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Gender (Go nuts). Somebody did. November 29, 2010 4:10 PM   Subscribe

It's fascinating that the decision by the developers of Diaspora, the ("open" but currently in closed alpha) Facebook alternative to make "Gender" a text field got a lot of attention (mostly on Twitter), a lot of it rather negative. Considering that MetaFilter has always done that. (I pointed it out to them)

So what's YOUR MetaGender? (Mine is "Nuts", a very old joke I should change) Or what is your favorite MetaGender of another Mefite?
posted by oneswellfoop to MetaFilter-Related at 4:10 PM (149 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

Mine's "50% quintessential tomboy, 50% total girly-girl", but that's pretty lame, especially considering I pretty much consider myself a female.

Shame that MeFi doesn't get the recognition it deserves for being rational.
posted by Night_owl at 4:14 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't have anything in the gender field here, no need.
posted by knapah at 4:16 PM on November 29, 2010


I just changed mine to "Gender? I didn't even kiss her!", another lame joke. Stay tuned.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:18 PM on November 29, 2010


Mine is femme. Terse but accurate. And I greatly appreciate the text field.
posted by Tesseractive at 4:21 PM on November 29, 2010


I really appreciate this being posted, because it made me realize that I said my gender is female.
posted by meese at 4:22 PM on November 29, 2010


I very much like that MeFi's gender field is free-form, and have enjoyed a lot of the things people have done with it. Mine was XYZZY for a long time.

The heatedness of the reaction linked above leads me to suspect that it might not really be about the implication for the software's pronoun use.
posted by Zed at 4:25 PM on November 29, 2010


Mine's pretty straightforward, but only because there's apparently some confusion on that count.
posted by Rhaomi at 4:25 PM on November 29, 2010

If you leave the value as an editable text string then the software will not know what gender to use. It is now completely useless. If someone wants to know whether to call the user “he” or “she”, “Mr.” or “Ms.”, they will now have to ask separately
Well yeah. That's just good manners wherever you are and whoever you're talking to.

FWIW I may be addressed as "Rear Admiral da Gama", "Sir", or "Comrade Admiral" after hours in the officer's club.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 4:27 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Your favorite gender sucks.
posted by parmanparman at 4:31 PM on November 29, 2010 [11 favorites]


The main thrust of the argument against this seems to be the fact you lose the ability to automatically generate honorifics based on gender title. This is no big deal, just create a ... get this ... an honorific field.

By the way, I really like ordering things from really British institutions as they often have honorific choices that are really cool.

- Lord geoff.
posted by geoff. at 4:31 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I couldn't remember what I wrote in mine, and that's because I didn't write nuthin'.

From the "rather negative" link:

What is this ridiculous nonsense? How is n-dimensional gender relevant to the platform you are building for this lame attempt at a next generation social network? Do you have any consideration at all the needs of software developers who are going to have to build upon your mushy “fluids” as a platform?

Cry me a fucking river. Poor, poor software developers, who will find it difficult to monetize something because they don't know if someone is a boy or a girl!

I guess maybe the creators of Diaspora were thinking more of the people who will be using the site. Clearly, they're dummies. Like mathowie and pb.
posted by rtha at 4:31 PM on November 29, 2010 [23 favorites]


As Jemaine asks and answers: "Am I a man? Technically, yes."
posted by maxwelton at 4:33 PM on November 29, 2010 [4 favorites]

I understand that the point of this change was to “increase freedom”. This is precisely what incensed me, because it indicated muddle-headedness. In terms of political gender, this indeed appears to be a nice change. But all social sites give their users large numbers of open-valued strings, which are pretty much arbitrary and could be combined into one big “write anything here” space at the bottom. At the same time, a useful value– the linguistic gender, which some developer might like to use for any obscure reason (“Jane has trouble on her farm!”)– was removed, thereby limiting the freedom of users to specify meaningful information about themselves.
I kind of like that the negative feedback person made himself out to be a defender of freedom. You people with your gender variance, you're the oppressors!

The freeform gender field is something I cherish about metafilter. Mine is set to "femme", which didn't always describe me and someday might not again. Hooray for fluidity!
posted by bewilderbeast at 4:35 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


The classy thing to do would to be to have a CANVAS based sketching area, so the user could draw a winky or a lady parts or whatever they desire.
posted by Artw at 4:40 PM on November 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


Mefi should totally have freeform honorific and personal pronoun fields as well, and a mechanism for auto-substituting these into posts and comments. Perhaps $mr jessamyn, $ms cortex and $mrs mathowie could press $sir pb to add them at some point in $his copious free time.
posted by flabdablet at 4:44 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


two observations.. making demographic type fields more free-form means less less ability for market research scraping of your identity... and, man does that "rather negative" (assuming) fellow ever have a stick up his ass.
posted by edgeways at 4:47 PM on November 29, 2010


A shame the infodump can't be configured to generate an anonymous list of what people put in those free-form fields.
posted by zarq at 4:48 PM on November 29, 2010


“Jane has trouble on her farm!”)– was removed

HOWEVER WILL FARMVILLE SURVIVE???
posted by inigo2 at 4:49 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


My gender used to be Mathowie. But in the last year I upgraded to Batman.
posted by special-k at 4:49 PM on November 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


I put "hipster" since everybody seems to hate hipsters here.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 4:49 PM on November 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


I was ten years ahead of my time!

