Saturday, June 28, 2008

Her/Himselves vs. Themselves

Facebook is adding a new layer to its identifiers: a gender portion of the profile. The idea is that the mini-feeds and news-feeds will now appropriately describe the users movements. Meaning, instead of saying, "Jane Doe tagged themselves in a photo," it will now say "Jane Doe tagged herself in a photo."

And while this may be practical for searching or organizing, Facebook creators understand that folks who fall outside of the gender binary may want to opt out of the dichotomous setting.

"We've received pushback in the past from groups that find the male-female distinction too limiting," Gleit's post explained. "We have a lot of respect for these communities, which is why it will still be possible to remove gender entirely from your account."

It is a good thing that a massive social site is being so mindful of people's identities, but I wonder if by allowing members to opt out the new tagging mechanism, is it also perpetuating marginalization because now folks who chose "themselves" will be noted as someone who may not identify as someone under the limiting umbrella of Facebook's gender labels.

Perhaps progressives can silently protest the new twist on the markers by opting out of the gender binary, no matter where they fall on the continuum.