Say Other! Gender a must on Google+

I was invited to join Google+ and thought I’d enjoy building an alternative to FaceBook.  However, it was a wee bit unsettling to have my gender information demanded (“Required“), though at least I was provided the option of checking male, female or “other.”  As one of our commenters mentioned in an email to us,

Anyone signing up for Google+ is forced to choose a gender. This gender MUST be visible to the whole world, and various aspects of the user interface present things as if gender were THE defining feature of a person (besides their e-mail address).

He was right at the time he left the comment, and Google has since made a few changes.  [Updated to reflect DavidC’s comment.] The gender must be visible when you register, as a default, but now that I have a Google+ profile, I’m provided the option of altering the availability of gender information: Anyone on the web, extended circles, your circles, or only you. 

In any case, the gender line is always available on the “about” tab of my Google+ profile.  I didn’t realize it would be when I filled out the information.  What the aitch?  Is this necessary?  Surely members of tight-knit (whoops, don’t say ‘groups’) networks don’t need to have my gender-identification constantly available, nor do I.

My proposal for the day:  Everyone who accepts a Google+ invite should say OTHER!  Let’s stick it to the info-demanders.

16 thoughts on “Say Other! Gender a must on Google+

  1. Some of my fave feminists and I have also been clicking “send feedback” about it daily, reminding Google that this information should be, like the other fields, something that user’s can control the viewership of.

  2. Yup! I got on yesterday and was struck by this. And said other. What, I wonder, is the motivation for “other” rather than just blank or none-of-yer-bizness?

  3. There is an interesting and informative thread on Google+, privacy, pseudonyms and gender at Geek Feminism. I highly recommend the comment section, which has lots of good links for those thinking about whether the Google + service would be worth switching to.

  4. why the need to hide your gender? im not judging just dont get it. gender is a great defining part of our identities whether we like it or not. its not necesaryily about gender steryotypes but gender impacts our sexuality our biology which bathroom we use. if gender didnt effect identity why would people get sex changes? why would you be so concerned with it being part of youre profile.

  5. Anonymous,
    Nobody has a problem with there being the option of displaying one’s gender on one’s profile. People had problems with (1) Google+ requiring that you submit your gender when registering and (2) Google+ making your gender-identity a public and prominent feature of your profile [though this latter issue has apparently been rectified].
    Facebook now requires that new registrants enter their gender. It didn’t when I signed up, and there were a few months where Facebook pestered me daily to add a gender to my profile (There was a little box front and center on my home page saying “Your profile is confusing! Please select your gender:” followed by the dreaded M/F buttons). Luckily, I held my ground and the pestering eventually ended.
    I agree that gender is one important part of our identities. I don’t, however, believe that it is a “great defining” part of my identity. I think I am many things over and above my gender. My gender is complicated and unintuitive and exciting, and I am happy about that. I am happy sharing my gender-identity with the people I feel comfortable with and care about. However, there are other people with whom I am not so comfortable. I have no interest in hiding this one aspect of myself, but my gender is not always a central or even particularly relevant part of my relationships with these people.
    My gender is an important part of my identity, but so is the music I like to listen to and the sort of philosophy I like to do. I am pleased that social networking sites give me the option of sharing these parts of my identity with my friends and colleagues. However, I should have the option to control exactly how public any part of my identity is.

  6. To respond to Harriet Baber’s question, I suspect the ‘Other’ is intended to satisfy a multiplicity of users, including those who want to assert a none-of-the-world’s-business reply, and further including those who are, and/or wish to be known as, ambiguously gendered. (If I’m reading Kate Borstein’s works correctly, and I think I am, Kate would happily go out of the way to say, “Other!”)

    Oh, Anonymous, where do I begin with all my reasons? First, I don’t ‘hide’ my gender, but I do reserve the right to criticize those times when it’s “required.” What philosopher would fail to critically explore the reasons for its requirement, after all? Second, the only reason to “require” gender for membership in a disembodied virtual space is to provide Google’s (and FaceBook’s, and every other demander’s) fucking marketers with information conducive to advertising, and why should I help them with that? They’re going to find their ways to make their money, but I don’t see why I have to be their little zombie helper. Third, as the quoted commenter in the OP says, this is far from the most essentially defining feature of me, especially in this context! Since this social networking gets popular via interpersonal invitations, why on earth do I have to announce my gender to the person who invited me and KNOWS what it is already! And Last, that option now provided to show my gender data to “Only Me” is the height of silliness. If it’s only shown to me, then why is it necessary at all? The answer is that it’s not actually only shown to me. It’s shown to me, and to their research department for the purposes of user information and, ultimately, marketing. And screw them.

  7. Anonymous, sometimes identifying your gender can make a service less appealing to the user. For example, I used to use ICQ back in the early 2000s (late ’90s?) when it was one of the most popular instant message programs around. I was pushed out of using it, however, because I identified as female and received so many spam messages from people propositioning me sexually that it was just not worth it. I could not comfortably communicate with my friends (the purpose I intended to use the service for) because of the vast number of sexual propositions that would pop up. That is one reason.

  8. I believe all persons have a privacy right when it comes to gender identity.

    We live in a world where information has become property stored in corporate databases, and I do not believe I should be forced to reveal this private information– which becomes property owned by these corporations– just to conduct business. Everyone should have the right to decline to provide this information regardless of gender/identity/biology/status/etc.

    As such I have started a tongue-in-cheek blog naming companies that force you to choose a gender in order to sign up for the services– even as a paying customer:

  9. Oh, thanks for pointing this out. Now I will have a plan for “other” in mind ahead of time when I sign up for google+. I’m really really tired of giving up all my information all the time, and to google especially.

  10. Hey, I really like the Tell Us About Your Genitals site, thanks! (Sorry it went to spam for a day or two.) I’m sorry to hear that FaceBook requires it now. When I joined it wasn’t necessary to specify a gender.

  11. I’m the original commenter, and I was right at the time I left the comment (no choice but to make gender visible to the world).

    I’m glad they changed it.

  12. :)

    Thanks for posting on the subject! I agree that it’s still a bit silly (and that the implications about gender not not ideal). But the situation is *very much* improved from when gender had to be visible to everyone.

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