I remember getting shit in early MetaTalk when I added gender (someone want to dig those threads up?). People were pissed that it was a text field instead of a binary or at most, a three way M/F/trans. I remember people gave me shit for even using the word "gender" instead of something more concrete. It was most just a gut reaction to call it gender and make it more than a simple switch. Maybe the blowback was the early crowd at MeFi were often programmers and they hated the idea of "dirty" data collection versus having structured easy to calculate demographic data?

I didn't have any trans friends at the time and didn't think it was a huge deal but I wanted to make a joke about my lack of masculinity in a text field and let the jokesters of mefi make the predictable "sex? yes, please!" jokes.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 4:52 PM on November 29, 2010 [36 favorites]


So much easier in Japanese where everyone is just 様 (sama) regardless of gender. We need to think up one of those to use in English and ditch the whole Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms altogether.
posted by gomichild at 4:53 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


My metafilter gender says "Mail" which is a dumb pun.

I threw $25 toward this software's development, and was more irritated by their choice of Rails since my hosting provider doesn't support that.

Mostly I just wanted the t-shirt.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:53 PM on November 29, 2010


I've just changed mine to "Rusty Venture".
posted by Artw at 4:54 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't know why I appear to be stuttering in fear of my gender field. I should change that to something more forceful. Candidates so far:

A) FEMMEFORMER: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE
B) Thunderchick are go!
C) I. AM. IRON. WOMAN. Wait no sorry Robert Downey Jr. messed that up for me.
D) Federal Girl-Out Plan
E) Democratic People's Republic of... oh man, the things I could almost rhyme with that.
F) Wham Bam Thank You [Ma'am]
posted by katillathehun at 4:55 PM on November 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


Although zhe overstates it to the point of ridiculousness, this Avery person does make a good point. You don't have much of a Facebook killa if you can't program apps to say things like, "Avery needs help watering her daisies!"

For my money, the better solution would have been twofold. First, have a text field for gender in the profile. Second, have a hidden profile question with a drop-down list of pronouns. If the user doesn't answer, default to "they."

This is essentially what Facebook actually does. My wife left the "gender" field blank in Facebook. One day, a few days after registering, she was greeted with this loaded question:

Which do you prefer?
* ____ updated his status.
* ____ updated her status.

posted by roll truck roll at 5:03 PM on November 29, 2010


Damn, I can't find any old thread where I introduced it (it appears to be some time around May of 2001 if I had to guess), but I might be remembering comments like this one when I think of people giving me shit about it (which don't sound nearly as bad as I remember feeling about reading them).
posted by mathowie (staff) at 5:04 PM on November 29, 2010


thundersweater 4EVA.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:06 PM on November 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


Artw: I've just changed mine to "Rusty Venture".

I am both glad and grossed out that someone added the seven versions of the Rusty Venture on Urban Dictionary (NSFW, children, those with weak stomachs, and probably someone else). Now I don't have to sign up to fill in this corner of the internet.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:06 PM on November 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Katilla, I vote E.
posted by Night_owl at 5:09 PM on November 29, 2010


Call me.
posted by nomadicink at 5:13 PM on November 29, 2010


Matt, whatever the negative reaction in 2000 was (I hardly remember any, and I was, like, there, man!), the negative reaction in 2010/2011 would be so-o-o much worse. I blame a proliferation of predatory dataminers. Still, when most of our memories of times past reveal how UNenlightened we were at the time, isn't it wonderful to see one that's just the opposite?
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:14 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Team Vag, always and forever.
posted by SassHat at 5:16 PM on November 29, 2010




I thought making it a delta was a subtle joke.
posted by deborah at 5:19 PM on November 29, 2010




Your favorite gender sucks.

Thank god.
posted by The Whelk at 5:24 PM on November 29, 2010 [40 favorites]


When I read about the diaspora kerfuffle, I thought of MeFi instantly too! (Me = "Girly-girl" which is I guess sorta accurate? I think it's what I originally wrote when I signed up almost a decade ago.)
posted by epersonae at 5:30 PM on November 29, 2010


This problem has an easy technical solution. In addition to the "gender" field have a "for the purposes of spam, please map my gender to" dropdown box. With no entries.
posted by DU at 5:34 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


from the"rather negative" link: I’m not going to argue about people’s feelings about gender identity. People can feel whatever the hell they want. But the fact of the matter is that gender is a linguistic term with a hard meaning. For example, all languages have gender pronouns, and Romance languages use gender for inanimate objects.

Gracious, she seems very confused.

Count me as another person who likes the open Metafilter text field for "gender."
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 5:36 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Gender: "Why do you need to know? Ooh, are we going to have sexy sex?!"

Because that's the only time I could think of it mattering.
posted by Eideteker at 5:41 PM on November 29, 2010


Your favorite gender sucks.

I see you've been reading my profile.
posted by eyeballkid at 5:45 PM on November 29, 2010


Man, I was so infuriated by that rant against the free-form gender field. Anil Dash said it best on his Twitter with "Person who is adequately represented by software defaults feels software defaults are adequate."

I don't have my gender field filled out anymore, because I'm wary of potential knee-jerk judgments of me based on my gender. (I don't really know why I bother, since MeFites are generally kind and nice, and since even a cursory glance at my posting history will reveal that I do indeed have XX chromosomes. A semblance of defense, I suppose.) But I definitely appreciate that the field is free-form.

