Good News, Everyone! Complaining Worked

Today’s post was going to be about the mandatory gender field in google+. If you’re reading this, you probably already know what google+ is, but just in case you don’t Ill give a summary. It’s a new social networking service created by Google. It’s currently in beta testing, but chances are if you’re one of the coastal technocrati you’re already in.

The chief selling point of google+ is that it’s a social network which is not Facebook. We, the coastal technocrati, got very excited about the possibilities of granular privacy control. Imagine our shock (and you may imagine us all in blue jeans, unix joke t-shirts, and awkward $5 haircuts standing around in a robot art gallery made out of a shipping container, holding a quorum) when we found out that the gender field was required and public and could not be made private.

Quite a few people made quite a few well-reasoned and impassioned arguments about why one might wish to keep one’s gender private. Of course the usual privilege trolls came out to mansplain that it’s not an important feature, and that those of us who wish to hide our gender from strangers, or don’t feel OK with the choice of Male, Female, and Other need to suck it up and grow a thicker skin. Instead we kept on complaining.

Yesterday Google announced that they will soon add a feature to adjust the privacy settings on the gender field of user profiles. It’s pretty cool that the person making the announcement in their video is a woman. That shows a subtle level of getting it.

As feminist/privacy battles go, this was an easy win. The public conversation about sex and gender that came out of it educated a lot of people who had never even thought about the issue at all.

Allowing granular privacy settings on the gender field removes at least one potential hurdle for women who wish to participate in public life, and helps to move along the public idea of gender in a more revolutionary direction.

There’s plenty more sexism to fight in the world and on the internet, but today we have some good news for a change.