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XKCD's Randall Munroe on Google+ requiring your gender to be public (plus.google.com)
463 points by macrael on July 8, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 283 comments



I take great offense to my culture being defined as "relentless treatment of women as objects teaches them that they are defined by the one thing that men around them want from them"

Yes some people do that, but VERY few. It's as silly as thinking that all gay men speak with lisps, yes some do and those that do are very identifiable as likely gay. Yes there is always that guy in the bar that is inappropriate with women, and he will get noticed, but did anyone bother to look at the VAST majority of men who do not engage in that behavior. These are also the same idiots who are getting into bar fights with other men. This doesn't make it acceptable but it's hardly a hallmark of my "culture". There are people who just don't respect other people in every culture.

As to being bigger and stronger, perhaps we should look to the nation of Japan and the feats its military was able to achieve with men roughly the size of north american women. Women are perfectly capable of defending themselves, not that they should have to, just like smaller men are perfectly capable of defending themselves, not that they should have to. These are again averages and if you look at the deviances you'll see that there are a lot of women who are larger than a lot of men.

Also, keep in mind that a man is twice as likely to be assaulted as a woman so from a statistical perspective it is men who should be fearing for their safety as they post their gender online.

I personally think it's a good idea for Google to make the settings private but it doesn't need the invocation of chivalric myths and the slander of an entire culture for it to happen. Frankly, the idea that women can't defend themselves and we need to add privacy settings to protect them seems more to perpetuate the ideals of chivalry than feminism.


Wow, just wow. It's almost as if you didn't read what Randall wrote. He's not saying "all men are ogres". He's saying "ogres exist and some women wish to avoid them".

"I take great offense to my culture being defined ..."

Total straw man, he didn't define any culture as this, he noted that it's one characteristic of our culture.

"Yes some people do that, but VERY few."

That's irrelevant. Baghdad is still a dangerous city for Americans to walk around alone at night despite an overwhelming majority of the populace not being insurgents. Do you want to walk around Baghdad at night alone?

"As to being bigger and stronger, perhaps we should look to the nation of Japan and the feats its military was able to achieve with men roughly the size of north american women"

Maybe in this context you should look at Japanese men and women and find that in this case, as in pretty much every culture, men tend to be bigger and stronger then women and violence from one to the other is heavily weighted in the same direction.

"Women are perfectly capable of defending themselves."

Nonsense, they are not "perfectly capable", hence the omnipresent criminal justice systems in modern societies.

"Also, keep in mind that a man is twice as likely to be assaulted as a woman so from a statistical perspective it is men who should be fearing for their safety as they post their gender online."

Really you're quoting generic bar fight/domestic statistics when stalking (esp cyberstalking) is obviously far more relevant? Easiest thing to find showed women as 3-1 more likely to be stalked:

http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/svus.pdf


> Total straw man, he didn't define any culture as this, he noted that it's one characteristic of our culture.

From Randall's post: Our culture's relentless treatment of women as objects teaches them that they are defined by the one thing that men around them want from them [...]

> "Do you want to walk around Baghdad at night alone?"

An American man's likelihood of getting killed in Baghdad is a couple of magnitude higher than a woman's likelihood of getting killed by a sexual predator in NYC. In fact, my educated guess is that far more women die from car accidents than from crazy murderers.


  In fact, my educated guess is that far more women die from
  car accidents than from crazy murderers.
That's true. However, if I'm doing my math right, the statistics for rape and sexual assault are an entirely different story. The US isn't on both of these lists[0][1], so we'll take a proxy and compare: Germany has 6.5/100k deaths/year in accidents and 8.9/100k rapes/year. Note that that's per 100k people, not per 100k women. Then note that, in the US, we have 28 rapes per hundred thousand people, more than three times the rate in Germany. Then note that something like half of rapes are never reported to the police [2].

[0]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_statistics#UN_Statistics

[1]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automobile_accident#Statistics_...

[2]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_statistics#Under-_and_over...


Right, but I was really objecting the "American killed in Baghdad" vs "woman murdered/raped in the US" comparison. What I meant is that the risk of a woman getting raped/murdered in the US is much closer to the risk of getting killed in an accident than of walking at night in Baghdad. I'm still sure there are far more than 8.9/100k deaths in Baghdad.


Great statistics. What is the point?

Are you suggesting that knowing the gender of people is a risk factor for rape?

It seems like a few people are making this odd connection between assault, stalking and rape with knowing somebody's gender. You do realize that most humans can sit on any street corner and identify the gender of passers-by with a high degree of certainty, right?


I was simply being annoyed at an unbacked statement like that, especially given the topic. We always seem to forget that being a woman is, in fact, bloody dangerous. Something like one in five American women experiences a rape. We aren't discussing some abstract edge case; half of the population lives in completely justifiable terror of something that actually happens.

I mention gender because that modifies the statistics. Women get raped much more often than men do, so the rapes/person stat is misleading; rapes/woman, the stat we care about here, is almost twice the number I quoted.


I don't see how you arrive at the statistic of "one in five american women experiencing a rape" from 28 rapes per hundred thousand people. Even if we considered that only women were victim of rapes and that half of the incidents weren't reported, it would still amount to something like 112 rapes/100k so around 0.1%.

Anecdotically, none of my female friends were ever raped which doesn't match with your assertion that "one in five American women experiences a rape".

I do think that our culture tends to objectifying women in the medias but I don't think that rape and sexual assault is as prevalent as many people think it is... There's also a lot of paranoia due to the media looking for good sensational stories and latching on any sexual assault story they can find.


Anecdotically, none of my female friends were ever raped

So far as you know.


I didn't go from one to the other; I should have made that more clear. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_in_the_United_States#Rape_...


Incidence varies by community and definition. Sexual assaults are very common on college campuses.

The stereotypical scary guy with pantyhose pulled over his head is only one manifestation of rape. "Date-rape" and taking advantage of people not capable of giving consent (drunk, drugged, etc) happens all of the time.


"taking advantage of people not capable of giving consent (drunk, drugged, etc) happens all of the time."

Men are also victims of that.


The x/100000 is per year. The 1/5 number is over a woman's lifetime. Still seems fishy to me, though.


It's a question of comfort in an online space, which is all about perception, not actual risk.


This seems a little off-mark. Nobody[1] is suggesting that public G+ genders are going to result in more cases like Amy Boyer. That would just be silly.

If someone decides they want as much privacy as possible, and maximally locks down their profile, they are exposing exactly two things: name and gender. The argument is that this is calling undue attention to that one particular field. No doubt Google has a reason for this -- it is an exception, after all; why implement an exception without a reason? The question is whether this reason (that we don't know) is good enough.

[1]OK, maybe somebody is, but it's not Randall, and it's certainly not me.


> In fact, my educated guess is that far more women die from car accidents than from crazy murderers.

This has got to be one of the most overused and misappropriated statistics I've heard during a multitude of arguments. I can't even deduce what point is being made beyond X is greater than Y. You can't simply invalidate a problem, because you found a larger (scarier) number on Wikipedia. Have you considered the amount of time spent and km traveled in a car versus time spent in bars and social gathers? I hope not because it's a rabbit trail and a moot point.


The same logic is applied by extremist religious groups to "protect" women from lecherous men. Enter the burka or the nun's habit.