Go mathowie.
posted by Phire at 5:54 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rusty Venture? I just changed mine to Brock Samson, but the first time I typed it in I spelled it Broke, followed by Block, Bloke, Bock, Bork, Bjork, Brick, Breck, Brak, Brook, Book, Beck and Blecch. Why am I having so much trouble with that?
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:58 PM on November 29, 2010


I went with "go nuts!" many, many years ago and I'm sticking to it. No one else immediately have their pundar tingle when they saw that phrase used about the gender field?
posted by Kattullus at 6:02 PM on November 29, 2010


A shame the infodump can't be configured to generate an anonymous list of what people put in those free-form fields.

I was just saying to the team that doing some sort of analysis of how people use that field is one of my many back-burner project ideas. Look at what proportion of people use the field at all, how that use is represented in common explicit gender identifiers, what less-common values nonetheless get used by more than one person, and what kind of silliness people get up to with their one-offs. It'd be interesting, for one thing, to look at uses of the field that straddle the line between total gender ambiguity (e.g. "chair") and explicit gender identification ("male").

I think it's best we stick to the plan of not putting profile info into into the infodump, but I may sit down at some point this week and do some analysis myself so there's no extra difficulty re: data being out in the wild.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:03 PM on November 29, 2010


I have always loved that the gender field was open-ended; honestly, to me it was one of the earliest indications I'd landed in the right place. (I used to swoon a hell of a lot lurkingly at mathowie's totally awesome approach to gender, feminism, all that jazz--it was like that from the get go, at least as far back as '01 when I started reading. Was so, so refreshing.)

Every time I update my profile I have to first copy + paste my gender quip because for some reason unless I add it in every time it truncates it automatically, losing my tongue-in-cheek accusation that mathowie's rooting for the, ahem, nuts.
posted by ifjuly at 6:03 PM on November 29, 2010


Your favorite gender sucks.

Good lord, I wish it did.

I believe that completes the trifecta. I'll be here all week. Tip your waitperson.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:12 PM on November 29, 2010


I'm 50% male (the other 50% is also male).
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 6:29 PM on November 29, 2010


Fuck that anything which interferes with the technical purity of the system is evil.

On the open source Facebook killer I am writing (node.js , reddis, jQuery) each user is designated with a GUID and gender is either 0 or 1 and is randomly assigned, as they are equally meaningless

Friend me, I am 3S4D-R4A5-49FF-L8M9 my gender is currently 1
posted by Ad hominem at 6:32 PM on November 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Having clicked through, and then clicked through on a couple of the links from there... I guess one good thing about that kind of discussion is that it helps me figure out who's worth spending my limited time and energy on. The more loudly and vehemently somebody takes the position "I GET TO TELL YOU WHO AND WHAT YOU ARE AND I INSIST YOU CONFORM TO THE VOCABULARY I CONSIDER DESCRIPTIVE OF YOU" the less inclined I am to bother with them. (It works for things besides gender, too.)
posted by Lexica at 6:36 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I AM MADE OUT OF SELENIUM AND ARGON AND I LIKE YOUR INFORMATION REPOSITORY MATHOWIE WHAT IS A GENDER PLEASE?
posted by not_on_display at 6:37 PM on November 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


cjorgensen: "My metafilter gender says "Mail" which is a dumb pun."

Mine too, and I thought of it totally independent of yours.
posted by theichibun at 6:56 PM on November 29, 2010


Artw: "I've just changed mine to "Rusty Venture"."

It's 3:30am and I can't sleep and the situation has just got worse as now I have the song from Rusty's musical in my head.

I'M RUSTIEEEE
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 7:25 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


oneswellfoop: "a lot of it rather negative."

Hey, fuck you, Avery.
posted by boo_radley at 7:28 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Avery, I feel I should point out right now, being the blog oneswellfoop linked to.
posted by boo_radley at 7:38 PM on November 29, 2010


My gender here is listed as 無 (Mu).
And I am appreciative of the fact that I can do this here.

I wish the status field was also free-form though. :(
posted by yeoz at 7:46 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Tesseractive: "Mine is femme. Terse but accurate. And I greatly appreciate the text field"

Hey, me too! Go team femme.
posted by gingerbeer at 7:52 PM on November 29, 2010


from the diaspora-news.net (aka "rather negative") guy, in the comments on that post -
I’m not confusing gender with sex. You either did not read or did not understand my post. It is the Diaspora developers who have confused linguistic gender with liberal arts college “gender”. Hint: Only one of the two is a necessary part of an Internet profile.
that word, "necessary", I do not think it means what you think it means.
posted by russm at 8:09 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


boo_radley: Hey, fuck you, Avery.

Aaaaaaand with a hearty "No offense to anyone else who wanted to post a comment, but I think the same thing is being said over and over," Avery has closed comments.

Yeah, I'm good with "Hey, fuck you, Avery," too.
posted by bakerina at 8:16 PM on November 29, 2010


My new job is Identity Management software. We have a table called Gender. Having read a few quasi jokes about the subject, I wondered what it contained. Just the two normal ones. In our defense, I'm assuming HR / Peoplesoft is the culprit, and that null is probably valid. But I'm the new guy and could be wrong.
posted by pwnguin at 8:48 PM on November 29, 2010


I blame a proliferation of predatory dataminers.

