Will Facebook make money marketing gender transformation?
Facebook is a powerhouse of social media that not only reflects our culture, but leads it. “Friend” used to be a noun until Facebook verbed it. Now friends aren’t assessed by what they have in common or how much they like each other, so much as they are simply numbered and measured by what they “Like.” Getting an account on Facebook is a rite of passage for many thirteen-year-olds. And when your young teen registers, he now has fifty-six “custom gender” options to choose from to present his “true, authentic self” to the world.
Facebook explains on their Diversity page:
When you come to Facebook to connect with the people, causes, and organizations you care about, we want you to feel comfortable being your true, authentic self. An important part of this is the expression of gender, especially when it extends beyond the definitions of just “male” or female.” So today, we’re proud to offer a new custom gender option to help you better express your own identity on Facebook…people who select a custom gender will now have the ability to choose the pronoun they’d like to be referred to publicly — male (he/his), female (she/her) or neutral (they/their).
Options include: agender, bigender, cisgender, genderqueer, and neither as well as several trans options, with and without an asterisk.
This is subtle marketing. Facebook “did not publish a list of all the options, leaving users to begin typing into an empty text field in order to bring up a drop-down menu of autocomplete choices.” How co-creative.
As others have noted, the best marketing is invisible but effective. Crowdsourcing is giving way to co-creating. Is the company deliberately engaging consumers in an interactive fill-in-the-blank mode to give the illusion that they are co-creators? And generating customer loyalty to Facebook in the process?
For advertisers, are the 56 new gender options virtually meaningless? Fox News explains, “At this point, Facebook targets advertising according to male or female genders. For those who change to something neutral, ads will be targeted based on the pronoun they select for themselves.” It’s the three public pronouns (he, she, or they) that will dictate advertising dollars.
Regardless of the capitalist response, the trans community welcomed Facebook’s promotion of virtual diversity.
"There's going to be a lot of people for whom this is going to mean nothing, but for the few it does impact, it means the world," said Facebook software engineer Brielle Harrison, who worked on the project and is herself undergoing gender transformation, from male to female. On Thursday, while watchdogging the software for any problems, she said she was also changing her Facebook identity from Female to TransWoman.
Indeed. Can you hear the yearning in this comment someone wrote regarding Facebook’s new terminology?
“Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You have made me feel like a real person and I cannot tell you how much that matters.”