If you have a service where you publish your name, link people together into social networks, engage in video chat, post pictures, post status updates and converse with people, gender will become obvious very quickly, regardless of whether the male/female box is ticked.

Since you seem to believe that posting your gender online is analagous to walking around in downtown Bagdhad, and that women are incapable of conducting themselves in modern society, what other measures do you recommend we take?

Should my wife have to wear a Nixon mask while video-conferencing? Does she need to censor parts of photographs that would allow people to determine that she is a woman? Should she be not allowed to join groups or follow people of interest to other women?


So privacy is either impossible or mandatory? The slopes sure are slippery around here. I shouldn't have worn my dress shoes.


Not at all. I just don't think that hiding gender is meaningful beyond making some people feel good. It's a false set of security -- gender and identity are linked.

It's a social networking application. Knowing what people put on social networking sites, my guess is that if you couldn't see someone's name/alias or gender, you could identify the gender of a user with a reasonable degree of confidence.

The predators (rapists, stalkers, etc) are highly attuned and skilled at identifying victims. If a woman (or man) is actually awware of a specific risk of a stalker getting info about them from a social networking site, she/he shouldn't have a public profile, period. Hiding gender in that case could create a dangerous, false sense of security.


"The predators (rapists, stalkers, etc) are highly attuned and skilled at identifying WILLING victims."

There, fixed that for you.

"Hiding gender in that case could create a dangerous, false sense of security."

It's even worse. Exploiters and stalkers build a relationship with a delusion. Maintaining ongoing contact using a mystery persona gives their imagination free rein, ungrounded by contact with reality, building up a fantasy relationship that does not exist. The solution is to use your real persona, and end all contact the moment you start getting creepy vibes.


Privacy exists. Just not on social networks where you share personal informational with the network provider.


You seem to be suggesting that our culture can't be described as objectifying women unless all or most men are assholes to women in bars or engage in similar behavior, and in your other comments, unless such behavior happens exclusively to women.

Which is absurd. As others have pointed out, if even 10% or 1% of men behave this way, it creates a hostile environment. If 1 out of every 100 random people you encounter punch you in the arm, you wouldn't think of arm-punching as an unfortunate part of the culture? (If you don't like getting punched in the arm, maybe you shouldn't go out wearing those kinds of sleeves.)

And objectification is not limited to inappropriate behavior in bars and the like. Constant sexualization and stereotyping in advertising and other media create social expectations that many people aren't comfortable with. Yes, men are sexualized as well, but not to anywhere near the same degree, and usually in a different way (for instance, it's still pretty rare to be confronted with sexualized images of men that suggest submissiveness or vulnerability, but those characteristics are very common in images of women).


"Constant sexualization and stereotyping in advertising and other media create social expectations that many people aren't comfortable with."

Look, men get to use trillions of sperm cells, which means evolution has hard-wired their brains to be magnetically attracted to anything feminine. Advertising uses this not because it is "sexualized", but because men will buy toxic waste by the barrel if you draw nice titties on it.

Women only get to use a dozen or so egg cells, and each one is very risky and resource intensive, which means evolution has hard-wired their brains to be an always-on filter for genetic quality in prospective mates. This is naturally uncomfortable, and has been since before their monkey girl ancestors came down out of the trees.

"Yes, men are sexualized as well, but not to anywhere near the same degree, ..."

Watch an advertiser sell SUVs to women: they have a big, hulking, strong look and are advertised as serving and protecting the kids. That is the masculine face of advertising. (The latest American Subaru ads have it both ways, showing the kids growing up in the vehicle, ending with a cute teenage girl getting out of a car with a ... what is that thing on the hood? ... oh yes, the air port for the turbocharger.)


Your basic underlying thesis here is that we are all hard-wired lemmings, slaves to our biology, with limited capacity to adjust our behavior on the basis of reasoned morality.

I reject that thesis. We are not animals. Our evolutionary history does not dictate right and wrong.


We do have some choice (ok, barring the free wil debate, which is for more than I'd like to go into), but we are also largely effected by our cognitive and biological biases. For some easy to dive into examples, check out http://youarenotsosmart.com/. Don't take that name as an insult; it's a fascinating, well written, and yet easily digestible look at the myriad biases we all have. I think we have a lot less choice than we like to believe.


> we are also largely effected by our cognitive and biological biases

I agree completely that these biases exist. However, to use a programming term, our biases are implementation concerns.

Injustice doesn't somehow become otherwise simply because we are predisposed to it; our innate biases don't provide a valid excuse for inaction in the face of moral imperatives.


Certainly, I missed that part of your post and was focusing on the "we are not animals". I agree that we remain responsible for our actions even we are predisposed to them, but I think we are more influenced by our predispositions than people think.


The important takeaway I see is that regardless of wether advertising accurately taps some innate biologic differences between mean ad women in order to sell things effectively, it doesn't make it ok or right to do so. We should avoid it because it has fostered the negative elements of our society that the OP illustrated. We can shape the culture we live in for the better.


"... with limited capacity to adjust our behavior on the basis of reasoned morality."

We also have hard-wired general memory and reasoning faculties.

"We are not animals."

We are not base animals, to be sure. Neither are we angels of pure logic.


I'm not sure you understand me.

To illustrate with an extreme: If we happened to be hard-wired by evolution to be tremendously predisposed towards genocidal behavior, would that make any acts of genocide we commit morally acceptable behavior?


Halfway through my response to this, I realized that someone had already written it, and in a much more entertaining fashion. So I'll just point you to his post instead:

Three Worlds Collide, by Yudkowsky

http://lesswrong.com/lw/y5/the_babyeating_aliens_18/

"The most controversial story I’ve ever written. Starts with the baby-eating aliens and moves on from there."


Advertising uses this not because it is "sexualized", but because men will buy toxic waste by the barrel if you draw nice titties on it.

This statement makes no sense. Associating sex with non-sexual things is the definition of sexualization.

And I know why advertisers do it, it's not rocket surgery to figure it out. Their motivation doesn't change the fact that the action itself objectifies and degrades women (and to a lesser extent, men).

Watch an advertiser sell SUVs to women: they have a big, hulking, strong look and are advertised as serving and protecting the kids. That is the masculine face of advertising.

You quote me stating that men are sexualized, and respond by explaining how men are sexualized? What's your point?


"but VERY few" I'm not sure what you're suggesting here. You know, if it's only 1% of men that act in a sexually predatory manner (workplace sexual harrassement, groping on public transport, all the way through to rape), how am I as a woman supposed to react? Online it's even worse, I can expect sexually explicit comments to be made to me with a probability approaching 1.0 if I reveal my gender (HN is a pleasant exception to the rule, and here's hoping it stays that way!)

Online there are many forums where I choose to hide my gender, and in the real world I am always conscious that I am being objectified sexually (an experience you probably can't appreciate until you've been in a bar and had a fat, bald guy 20 years older than you grinding his crotch up against your leg even when you've physically tried to push him away).

So yeah, take all the offense you like, it is an offense that is rooted in a deep ignorance of what it's like to be a woman in our culture.


I'm in support of Google changing the policy, I just think that slandering a culture is unnecessary to get a simple oversight fixed. I'm suggesting that the vast majority of men (and women) are respectful of people and that there are a few who are not that we tend to notice. (selection bias).