Anything that shoves a red-hot poker of irritation up the bum of predatory dataminers whose entire business plan is "1) suck up all the information we can and spew crap ads out" is a good thing, in my opinion.
posted by mephron at 8:59 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Friend me, I am 3S4D-R4A5-49FF-L8M9 my gender is currently 1

How is compuserve doing these days?
posted by maxwelton at 9:09 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


my gender is requesting freeform marital status field
posted by tehloki at 9:26 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


cjorgensen: "My metafilter gender says "Mail" which is a dumb pun."

theichibun: "Mine too, and I thought of it totally independent of yours."

Me three... well now I just feel unoriginal.
posted by Zephyrial at 9:31 PM on November 29, 2010


I was just saying to the team that doing some sort of analysis of how people use that field is one of my many back-burner project ideas.

I want to know how many people put "socially constructed", this is metafilter so I imagine I'm not the only one.
posted by atrazine at 9:48 PM on November 29, 2010


Mine used to be "Female" until I read this post and realized how boring that was, so I changed it to "OMG it's a text field!"
posted by Jacqueline at 10:55 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well, better a text field than a sext field. I'm sorry. I'll go away now.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:57 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


hurdy gurdy girl: What do you think she's confused about? Grammatical gender isn't freeform; each language has its own set of genders and association of things with those genders. I am, I admit, often mildly annoyed at the way people confuse social gender with grammatical gender (just as, back when people usually used 'sex' for what we now usually refer to as gender, people confused biological sex with social gender).

I like Metafilter's freeform field. But it works because the website doesn't need to do anything with that information. It's essentially just a prompt to the user, that if they would like other users to think of them as male/female/smallfurryanimalsfromalphacentauri, they can put that information there.

The grammatical argument is quite valid, though, for websites that do things other than what Metafilter does. In order for the software to construct grammatically correct sentences referring to users, it's very helpful to have a linguistic gender to associate with them. The set of options would be different for every interface language, though, which would be a pain to develop and maintain. In English, there are at least 23 obvious choices for that field: male ('he'), female ('she'), ambiguous (singular 'they'), neuter ('it'), ambiguous (universal 'he'), ambiguous ('zhe'), ambiguous ('co'), …16 more choices. In practice you could probably narrow that down to five or six choices without annoying more than a few people. But what you can't do is take the contents of a freeform field and use it to construct a grammatically correct sentence. The best you can do is choose one of those 23 options (singular 'they', probably) and apply it to everyone.

In addition, it would be useful for the software to know whether each user is singular or plural (or, in some languages, dual, collective, paucal…).
posted by hattifattener at 11:25 PM on November 29, 2010


Considering how much data people provide to Facebook, I'm surprised it doesn't just tell us what gender we are based on our behavior, like so and so.
posted by meowzilla at 11:57 PM on November 29, 2010


I have worked at multiple jobs where instead of a "gender" field we had different fields for title/addressee etc. This is probably because the Dutch language has difficult capitalization rules and last names with prepositions that are not considered "really" part of the name ("Van der Berg" is listed in a Dutch phonebook under the letter B, not V). If you address a letter to a women named "de Jong" you'd say "Mevrouw De Jong", but if you added an initial, it would be "Mevrouw A. de Jong" (note the lowercase de). In the letter itself, you would say "Geachte mevrouw De Jong" (Geachte=Dear, note the lowercase m and uppercase De). It gets even more interesting when you add other things (like the equivalent of MD and PhD), or when married people add a hyphenated name, and when people use abbreviations in their name (which is very common).

As it is, I almost never get a letter that's correctly addressed. I often get letters that say "Geachte Mevrouw B. Aa van der" instead of "Geachte mevrouw Van der Aa". It is a total mess.

So, it is almost impossible to get a correct letter from software defaults here and therefore good secretaries simply use different fields, and that works fine (you can autopopulate it for most cases so it isn't much extra work at all). The different fields approach also has advantages because there are always situations where you simply don't know someones gender, or where it is necessary to address two people instead of one, etc. (I know - programmer people will say that that's not an option - but real world data never is as clean as they want it to be).
posted by davar at 1:20 AM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


gender: I have taters
posted by various at 4:05 AM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


In English, there are at least 23 obvious choices for that field: male ('he'), female ('she'), ambiguous (singular 'they'), neuter ('it'), ambiguous (universal 'he'), ambiguous ('zhe'), ambiguous ('co'), …16 more choices. In practice you could probably narrow that down to five or six choices without annoying more than a few people. But what you can't do is take the contents of a freeform field and use it to construct a grammatically correct sentence. The best you can do is choose one of those 23 options (singular 'they', probably) and apply it to everyone.

If what you need to do is construct sentences for end users to read, there's actually no need to derive the appropriate pronouns and honorifics from the user's specified gender. You just allow the users to specify explicitly what pronouns and honorifics to use. You can choose sensible defaults for these based on what does get filled in for gender if it's recognizable, or go with generic defaults if not.
posted by flabdablet at 4:37 AM on November 30, 2010


I just noticed that if you register for the BMJ website, there isn't even a gender field. There is a title field with radio buttons for Mr, Dr, Prof, Mrs, Ms, Miss and a freeform Other field.
posted by davar at 4:52 AM on November 30, 2010


The grammatical argument is quite valid, though, for websites that do things other than what Metafilter does. In order for the software to construct grammatically correct sentences referring to users, it's very helpful to have a linguistic gender to associate with them.

