pretense? In this case, the author informed me, he is truly mystified.
Mark, here’s an easy solution (though if you adopt it, I expect you to hire me, or at least give me stock options): pretend everything is religion. Notice above, how mine reads “Orange Catholic Bible“? Promise, I didn’t pick it from a drop-down list — click on that hyperlink, and you’ll discover my faith has as many professed adherents as there are Jewish tribes:
Look at how easy this would be to implement for every profile option:
That’s it. That’s all anyone is really asking for: A nice empty box. Or maybe they’re into something else, I don’t know, why don’t you ask them.
And when Facebook inevitably creates this option for Relationship Status, Interested In, and Gender, I promise to change at least one of those to awesomesexual. Maybe all three.