Sorry shitty things happen to you because of your gender, shitty things have happend to me because of my gender. Most women are phenomenal people but just like men some are really shitty people.

We don't need to figure out who the biggest victim group is, it's irrelevant.

We need figure out ways to stop it from happening. If it was a man who caused you undue grief and pain then let me be the first to empathize on behalf of the gender I share with people who have treated you with disrespect. No I'm probably not going to understand what it is like to be you in our society, just like you're not going to understand what it's like to be me in our society. If we can get a little closer to understanding than that's a step in the right direction. If we can work together to solve each others problems then that's even better.

If Google+ having privacy with regard to gender will help you to have a better life then I support that. I don't need to understand what it's like to be a woman in our society to know that if you say a trivial change will help you that doesn't affect me in the least then I support getting that feature changed. I'm very much in favor of achieving a more polite and respectful society, regardless of the reasonable steps we need to take to achieve that.


> until you've been in a bar and had a fat, bald guy

Since when is being bald become a derogatory term? How do you expect to get sympathy for your position if you at the same time totally deadheartedly debase a group of people purely on their looks?


Sorry, I was just describing the last guy that actually did this to me, and those were the aspects that I found physically unattractive... If I had described him as 'totally fit, washboard abs, young guy with handsome square jaw', most people wouldn't understand what I was complaining about!


Exactly.

You don't seem to be introspective enough to realize that your problem is thus not with "men", but with unattractive men. Pretty obligatory link:

http://www.dailyhaha.com/_vids/sexual_harassment.htm

It's not unwelcome if Tom Brady does it. So computer scientists get it in the neck twice, as they are enriched for unattractive men AND blamed for excluding women.


I don't understand your point. It goes both ways; most men would have a problem being forcefully harassed by an unattractive woman, and perhaps not when by an attractive one.

Her point is that she's being harassed by someone she does not want to be harassed by. Don't turn this into a bitter "you don't give unattractive men a chance" argument. The same concept applies with men towards women.


You say "harassed", but the correct phrase is "hit on".

Which makes all the difference in the world from a legal and moral perspective.


I'm sorry, but I don't see how a man "grinding his crotch up against your leg" can be considered a "hit on" a woman. I think you're arguing about something else entirely.


Bzzzt! Thanks for playing! No, I would have a problem with it from anyone if the attention was unwanted. It is the 'unwanted' aspect of things which is important. A woman in a bar is not necessarily looking for any action - she may already be in a committed relationship, she may have just had a hard week at work and is unwinding with some friends, she might be a lesbian, or whatever.

For your information I have also had to blow off very physically attractive men in much the same way. In some ways they are even worse than the fat bald guy, because they seem even less willing to believe that they are being blown off.

EDIT: Oops, forgot to make my main point. I used the example of an unattractive man because I felt that people would be better able to empathize with it, not because the situation would have been any different for an attractive man.


> Bzzzt! Thanks for playing!

Please don't do this.


> I am always conscious that I am being objectified sexually ...fat, bald guy

Again, lack of introspection.

You complain about being objectified sexually while dissing fat, bald (and no doubt short) guys.

Of course men are going to objectify women, just as you and other women objectify men.

In other words you have nothing to complain about.


"introspection" You keep on using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. Seriously. Well, either that or your reading comprehension could do with some work.

Also, you seem to suggest that I am sexually objectifying men if I don't find every single one of them attractive? Absurd.


No, he's saying that judging sexual attractiveness is inherently objectification and that both sexes do it. Though I believe it is a fallacy to say that you can't dislike to be objectified if you are in fact objectifying others, in non-logical areas (like here) it does tend to weaken one's perceived case.


Oh, you too. That is not what sexual objectification means, see here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_objectification

Specifically, sexual objectification is when you see someone as nothing other than a sexual object - they have no other characteristics in your eyes. Now, knowing that, I would like you to explain to me how making the judgement that someone is not attractive is in any way shape or form sexual objectification...


Well, assuming that you're referring to objective qualities (fat, bald) and tying that to attractiveness in an non-platonic sense, I think it's a simple deduction that that is sexual objectification. I would say that the second paragraph of that article agrees with me. I'm interested in understanding how you're reading this that doesn't lead to that conclusion. Though it seems that you think I'm a random person on the Internet harassing you, I've studied sexual ethics with feminists for quite some time and seriously am interested in coming to a common understanding or agreement about differences of opinion on this subject.

Arguments about authoritative definitions tend not to be interesting, but I think that the claim is that using physical characteristics as judgment points leads to "insufficient regard for a person's personality or sentience" and that that insufficient regard is not limited to one sex.

Hopefully this at least clarifies the point I was trying to make and addresses a little of the "you too" that you're feeling. Perhaps not, we'll see if this thread persists.


The "you too" was just me reacting to the fact that I often see posts from men that don't seem to argue in good faith. As an example, elsewhere in this discussion a guy decided to correct my tone. He's been a member for over 100 days and this was his second post - nothing else has struck him as sufficiently important, but my post, oh yeah, my tone really needed to be corrected. That post was not in good faith - it wS someone objecting to the content of my posts, by attacking the tone. Your post struck me as more of the same, if that wasn't the case, I apologise.

Anyway, your point is still wrong. Judging someone as not sexually attractive is pretty much the opposite of sexual objectification, it's a refusal to treat the person as a sexual object. I might be perfectly willing to have a relationship with fat bald guy as a cOlleague, or as a tennis partner, or as a friend - I'm not denying his humanity, I just don't want to sleep with him. Compare that with his action of rubbing himself against me, even after having made it abundantly clear to him that I wasn't interested. He doesn't care about me and my wishes, they are irrelevant to his goal. He finds me sexually attractive, and he wants to get laid, and too bad for me if I don't agree.

So no, refusing to see someone as a sexual object is sexual objectification in the same way that not collecting stamps is a hobby.


Ok, I see the way you're using sexual objectification now. I think people in this thread have been using it to describe both positive and negative reactions to people based on objective characteristics, not using desire as the important quality, but instead placing it on the objectification. Are you saying that reacting to someone as fat and bald as the primary characteristic of them is not objectification in the general sense? I think this is (or at least should be) what many men here are having an emotional reaction to. I'm not saying that this is logical or even necessarily valid in all cases, but there's a desire to have people of the opposite (or same) sex recognize one for qualities other than physical and have that be a basis for sexual attraction.

I think this sort of boils down to a misunderstanding between those who want to be seen as more than physical characteristics and the desire not to have unwanted physical interaction. I think those are both valid desires. The unpleasant experiences both "sides" have had make this discussion difficult. A failure to recognize you as a person with desires that aren't in accordance with someone else's projection onto you is clearly very bad. I don't think rejection is at this same level of very bad action, but it is still substantially hurtful to many men. You could just say "so what" to that and I'm not saying it to imply an obligation to accept. I'm just saying that it hurts to be rejected. Hopefully that makes some sense.


It's not how I use the term, it's its definition - Humpty Dumpty aside, words have meaning!

So no, rejecting someone as a sexual partner is not sexual objectification, pretty much by definition.


I'm not sure what your educational background is, but when you spend significant time working on literary subjects, you come to understand that definition is the trickiest part of any intellectual engagement. Your claim that your definition is the definition even though I've pointed out several issues with it. It's too bad you seem to be unwilling to take other perspectives.