Sure - but that's primarily string responses for constructed sentences, right? Which basically comes down to "he/she etc" and "his/her etc". If you want simplicity, it's easier just to use $name or $firstname. That has been altered over time with growing complexity - so, you wouldn't normally get "$name wants you to know that $name has updated $name's profile" - well, not outside Feminist Hulk, anyway.

Interestingly, the changemaker's explanation for this mentioned that her first job using Rails was for a company with an almost entirely lesbian user base - so the m/f binary available didn't provide them with any useful knowledge, whereas other binaries or choice sets in the same place might have.

If you want to increase flexibility and accessibility, possibility an increase in complexity is necessary, but not necessarily an impossible one: one option might be to provide radio buttons for standard pronoun sets - he/him/her, he/she/it, they/them/their - with options for customisation if required.

Generally, I'm just struggling to see why this in particular would be the breaking point in pure coding terms. I guess if you wanted something that behaved essentially like Facebook, but was not Facebook, it would be annoying. However, I'd suspect that many of the fairly small number of people who want a non-Facebook Facebook are prepared to forgo a quick registration experience and a degree of the smoothness that comes with standardisation, in exchange for a greater sense of inclusion for their or their friends' non-standard gender identifications.
posted by DNye at 5:30 AM on November 30, 2010


Someone on MeFi has, or had, his gender listed as "Male, not gorilla." For some reason that cracks me up every time I think of it.

I, of course, am a "Well-heeled gentleman on the go."
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:02 AM on November 30, 2010


I went ahead and put something in the gender field, because hey, why not. It wouldn't be helpful for anyone looking to know if I am a b or a g, though.
posted by rtha at 7:15 AM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, someone (I can't remember who, blast) put "I went nuts." and I always chuckled a little at that.
posted by ifjuly at 7:24 AM on November 30, 2010


Seems like the gender field is following a different philosophy from the contact "relationship details", which has very limited choices.
posted by smackfu at 7:44 AM on November 30, 2010


Gender: It's complicated.
posted by pwnguin at 8:00 AM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


parmanparman: "Your favorite gender sucks."

Only on my birthday.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:09 AM on November 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Considering how much data people provide to Facebook, I'm surprised it doesn't just tell us what gender we are based on our behavior, like so and so.

Facebook has started to figure out stuff about me that I've never listed on my profile, presumably based upon the stuff that I 'like.'

It's getting creepy....kind of like how Google's targeted ads now work based upon your browsing history...
posted by schmod at 8:17 AM on November 30, 2010


Both my occupation and my gender are "computery."
posted by zsazsa at 8:26 AM on November 30, 2010


There is a title field with radio buttons for Mr, Dr, Prof, Mrs, Ms, Miss and a freeform Other field.

The library catalog at my library has that. I have admin access so it refers to me simply as "Wizard."
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:30 AM on November 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


Mine is:

Gender: Yes please. Wait, did I do it wrong?

I'm pretending I thought the field said "Sex", you see, and am being hilarious as a result.
posted by djgh at 8:35 AM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was previously dangly, but someone gave me inspiration in this thread, so my listed gender is no longer dangly.
posted by wierdo at 8:37 AM on November 30, 2010


Seems like the gender field is following a different philosophy from the contact "relationship details", which has very limited choices.

That was developed with input from everyone on MetaTalk. People suggested it time and time again and came up with the categories and we implemented it. I wouldn't be against changing it to open text, but we added it based on direct input.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:45 AM on November 30, 2010


I blame a proliferation of predatory dataminers.

They aren't even good dataminers. I will never forget the first ad I saw for datamining in a professional magazine. It was a big two page spread with this guy standing in a doorway, naked except for a diaper, a ratty chair and TV in the background, with the guy holding a beer.

"At 10:30 every Friday, Owen buys two cases of beer and a pack of diapers.

Don't judge Owen, accommodate him".
posted by nomisxid at 8:57 AM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


This thread is making me think I need to update the Occupation in my profile. Maybe something badass like "Missile Guidance Counselor."
posted by Eideteker at 9:37 AM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


"are you sure you WANT to fly over the ice cap and bomb Denver?"
posted by The Whelk at 9:37 AM on November 30, 2010


So I've gone ahead and done a little anonymous data dump of how the gender field is used on metafilter. Here's the data.

Presentation is very simple: I sorted everything by how often it occurred, stripping case out so we didn't end up with separate counts for e.g. "Male" vs. "male", but otherwise the data is untouched. File presents the various answers people provided in order of how often they were used, so you've got all the relatively common ones up top (mostly in their own count partitions) followed by larger collections of infrequently used ones.

Some first-blush notes:

1. Total records is the collection of user accounts in the database (which is a slightly smaller number than the current highest userid due to the blasting out of some early test/abusive account records in mefi prehistory); total ever-actually-used accounts is more like 50K or 55K at the moment, the rest accounts that never completed the signup process.

2. The first entry is blank/null fields; the difference between that and "total records" is the number of people who have put anything at all in the field: 9,325 mefites have as of a few minutes ago put something in that field. Reckoning from the previous note, that means that something like 17-18% of users have actually elected to put something in that field at some point in their membership here. (Might be interesting to examine aggregate behavior for filling out the field but not commenting, and vice versa.)

3. Of the folks who have something in that field, just over 60% use one of the top four options: "male", "female", "m", or "f".