I was enjoying reading this back and forth until it ended with petty insults :(


"Again, lack of introspection."

You are repeatedly criticizing a woman for her lack of logical insight into female emotions. This suggests you lack the same insight.


>No, I would have a problem with it from anyone if the attention was unwanted. It is the 'unwanted' aspect of things which is important.

Disagree. It should be the 'being objectified' aspect of things which is most important as that's the topic we're dealing with. Even if your dream man approaches you and you want the attention, it shouldn't matter - objectifying women is still objectifying women whether it's from someone you're into or the fat, bald guy.


>>No, I would have a problem with it from anyone if the attention was unwanted. It is the 'unwanted' aspect of things which is important. >Disagree. It should be the 'being objectified' aspect of things which is most important as that's the topic we're dealing with. Even if your dream man approaches you and you want the attention, it shouldn't matter - objectifying women is still objectifying women whether it's from someone you're into or the fat, bald guy.

I disagree too. I think it is the "if" part that is most important. Sometimes it is being fun to be objectified, even if you had a hard day at work or are a lesbian (not sure why OP had to make this distinction)... or something.

The problem is there is no way for people to show "I'm here at this place where people normally go to look for dates, but I am not looking for a date this time." Some women are going to go on social networking sites, network socially and enjoy all the comments they get that others MIGHT find unwanted. This doesn't mean all women will, and it doesn't mean that all men are going make these types of comment.

Most importantly, this is a real life problem, not a G+ problem, but G+ gives us the option of a block button, while real life does not.


Unwanted is unwanted, but I can easily see how the other person being physically unattractive to you making it even more unwanted.

Imagery also helped make her example real.


Semantic argument about an asshole grinding on a woman in a club which was undesirable, even in the face of potential influence of "looks," even if it was a Brad Pitt type, the attention could have been undesirable.

Please picture 8 foot tall gigantic men wanting to sexually have at you on a 24 hour basis whence in public, and maybe you'll have an idea of what a women feels like. Or, go to jail as a frail man, then get the same idea (I'm reaching / exaggerating, but these discussions are getting very "all the dudes I know would never.." vs the reality of data, supporting evidence, statistics, and just the fact that the majority of men can overpower the majority of women. It is a physical dynamic men can't understand, unless the above extreme examples, or if you have had your ass kicked, badly, in a physical confrontation.)


There seems to be deep ignorance of what it's like to be an old fat bald guy in our culture. Who do you think had the worse night? My guess is that it's the old fat bald guy who had to go home with his right hand, got publicly humiliated in front of all of his friends by getting rejected and physically pushed by a girl half his size. Not to forget his wallet is probably much lighter after paying all those drinks to women he won't ever have a chance with.


There is a lot more to it than "old fat bald guy". I don't know why so many people keep missing the extra clues, including in this past weekend's skeptic/atheist brouhaha over Richard Dawkins being ignorant. In short, it's the same damn situation. "Nice guy" (which is an unknown to the woman) approaches woman, gets rejected, is pissed off. Nice guy forgot to look at the situation, which was woman alone with man hitting on her in elevator at 3am.

> fat, bald guy 20 years older than you grinding his crotch up against your leg even when you've physically tried to push him away

When you're a fat, bald guy that does exactly that, you don't get to be treated like it's all okay and the girl is obligated to spend time with you because you bought her a drink or ten. It's the attitude that is the problem, not the fat or the bald.

If you are a considerate, nice, polite, friendly old fat bald guy that can respect boundaries and that people just have differing ideas of attractiveness (it goes both ways, and I know this as an overweight girl), you shouldn't be treated like a dirtbag, ever. Anyone that does treat you as such is a dirtbag in their own way.


I agree with you on most point except this one.

> When you're a fat, bald guy that does exactly that, you don't get to be treated like it's all okay and the girl is obligated to spend time with you because you bought her a drink or ten.

Where I live right now, women (and some men) surprisingly often offer me drinks in bars. Most of the time I'm not attracted to them but yet, I find it only fair and nice to spend some time with them. I even sometimes dance with old and fat women. I don't see anything wrong with this and if I don't feel like spending time with a stranger, I respectfully decline the offer and pay for my own drinks.


I feel like we're on the same page yet not.

I believe the key to the situation is will and interest. It is not drinks or attractiveness or grinding. All of that is awesome if everyone is okay with it. I too will also regularly talk to, dance with, and spend time with people that I may not want to sleep with but that I find interesting and comfortable to talk to. I will let them know this in advance, and most of the time they're completely fine with just the brief companionship and otherwise accept my declining their offer. This is basically the old bald guy chatting away with a woman and maybe even having a dance together, with no expectation of sex. Or the old bald guy that walks away from a woman that just said "thanks, but no thanks" to him.

What I am never okay with and what I believe is wrong and worthy of public shaming is the old bald guy that tries to grind up against and buy drinks despite the woman pushing him away. It doesn't even have to be the old bald guy. It could even be a ripped young guy with a nice suntan, a significant other or a friend or anybody to anybody else. You're not showing that person any respect by ignoring their boundaries.

I don't know if I'm doing a good job explaining this, but thanks to said skeptic brouhaha someone else has a very eloquent piece on this subject: http://kateharding.net/2009/10/08/guest-blogger-starling-sch...

While I don't care much for the statistics, the situations created to illustrate the third and fourth points is of particular interest to this conversation.

Lastly about drinks, I think that declining the offer and buying your own drinks is the right thing to do. Some people don't understand that and like to freeload, which is rude but what can you do. The person buying drinks needs to understand that there is no obligation attached to buying someone else a drink.


That's all nice to hear, but the truth is that the (popular and unpopular) culture of western nations drives behavior to be outright hostile and racist to those with even minor genetic defects. And people herd themselves like sheep.


Shame on the culture that promotes hostility, but attractiveness is a personal decision. You just have to accept that some people just don't like old fat bald guys.

As much as it may seem surprising to the group of HNers that are single men that have no luck with talking to women, I am a girl that has been rejected by plenty of guys in the past for not wearing much makeup (if at all), being obsessed with certain topics to the point of overkill, spending too much time on the computer and out-geeking them (that apparently really makes them feel less manly), being Asian (and not being of Japanese heritage...yes really), being in my early 20s, being fat...

Deal with it. For every guy that has a fat Asian fetish is a guy that wants to sleep with a size 0 blonde Caucasian girl. Being an old, fat, bald guy is not the end of the world.


Of course it's not the end of the world. But the societal pressure towards certain physical ideals skews everyone's perception of "attractive" (Not more than a century ago, slim women were considered unattractive). So it's not 100% a "personal decision", and i understand it's really hard as a psychological burden.


I would not disagree. I completely expect there to be some societal influence and it is definitely a hard thing to come to terms with especially when you fit the profile that your culture currently deems unattractive. It's still a personal decision though, no matter how skewed.

Ultimately, in the original context of the fat guy story, it isn't so much the appearance as it is behavior that is problematic and people latched on to mostly the appearance and not the behavior. And as I've mentioned in my comment, some people don't seem to understand the nuances of a situation. Combine both together and you basically have the recipe for some of the bitter replies and downvotes found in these comments.

A woman has every right to be disgusted at that kind of behavior alone, before we even get into what she or society might think of fat old bald men. The same applies the other way around and however which way you want to organize the situation.

So again with my ideals (hopefully everyone including myself can work towards this goal!). Act like an asshole, you'll be treated like one. Act courteously, and be treated that way in return. Anyone that deviates from that is likely to be an asshole :P


Your response is disturbing. You seem to think that the fact that a man has bought a woman a drink gives him the right to initiate unwanted physical contact. It does not, and I suggest that you avoid any temptation in life to act as though it does. Buying a woman a drink gets the man the right to start a conversation that the woman can terminate at any moment if she so wishes, and nothing more. I note in passing that you can 'purchase' the same right much more cheaply by finding a witty line, or just having the courage to walk up and say hello.


I have a few thoughts about this:

-Why are we making such a big deal about exception cases? (1%, as you say)

-You know, right up front, G+ is asking you to do something you feel uncomfortable with. They aren't being sneaky about it, making it opt-out, or changing policies after the fact.

-You have to evaluate, for yourself, if the usefulness of G+ outweighs the level of uncomfort

-G+ will probably fail if they can't get a large and diverse userbase, this will probably cause G+ to evaluate why and possibly change their policies

-Munroe, as someone with a lot of followers, is correct to voice his opinion because it will be heard. Someone like you or I will actually have to do some work to be heard, so we'll have to go right to Google with our complaints. Please tell me you have brought it up with them...

I don't like the idea of people feeling that, every product (especially global products) being made needs to be tailored to their views of the world (ESPECIALLY at an initial beta release). Give Google some time to learn and react to these "bugs". If G+ wants to have a narrow view of this, let them and watch them fail, as other companies learn from those mistakes and put out a better product.

You can deal with jerks at the bar, tell the bouncers to remove them and see if they do, go to the bar down the street, or build a better bar yourself.


They came out at the start by saying "there aren't many private profiles anyway". So why screw them? It has to be a 2nd-order optimization.


I am kind of surprised that you think the best way to amend a problem is to avoid it. How about asking Google to implement an anti-stalker program and to actively ban/restrict those who engage in such behaviour?


They should do that too, but surely preventing a problem is better than looking to address it after the damage has been done?


The question is, is the damage avoided here, or is it just moved to another place/person?

On topic though, I don't really understand why it should be obligatory to share any personal info that I don't want to share. If it's just so that the service provider can sell the info, then I think I would prefer to just pay for the service myself instead.


It's "preventing a problem", but it's also advising women that they should not participate in the social network unless they disguise themselves as men. What if higher public participation of women made stalkers go away actually?

Totally anecdotal evidence: I used to have a discussions app on bebo (a social network with lots and lots of teenagers). I was surprised to see how vigilant the teens were to keep away any adults that might potentially be pedophiles. In fact they got a few accounts banned because of their reports, and generally they were spreading the word of caution to their peers very effectively.


> As to being bigger and stronger, perhaps we should look to the nation of Japan and the feats its military was able to achieve with men roughly the size of north american women. Women are perfectly capable of defending themselves, not that they should have to, just like smaller men are perfectly capable of defending themselves, not that they should have to.

That would be a great analogy if the sort of violence that takes place between men and women in society was remotely comparable to war, however until we start heavily arming everyone, organising them into regiments and having them deployed in tactical situations (and a whole bunch of other things which make physical strength massively less significant as a factor than it is in civilian situations) it's just nonsense.

> Also, keep in mind that a man is twice as likely to be assaulted as a woman so from a statistical perspective it is men who should be fearing for their safety as they post their gender online.

Yes, because statistics compiled from physical life situations such as bar fights are a useful gauge of on-line behaviour. By your reasoning we shouldn't worry about on-line safety of children because the statistics show they're almost never assaulted.

I agree with you that it's not the norm but that's not to say that it's not an issue. Given that there is absolutely no justifiable reason for it, a relatively small instance of it can be significant and worthy of mention. School shootings are statistically insignificant but you can't deny they say something important about society. Saying it "defines our culture" might be going over the top, but it's not a footnote either.


I think that privacy settings for gender are a good idea. I just don't think the reasons outlined are sound.

In my mind all you really need to say is "Some people don't want to share their gender and we'll all enjoy a better service for having that feature" it seems pretty self evident that the sharing of gender is not an essential feature of a social network, just as in real life we don't walk around with our state sanctioned gender on ourselves and are free to project the gender we wish others to see.


in real life we don't walk around with our state sanctioned gender on ourselves and are free to project the gender we wish others to see

If you're being sarcastic, it's not obvious due to the fact that some people really do believe that.

If you're being non-sarcastic, you're crazy. First, gender isn't "state-sanctioned", it's genetically determined. And y'know what? On 99.9% of people it's pretty damn obvious. Even the folks who go to all the trouble of dressing up to look like the opposite sex are usually identifiable at a glance.

Some folks do have serious issues about their gender identity, but I think Google+ is a better place without them.


You are coming off as incredibly insensitive and bigoted. Do you incidentally also believe that Google+ is a better place without gay people or their ability to select who they are attracted to on Google+?

Also, people who've had hormonal treatment often look like the sex that they want to be. I know this because I know some of these people, and I would not have guessed that they were born with another sex. Perhaps you even know some of these people without knowing. For the people who are not so lucky, your "Even the folks who go to all the trouble of dressing up to look like the opposite sex are usually identifiable at a glance." is disrespectful.

Does the ability to hide your gender or to select "other" harm you? Just like some people seem to think that other people being gay harms them, even though it has no significant influence on their lives whatsoever.


Uhm, I was with you until:

> Some folks do have serious issues about their gender identity, but I think Google+ is a better place without them.

Come again? You can't socialize if you are unsure about your gender? What the hell...?

I bet most gender-confused people are a lot more fun to be around than I am, despite my well-defined gender.


"them" in the sentence probably referred to "gender issues" not "folks".


I hesitate to enter this, but ... once upon a time, I flipped a guy off because he cut me off in post-football-game traffic. For the next half an hour, he pursued me relentlessly through red lights, down streets, etc. and every time we slowed, he jumped out and tried to run over. I was terrified. Turns out he was an off-duty cop and was trying to impress his girlfriend - but it took about three years for me to stop panicking when I saw a police car.

OK, so I'm male and he was male, but let's assume that Google+ had one single thing on its profile that you had to fill out, and it was "Cop" vs. "Civilian". Do you think that I would feel comfortable broadcasting my non-cop status because Google hadn't thought about it?

I'm sure a cop would be really offended. But think hard about this.

And then take this kind of crap off Hacker News, man, because there are better venues for bleating that women shouldn't feel threatened by physical power and we all have better things to do with our time.


As to being bigger and stronger, perhaps we should look to the nation of Japan and the feats its military was able to achieve with men roughly the size of north american women. Women are perfectly capable of defending themselves, not that they should have to, just like smaller men are perfectly capable of defending themselves, not that they should have to. These are again averages and if you look at the deviances you'll see that there are a lot of women who are larger than a lot of men.

Also, keep in mind that a man is twice as likely to be assaulted as a woman so from a statistical perspective it is men who should be fearing for their safety as they post their gender online.