4. Of the top dozen or so unambiguous labels provided, male-identifying terms (male, m, dude, xy, boy, guy, man, mail) account for about 49% of total labels used; female-identifying terms (female, f, lady, girl, xx, femme, chick) account for about 18%.

5. The most common joke answer is a simple "yes", which 76 people are using. There are a pretty healthy number of jokey answers, some with inferrable gender/sex implications and other without, that have been used by more than one or even two people: 18 have used "outie" (and ten "innie"), 12 have used "robot", 8 "bender" (no relation?), 6 each "somtimes" and "yes, please", 4 "human", 3 "almond joy", and so on.

6. Of the 9,325 people who have filled out the field, there are 2,086 users whose entry is different from anyone else's, or about 22% of all users who have filled out the field. Some of these may be literally distinct but similar in spirit, however; my script doesn't try to identify similar answers with slightly different formatting.

Lots of caveats to anyone looking to draw conclusions about the actual gender- or sex-identification of individual mefites or mefi as an aggregate based on this dump, of course. No one has to tell the truth, no one has to imply the truth with vague or jokey answers, and most importantly no one is compelled to answer at all. Based on anecdotes it's likely that female-identifying users in general are underrepresented by this, for example.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:55 AM on November 30, 2010 [28 favorites]


Almond Joy.

I am not going to Google that expression and instead imagine that it is a refreshing winter cocktail that tastes of marzipan and clitoris.
posted by Jofus at 10:02 AM on November 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Here's the data.

I'm pleased to be one of only two people to have the word elephant in that field (and the other person is within arm's reach).
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:06 AM on November 30, 2010


Wow. This is by far the best outcome for a MetaTalk thread I EVER started. (In my wendell days, posting to MeTa was one of my most masochistic habits.) Thank you, thank you, thank you, I will be entertained by the gender-based nonsense of other MeFites for the next hour.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:07 AM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Cortex, thanks for doing this. My "gender" field is blank, mostly because I didn't bother going nuts.

I do question your claim that the identifier "femme" is "[unambiguously] female-identifying", but that is a minor quibble.
posted by djfiander at 10:13 AM on November 30, 2010


I couldn't remember what kooky and surely-unique-to-me answer I put down and just checked my profile. It is "Male". Hmmmm......I guess the kooky part must be in how you say it. Try it in a Monty Python voice. Nope, still not kooky. Damn it - I've become one of the conservatives.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 10:14 AM on November 30, 2010


And I'm surprised that "butch" does not appear at all, except as part of a much longer gender description.
posted by djfiander at 10:15 AM on November 30, 2010


"yes, please", "yes please", "yes please!", "yes, please." "yes, please!" and other variations total 37 users... Is the number 37 significant?
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:16 AM on November 30, 2010


I do question your claim that the identifier "femme" is "[unambiguously] female-identifying", but that is a minor quibble.

Yeah, I was typing fast. I probably should has skipped that one, and "mail" while I was at it, but I was all caught up in the datawankery.

Really, a fun project for a bored person willing to slog a bit would be to go through the whole list and sort everything into like five points on a spectrum, from like Really Male to Male? to Who know! to Female? to Really Female (or some better set of labels, but you get the idea), just to see how things break down in the sillier one-off terms in particular. It'd be interesting for example to see if there was a significant gender/sex bias in the use of clever or hinty identifiers vs. straightforward stuff like "m" vs "f".
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:21 AM on November 30, 2010


I used to go to services at a sort of interfaith Pagan church that had a lot of Wiccan members and also a whole lot of queer members. Straight-up oldschool Wicca can be very heteronormative and gender-binary, and the liturgy is full of references to the Straight Male God Who Fucks Things and the Straight Female Goddess Who Gets Fucked (not their real names). Worse, some of the ritual set pieces are entirely structured around that tidy two-way symmetry; you can't just edit it out and keep what's left because nothing would be left.

Anyway, there had been a lot of debate in the early days of the church on how to deal with this, and by the time I came along, the agreed-upon solution was to keep the binary distinction but apply the power-set operator: instead of invoking the God and Goddess, you'd invoke powers that were Male, Female, Both and Neither. And that phrase — "Male, Female, Both and Neither" — had taken on a life of its own. You'd hear it roll off people's lips any time they wanted to get a little fancy and start speechifying, the same way phrases out of the Book of Proverbs might do in a Christian context.

Anyway, every time this debate comes up, I find myself thinking that in some obsessively tidy alternate universe, "[ ] Male, [ ] Female, [ ] Both, [ ] Neither" would be an elegant solution. (You could even map it onto pronouns! Use singular "they" for the Boths and "it" for the Neithers!) Of course, here in the real world human gender identity doesn't fit into a two-digit binary system any better than it fits into a one-digit one — matter of fact, it fits worse; I don't think any of the genderqueer folk at that church would have identified as Both or as Neither, despite living in a community that used the bejeezus out of the phrase and would have instantly caught the reference.

This is when the formal-semantics-and-logic half of my brain starts to overcomplicate things (... what you need is a trivalent logic with two distinct variables! for is-male in [True, False, NA], for is-female in [True, False, NA]: ...) and the natural-language-semantics-and-leaving-the-house-occasionally half goes "Okay, fuck it, a freeform text field is a pretty good solution."
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:23 AM on November 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


I am not going to Google that expression and instead imagine that it is a refreshing winter cocktail that tastes of marzipan and clitoris.

Shot of amaretto poured over the back of a spoon onto the terminals of a nine-volt battery.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:25 AM on November 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Gender: Dad
Occupation: Father

Mostly because of my stupid username.
posted by Sailormom at 10:28 AM on November 30, 2010


Almond Joy.

I am not going to Google that expression and instead imagine that it is a refreshing winter cocktail that tastes of marzipan and clitoris.


I assumed it was because sometimes they felt like a nut...
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:29 AM on November 30, 2010


you'd invoke powers that were Male, Female, Both and Neither.

A used-to-be Bay Area local comic had a bit involving a spiritual invocation: Great motherfather -- please help us to be more... non-specific.
posted by Zed at 10:34 AM on November 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hey, my gender is getting sorted into both the unambiguously male pile and the unambiguously female pile. Cool.

"Tomboy with occasional femme moments."
posted by mollymayhem at 10:42 AM on November 30, 2010


Great motherfather -- please help us to be more... non-specific.

Hah. Awesome.

(Though not even really an exaggeration. I remember running across "Great Mother-Father" in the hymnal in a U-U church back in the 90s. I tend to think the Unitarians are pretty right on, but of all the liberal denominations out there they're by far the best for comedy material.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:44 AM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Almond Joy jokes but no mounds...hm.
posted by ifjuly at 10:48 AM on November 30, 2010


Sometimes you feel like a nut.
posted by The Whelk at 10:49 AM on November 30, 2010


(damn you MCMikeNamara)
posted by The Whelk at 10:49 AM on November 30, 2010


"Bose-Einstein condensate".
posted by 40 Watt at 10:59 AM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ahaaa cortex that is the most hilarious data dump I've ever seen!!! I'm sitting here crying I'm laughing so hard, imagining all these people excitedly filling in the little free-form box.

i have a ding-a-ling, not a cha-cha.
i have a ladyvaj
i have a penis!
i have a schlong.
i have a thinger
i have a weenie!


Heeeeeehaaaa
posted by Baby_Balrog at 11:00 AM on November 30, 2010


Oh god Baby_Balrog that's now in my head to the tune of English Country garden
posted by The Whelk at 11:01 AM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm officially changing mine, to celebrate this awesome thread.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 11:05 AM on November 30, 2010


Your new name is Metafilter's Garden Of Gender Description
posted by The Whelk at 11:08 AM on November 30, 2010


Oh god Baby_Balrog that's now in my head to the tune of English Country garden

You have made me the happiest filthy-minded Morris dancer in this thread.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:15 AM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm the only "hirsute"? Doesn't anyone else define gender as "amount and type of body hair"? Clearly, we need to get rid of the open field and replace it with:

Balden
Shaved
Patchy
Fuzzer
Wiry/Coarse
Lustrous
Hirsute
Shaggy
Downright Snuffleupagus Motherfucker
posted by Greg Nog at 11:35 AM on November 30, 2010


Also, I love that this:

how the heck can gender be free fourm? male

...is one of 2086 answers with only one matching case.

Alllllllll riiiiiiiiight
posted by Greg Nog at 11:38 AM on November 30, 2010


Likethewingsofamightydove
posted by The Whelk at 11:39 AM on November 30, 2010


hurdy gurdy girl: What do you think she's confused about? Grammatical gender isn't freeform; each language has its own set of genders and association of things with those genders.

She comes across as confused to me because she is writing as though linguistic gender is an uncontested and fixed concept, and that the arguments around social concepts of the fluidity of gender have nothing to do with linguistic reality. Terms related to linguistic gender are contested too: not that long ago, "he" was the pronoun used when gender was unknown or unstated. Then, in the later 20th century, this was seen as sexist and inaccurate. At various times, the pronoun "they" has been seen as a perfectly acceptable gender-neutral singular pronoun. However, many people nowadays think it is "incorrect" to use "they" as anything other than a plural pronoun. My point is that the use of these pronouns is anything but uncontested, and trying to keep a discussion of language use separate from discussions of social constructions of gender doesn't work.

Basically, I was getting at what Rajiv says in the comments.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:39 AM on November 30, 2010


"i have a y chromosone"

Hey you misspelled chromosome. But I guess that would make your field ununique. So rock on.
posted by Night_owl at 11:39 AM on November 30, 2010


I'm officially changing mine, to celebrate this awesome thread.

Me too!!!
posted by nomadicink at 11:41 AM on November 30, 2010


I'm officially changing mine, to celebrate this awesome thread.

Am I the only person who's irrationally worried about timestamps & date stamps, and therefore never changes anything once it's been entered?
posted by aramaic at 12:28 PM on November 30, 2010


aramaic's gender is "archivist", clearly.
posted by Zed at 12:35 PM on November 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Mine's been set to "bovine" since I created the account.

I also think this is an awesome change to Diaspora (and noted so in the comments). Thanks for fighting the good fight against all the negativity...
posted by criacow at 2:13 PM on November 30, 2010


I added thundersweater to my Diaspora gender. It looks like it's open to anyone now, if people want to go friend me [and everyone else] there or whatever it is that you do there.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:14 PM on November 30, 2010


"It looks like it's open to anyone now"

Well, it lets you sign up for an invite, which is how I remember it always being. If there's another entrance beyond the main one, I don't see it. I'm eager to join, if anyone can point me in the right direction.
posted by Eideteker at 3:15 PM on November 30, 2010


I really want to know who the person who put "(male) coelacanth" is.