Blatant misuse of "statistics." Not all assaults are equal. How many assaults toward men lead to their having thoughts of or committing suicide? Also, the implication that we should train women to a military standard so they are ready to fend themselves off from attack is absurd-- by your rationale, we should put all be proficient with switchblades and blame ourselves if we were unable to stop an attack. The causal is the perpetrator, and the culture that breeds feeling of ownership by men of women.

It wasn't so long ago that the law explicitly treated women as property, so let's not forget that too quickly. In the UK, it was in our parents' generation that women were allowed to have a mortgage (Sex Discrimination Act of 1975) and only two decades ago that marital rape exemption was abolished (until 1991, in the UK, legally a husband could not be charged with raping his wife).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_in_the_United_States#Rape_... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_in_English_law http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marital_rape#Common_law_and_the...


Fend themselves off from what attack? Oh yeah, a straw (wo)man attack. How is your argument not part of "the culture that breeds feeling of ownership by men of women"? Simply spectacular invocation of rape culture arguments, not that I've ever seen this topic discussed rationally.

No one needs to be trained to a military standard to fend off any type of vicious attack that might occur, because except in ultra-rare occasions they do not happen in first world countries. The true danger in our society is not physical at all, but mental- fear cuts down many lives by silently shaving off a million tiny slices, and those who fall victim to it never even knew they had a choice, or a chance. They just listened to the unspoken messages on TV.


> except in ultra-rare occasions they do not happen in first world countries

...That sounds a lot like you're implying that rape and assault don't happen very often in first-world countries... which would be a statement quite divorced from reality. Care to clarify?


They rarely happen in the "stranger danger" sense, which is really the only way the physical strength is defining any difference between men and women, as opposed to the social power difference being the factor that makes women more at risk for these types of attack.


Compared with other hazards of life, they don't.


Perhaps not compared to, say, car accidents in the U.S., but that doesn't by any means imply that it's rare enough to not be a valid concern for potential victims.

From the wikipedia article cited above:

"Rape prevalence among women in the U.S. (the percentage of women who experienced rape at least once in their lifetime so far) is in the range of 15%-20%, with different studies agreeing with each other.

I'm personally not aware of any statistics that would justify calling rape an 'ultra-rare' occurrence in any part of the world; perhaps someone will enlighten me.


except in ultra-rare occasions they do not happen in first world countries

You've scuttled your own argument here.


I think the point of the argument is less about getting into fights, than it is about harassment; on the internet it doesn't really matter how big each person is (except where spam is concerned); so long as address info is private, even the most dedicated stalker's got his work cut out. The issue is this attribute is searchable; so a guy can list all of them women on G+, checking out their profile pictures, and possibly contacting them. A woman with an attractive profile picture could get a lot of unwanted messages / friend invites in this way, which would lead to feelings of harassment. Even the knowledge that people may be checking out their profile pics will be upsetting to some, despite there being no direct affect on the "victim". Admittedly, all this is also true the other way around, but typically in most human societies, men are more likely to stalk and women are more likely to be upset by the idea of being stalked.

However, all of that is beside the point. The simple fact is that if this information is not required for G+ to function, it should be optional. You could argue that you have the option of not signing up, which is fair, but not very constructive. As G+ is competing against FB, and their stance is that they have better privacy, this is something which is in their interest to put right.


Be careful with thinking that issues you think you have solved for yourself, or that you believe your friends have solved, are issues society or culture have solved.

Isn't the phrase "don't be a pussy" part of your culture? Has your culture got over with most cheerleaders being white, female and fit already?

The fact things have gotten better with time doesn't mean we are living the golden age of gender equality.


Yes, the phrase "dont be a pussy" is definitely a part of my culture as is the phrase "dont be a dick". They are both colloquial expressions of undesirable behavior that refer to genitals, I don't find it to be evidence of a larger overarching problem.

Has your culture gotten over most chippendales being male, well-endowed and fit?

There are people who enjoy sexuality and sensuality, I personally don't care that there are a segment of women who enjoy chippendales it doesn't threaten me as a man. If women want to enjoy that sort of thing they should be free to. I would expect that a woman would be able to view chippendales and then come to the office in the morning and not slap me on the ass, just as I would expect a man who watched cheerleaders at a football game to not slap women on the ass at the office.

There are going to be people who are going to look at me and think that I got to where I am in life simply by looking at the color of my skin and my gender. I'm much more interested in meeting those people who would rather know the content of my character. I know that in some circumstances I've probably benefitted greatly because of my gender, I also know very well the circumstances that have been detrimental to me because of my gender. I choose to take those detrimental gender biases and overcome them not worrying that I cannot simply because of my gender.

Life is not about the hand you were dealt, life is about how you played it. In all honesty anyone born in a G8 nation regardless of gender or race has been dealt a tremendous hand that is enviable to the better part of the world.


That there also exist objectification of the male sexuality doesn't justify any objectification of sexuality at all.

Also I don't believe by harassment and assault nor Randall nor anyone referred to being slapped on the ass. If we take domestic violence as the example, woman are a lot more often, and also more brutally, subjected to domestic abuse than men. I'm not being reductionist and suggesting that all of this is because we say "don't be a pussy", what I'm implying is that both are current examples of how western culture is violent and denigratory towards women.

I value your insight into overcoming detrimental gender biases as an example, and I'm not being overly polite, I really mean it. Life is both about the hand you were dealt and about how you play it. Arguing in favour of gender equality and trying not be sexist is about trying to give everybody a better starting hand, because not every single other one is going to be able to overcome things they way you did.


Amusingly enough, the phrase "don't be a pussy" originally had nothing to do with genitalia. However, time has certainly altered the word's meaning.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pussy#Weakness


I really seem to have selected a poor example, sorry but Spanish is my native language and some subtleties of English (such as etymology) are sometimes elusive to me.

As to decorate with another amusing fact, while researching about "don't be a pussy" I found that Google translates it to Spanish as "no seas marica", which would be "don't be a marica", marica being a derogatory term to refer to homosexual men. I know Google Translate uses statistical analysis and not fixed rules... but what amuses me a little is the idea of how this fact alone could start a whole new inflammatory thread if posted on Google+ by some Internet celebrity.


Isn't the phrase "don't be a pussy" part of your culture?

I don't buy this reasoning. Phrases like that tend to lose the connotations implied by their origin within a generation or two.

For the longest time as a kid I had no idea "pussy" or "bitch" had anything to do with women. I still don't associate them with women even though I now know the origins.


Same here, took me a few seconds to realize what made "don't be a pussy" relevant to the topic.


I don't think his intention was to characterize all men as thinking/behaving that way, but to point out that those men exist, and that there is a historical/cultural aspect to the prevalence of that behavior.

That is, I think he was just trying to assert that they are effectively a minority, and that their concerns have a legitimate basis, despite the fact that many outside their group may have trouble empathizing with them.


The difficulty is that the aberrations in a large group can have disproportionate impact on those outside of the group.

So, men who abuse women may be the exception, but for those abused women, their perception and comfort with men may be permanently changed by those exceptions. Randall is not saying all men are the exceptions. Rather, he is saying recognize that those exceptions have had an enormous impact on some women's lives, including simple things like being uncomfortable publicly identifying their gender.


Randall Munroe is unfortunately often a professional white knight.

Really bizarre how he understands that people differ in programming ability, but cannot countenance the possibility that there is not a completely uniform distribution of ability across all conceivable human subgroups.


I don't understand this statement at all. Are you saying that he's ignoring the fact that women have different abilities to defend themselves from attackers?


I'm saying that it gives a sense of vertigo when an otherwise rational man propounds such laughably conventional PC views as if they were bold insights.

The assumption of biological egalitarianism underpins the idea that all inequalities of outcome are due to the malice of straight white middle-class males.

Yet it is not straight, white, middle-class males who are actually committing most of the rapes in America.


Sorry, I think I was unclear in my question.

"cannot countenance the possibility that there is not a completely uniform distribution of ability across all conceivable human subgroups."

What ability are you talking about? (This is not disagreement btw, this is truly for clarification).

"The assumption of biological egalitarianism underpins the idea that all inequalities of outcome are due to the malice of straight white middle-class males.

Yet it is not straight, white, middle-class males who are actually committing most of the rapes in America."

Insofar as this particular argument goes, it doesn't matter if the males are white or middle-class. It is, however, straight men who commit most of the rapes as well as other sexual abuses and sexual harassment in America.


> Yes some people do that, but VERY few.

How many TV shows present that reality? Movies? How many advertisements? Popular music? Dare I mention video games?

"Relentless" is a very accurate way to summarize the situation.

If you're interested in thinking about our culture, the correct mirror is the artifacts we produce and consume; not behavior.

An aside: Men may be more likely to be assaulted than women, but you're measuring the wrong thing again. How many men are assaulted solely because of their gender?

Our culture is quite frankly abhorrent to me in how it dehumanizes women. That's an honest opinion; not slander, and it's one formed with ample observations to back it up.


I think people are blowing things way out of proportion when they start talking about the sexual assault risk implication of a setting in an web app.

Imho, what happens when gender is given undue relevance is what you see in a Youtube comments to a guy playing guitar vs comments to a girl playing guitar. On the former, the worst you get is guitar skill/technique bashing, on the latter, creepy lewd comments about your body.

When you're in a social environment, giving prominence to irrelevant facts, no matter how true or harmless they are, that's just noise that detract from the experience.


In addition, constantly victimizing women might be counterproductive. If all my life I'd get told I am a victim of society, am not able to defend myself, need other people's help, need special treatments to compensate for my condition etc. I'd start to believe I really am inferior.


> Also, keep in mind that a man is twice as likely to be assaulted as a woman so from a statistical perspective it is men who should be fearing for their safety as they post their gender online.

He was obviously referring in this context to sexual assault. Maybe you're not one of them, but most men seem to be unaware of how common an experience rape and sexual assault are for women. You can look up the statistics if you're curious.


Watch series 1 of Mad Men. Spend 1 week observing all interactions around you. Return and rethink.


"Very" in all caps?

Go to walmart please.


I'm just glad Google+ has an "other" option to begin with. Facebook lets you hide gender (which would be nice to have in google+), but they only offer male/female.

Really, I'm more disgruntled that Google+ lets you put down your relationship status and types of relationships you're looking for, but no way to specify which genders if any you are interested in talking to. I've been mulling over removing that part from my google profile because I can't mark that I'm only interested in women for relationships and dating. I have some female friends that would prefer to talk only to other females as well, it doesn't even have to go as far as preferences for dating.

Human sexuality and gender is so complicated that I'm willing to give a pass to any company that at least tries to make an effort to be more inclusive. They sure fall short here and there, but maybe with better education and awareness and bug reports, that will change.


I used to work for a gay dating site where instead of presenting a table of data about each person, we generated a natural language text that described the person's age, location and sexuality. At the beginning you had a radio-button to select your own gender (male/female/other/none) and checkboxes to select which genders you were interested in.

With those limited options, it was fairly easy to construct this profile text, even though we were using VBSCript. (Yes, it was that long ago) Sometime later we wanted to expand and cover all the trans* options which resulted in that piece of code expanding into a horrible mess of weird cases, and those users not being happy with the result anyway. We got a lot of complaints of the type "I am an X looking for Y, but I don't want to be called Z".

I'd rather program date and time functions than that, ever again. :-)


Ha! Natural language always expands into a horrible mess of weird cases. Humanity is a horrible mess of weird cases.


>I have some female friends that would prefer to talk only to other females as well, it doesn't even have to go as far as preferences for dating.

Why not only add female friends to their circles then?


Well, Google+ and many social networks feel designed to be opt-in so interaction between people that aren't directly connected somehow is limited and suboptimal. For example, some people I don't know have added me to a circle of theirs on google+ and have shared some bizarre pictures and things I don't care for, and I have to purposefully seek these out if I cared to look at them. That solves a lot of problems right there.

Some networks don't always work like that. It's the general idea of the thing more than it was google+'s implementation I was referring to by the end of that paragraph. I personally just want it in google+ out of habit, because I have it set that way in Facebook and all my dating site profiles and such. Inevitably I have a guy hitting on me and I don't want them to have a misunderstanding or to waste their time. It also helps to search for other people to talk to, and that benefits more than just me or my friends.


I would +1 this, if I could!


I have mixed feelings about this. I'm a guy so obviously don't have the experience (any) women have but I will say this.

Three things will essentially give away your gender:

1. Your stated gender;

2. Your name (with a high degree of accuracy in most cultures that I'm aware of); and

3. Your photos.

So for (1) to have any impact, (2) and (3) must be hidden. Since all profiles are public, I'm not sure you can hide (2).

Give all that, I'm not sure I understand the rationale for hiding gender but, like I said, I don't have the experience.

That all being said, I really don't see the issue with hiding it.

I strongly encourage people who feel strongly about it to be vocal about it and ask for either the ability to have it not stated or to hide it (like you can with things like the number of "followers" you have).

EDIT: on the accuracy of gender prediction from Facebook profiles:

http://cis.poly.edu/~ross/papers/NameCentric.pdf

I realize this isn't exactly the issue here. Most people concerned with harassment probably aren't worried about computer models that can predict their gender based on their name, information from their profile or their writing style. I imagine harassment is far less systematic than that.

EDIT2: I would contend that a bigger factor in whether someone gets harassed is how they present their profile rather than a single field.

For example, if your profile is public, has pictures of how partying and getting drunk, has many messages about what a party animal you are and/or your dating life, some will see that (rightly or wrongly) as an invitation for attention (good or bad).

I would be very interested to hear from people who have been harassed or bullied online or have been the victims of such crimes in the real world and hear how they use social networks and how they present themselves online. I suspect they tend to keep everything private.

I'd also be interested to hear how important it is that gender is shown on a profile. It's all well and good for us to speculate about this but I really would like to hear from some people with first hand experience.


As has been asserted in fragmented bits all over the place (here and in the original Google+ thread), the problem is that there is an enormous hiatus between personal and social ways of approaching gender.

On an individual scale you can see how personal expressions of sexual and gender identity can vary. [1] On a social scale, however, we deal with gender in a grossly simplified manner (and there are linguistic and historic forces which constrain us into defaulting to this attitude).

Mr Munroe is bringing up some issues (for what is worth, that of female-bullying attitude on the internet should be known to any gardener of virtual communities here on HN). But the whole issue is a much messier Pandora's box.