Signed, the person who put merely "coelacanth".
posted by kenko at 3:40 PM on November 30, 2010


It was coelacanth! duh.
posted by jeb at 4:33 PM on November 30, 2010


I approve of coleacanth!'s enthusiasm for the word "coelacanth." It appears 7 times on his profile page. Coelacanth.

Coelacanth! Coelacanth! Coelacanth! Coelacanth! Coelacanth! By golly, is it fun to say! Coelacanth!
posted by Kattullus at 6:04 PM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I see a link that says "No invite needed register here" That work?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:09 PM on November 30, 2010


That worked for me, jessamyn.
posted by Kattullus at 6:37 PM on November 30, 2010


Thanks, jess. I'm in.
posted by Eideteker at 7:24 PM on November 30, 2010


I don't really know what it's for but I'm in too.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:50 PM on November 30, 2010


Having just signed up at diasp.org (thanks jessamyn) I've just thought to do a whois on it, and I can see no connection between it and the actual diaspora devs; looks like it's just some random guy running a diaspora pod. Since I have no more reason to trust some random guy running a diaspora pod with my personal information than I have to trust MyBeeboFace, and since it just handed me, via unsecured http, an xml file containing what appears to be my diaspora private key: account closed. I'll wait until I get my own pod going before playing again, I think.
posted by flabdablet at 9:24 PM on November 30, 2010


Mine is 'go figure', because, well, go figure.
posted by unSane at 9:26 PM on November 30, 2010


Zed, did you and I ever go together to see Will Franken? "O great wonderful earthgodmotherfather, you who have no gender, race, or sexual orientation, o multicultural and diverse entity, o nondescript & intangible being, please help us to be more nonspecific." (I find some of his PC-backlash satire distasteful now; I wonder how much I've changed, or whether I'm just reading into his old work the neocon stuff that started appearing in his new stuff.)
posted by brainwane at 10:04 PM on November 30, 2010


Did I just make up the word ambisextrous?
posted by IndigoRain at 10:23 PM on November 30, 2010


Google says no
posted by flabdablet at 10:45 PM on November 30, 2010


jofus said:

...marzipan and clitoris


Saving this for the next "help me name this cute pair of kittens" AskMe.
posted by ersatzkat at 3:51 AM on December 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


I dunno which is likely to be the more embarrassing... standing at the back door yelling MARZIPAN!! or standing at the back door yelling CLITORIS!!
posted by unSane at 4:31 AM on December 1, 2010


I left mine blank, which is my usual habit. 'karmakaze' also used to be the username I applied if I was being deliberately ambiguous. I guess it still kind of is my neutral pose, but in most of the places I still use it, anyone who cares to know my gender probably does. I'm not really inspired to put something coy in the box. I may be lousy at performing my gender, but I do know what it is.
posted by Karmakaze at 7:32 AM on December 1, 2010


flabdablet: "Since I have no more reason to trust some random guy running a diaspora pod with my personal information than I have to trust MyBeeboFace, and since it just handed me, via unsecured http, an xml file containing what appears to be my diaspora private key: account closed. I'll wait until I get my own pod going before playing again, I think."

I wondered that too, but I didn't connect it to any other accounts and I didn't use the same password I use for other stuff. Is there a danger I'm unaware of?

If and when this thing actually gets off the ground, I'll be eagerly awaiting the (official or unofficial) Metafilter Diaspora server.
posted by roll truck roll at 9:15 AM on December 1, 2010


I dunno which is likely to be the more embarrassing... standing at the back door yelling MARZIPAN!! or standing at the back door yelling CLITORIS!!

You ... don't?
posted by little cow make small moo at 10:27 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I dunno which is likely to be the more embarrassing... standing at the back door yelling MARZIPAN!! or standing at the back door yelling CLITORIS!!

Alternatively: Dude, you're not gonna find it like THAT.
posted by little cow make small moo at 10:41 AM on December 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


"I added thundersweater to my Diaspora gender."

I don't sweat thunder. In fact, I relish it. So maybe I should put "thunderrelisher"?
posted by Eideteker at 11:14 AM on December 1, 2010


I sweat relish.
posted by not_on_display at 12:11 PM on December 1, 2010


I decided to identify "gender" as "voice part" and went with Alto.

I was in a chorus with some lady tenors and our director had to train herself out of saying "The men" when she meant tenors and basses. Kinda nifty. (Of course, the lady tenors didn't mind when she slipped up nor did they have any issue with singing "The Girl From Ipanema" as a sectional piece. They were pretty awesome.)
posted by sonika at 9:06 AM on December 2, 2010


Alternatively: Dude, you're not gonna find it like THAT.

Hurr hurr you mean it doesn't COME when you CALL?
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:12 AM on December 2, 2010


Metafilter: I was all caught up in the datawankery.
posted by FlyingMonkey at 9:29 AM on December 6, 2010


So, uh, yeah, I'm on Diaspora. Join my Friends aspect. I should rename that to Fiends. Yep, that's what I should do. I also have five invites.
posted by NoMich at 5:43 AM on December 9, 2010


cortex: 3 "almond joy"

aww, cortex had to go and completely shatter my illusion of originality.
I wonder who the other two are....
posted by namewithoutwords at 7:53 AM on December 9, 2010


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