There are many people of either biological gender [2] who for different personal reasons wish to be more or less defined in terms of their sexual and gender identities, and in ways that a simple "I'm a {he, she, it}" form won't permit.

Imposing a (forcefully public!) choice is stepping on many people's toes, and I'm not quite sure what's the relevance of that. Google is smart. They could be gathering much better user-targeting data if they had implemented gender identity as a text field in the profile. [3] You know more about people (regardless of gender) who would fill that textbox with "dragon" than you can ever know about someone merely because they chose between man, woman, or other.

[1] An elegant if simplified reflection of what I'm talking about is given in this thread: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2741580

[2] Not to mention the outliers to this binary opposition.

[3] See this thread: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2741536

----

ps. — EDITED a couple phrasings.

pps. — Concerning your EDIT #2, I see where you're coming from and I assume no bad faith from you, but please realise that this position you're assuming is very hard to tell apart from the "she was raped because she was dressing slutty" argument which set the internet afire not a couple months ago.


There are more names than you realise that give away little about gender, or are used by people across the gender spectrum. For example, Alex, Sam, Rowan, Raven, and Kim.

And as for photos, it's harder to tell than you think from a static photo, as a lot of gender presentation comes from body language. Speaking of which, photos only give you gender presentation - which can be quite different to someone's self-dentified gender.


Well said. And plenty of people use avatars rather than photos.


I think the main issue is that it's the only field that's required to be public. That makes it seem out-of-place.

You can tell a lot about someone's ancestry from their name as well, but it would be pretty weird if Randall's profile looked like this:

  Name: Randall Munroe
  Ancestry: Scottish[1]
And that was it. Even though it's kind of obvious, it's encouraging people to think about it, and calling attention to any stereotypes people might have about Scottish people. This is probably not so bad for Scots, but there are a number of ethnicities that carry serious social baggage, and they may prefer not to be called to attention.

Of course, I don't need to know Mr. Munroe's ancestry to refer to him using pronouns in most languages. Getting that information from a name is also much less reliable. It's obviously not quite the same. I think it does highlight the issue pretty well, though.

[1] Which I am inferring from his last name; I have no idea about his actual ancestry.


A good way of avoiding this problem is to get rid of pronouns altogether. Case in point (drumroll): Facebook's interface!

You can count on one hand how many times they use pronouns, and those could be actually be removed as well.


In English, yes, but in other languages this isn't always possible.


In romance languages, it doesn't even necessarily require pronouns. The English sentence "Sam is tall." cannot be translated into Spanish without knowing whether Sam is male or female.

Interestingly, Google Translate assumes (in this case) that Sam is male, while Microsoft Translate assumes (in this case) that Sam is female.


Facebook abuses "their".


They do! In fact, their stream stories used to allow <fb:pronoun /> tags so that when an app published something, you didn't need to refer to him/her as "them". But that changed about a year ago, so now facebook is a major paragon in familiarizing folks with the word "their" being singular.


Giving away my gender is much less of a concern for me than the presentation characteristics of the profile. My gender is "noise" on my profile. I'd be better served by whitespace instead of displaying my gender. It makes Google+ profile feel at worst like a dating site and at best a random collection of facts.


+1. I mean, would you expect gender to be a big deal on, say, linkedin?


Sometimes, the way in which you form paragraphs and sentences can give away an individuals gender identity. Check this out, and the accompanying paper.

Female Score: 8

Male Score: 14

The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: male!

http://www.bookblog.net/gender/genie.php

http://www.cs.biu.ac.il/~koppel/papers/male-female-text-fina...


The problem with this is that it reflects the issues with our society more than people's genders. Having a reasonable education and writing about STEM* tends to make anyone male, according to that.

* Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths


I have been coded female, male, and androgynous depending on the writing sample. Oh HN, I would be coded as a man. In my fiction writing, I would be coded as a woman. In academic writing, I am coded as a man. In other non-fiction, I might be coded as a woman.

I am just saying that this is unreliable. Further, writing styles are a function of social construction, which break down in situations where this is a sensitive subject.


50% of the time, it's going to be right by simply choosing a random number.


I went to my university's electronic PhD thesis repository, and went down the list, starting with the most recently published, skipping people of the same gender to the last selected thesis or whose gender was not obvious from the name, until I had 10 PhD theses, 5 male, 5 female. I put the abstracts from each thesis into the 'gender genie', and these are the results:

Author male, predicted as male: 4 Author female, predicted as male: 4 Author male, predicted as female: 1 Author female, predicted as female: 1

Obviously, a larger sample is needed, but those results make it look very unreliable - especially compared to an outright statement of gender.


While I think privacy and gender issues are incredibly important symptoms, there's a deeper debate being had here:

Will the internet of the future be a place where your persona can generally be isolated from your person? Historically, online spaces were a haven for that type of anonymity.

The trend is firmly in the opposite direction; with good and bad consequences.


IRC and anonymous or pseudonimous fora are still out there, and there is no trend in forcing gender choice in them.

Those of us who have been here for long enough to play with online personas and to enjoy intelligent use of anonymity are bound to feel nostalgic, but I honestly don't see a trend so much as I see the real world's biases finally catching up with the internet, where's the space for everyone and then some.


Of course -- however, the default used to be "On the internet, nobody know's you're a dog." There were very few sites, especially online communities, that would require your real name; of those that did, very few of them would require its disclosure to, say, search engine crawlers.

That's becoming the exception.

(edit: minor grammar fix.)


2 is easy to work around- many women use generically male nicknames (such as Sam for Samantha) or have names that could be either gender. Photos can be kept private.


(2) is simple to hide...I have a ton of friends in Facebook who have never entered their full name into their profile, only initials. i.e. 'MS Jones' or 'G Johnston'


>Many women grow up with a sense of physical vulnerability that's hard for men to appreciate. Our culture's relentless treatment of women as objects teaches them that they are defined by the one thing that men around them want from them

Daaaaaamn are people ever good at misinterpreting this line. It doesn't matter whether women are at actual risk; it's about the perception of risk. They're your customers, not your students or children or friggin' royal subjects.

Answering the question of actual risk has basically turned into a playground of competitive sophistry. On the other hand, perceived risk is goddamn obvious, and it's what matters. You don't start a social network by alienating people, regardless of whether they're 'right' or 'wrong' to feel the way they do.


You're making this into a business decision. I'm sure that google has put a lot of thought into this and made what they think is the best business decision (in addition to the fact that they are testing it in beta).

There are, however, concerns above and beyond profits that could drive this decision.


>You're making this into a business decision.

Well... that's the point. I really don't want to talk about it as an ethical decision, and I guess I can avoid that by pointing out that it is more obviously a good business decision. I'm sure Google put a lot of thought into this, but I'm also sure they put a lot of thought into the launch of Google Buzz. Unfortunately, the sheer amount of thinking that goes on doesn't guarantee success.

Of course, now you've cornered me, so I have to talk about it as an ethical decision. So, some things which pop into my head:

1 - the ability to not show your gender does not change the relative status of the genders in public perception (hereafter "gender inequality")

2 - the ability to not show your gender does diminish the importance of gender inequality w.r.t. setting up a Google+ account, i.e., inequality affects you less if you don't have to show your gender

3 - gender inequality is generally considered a bad thing

Per point (1), the negative consequences of allowing people to not show their gender are probably small, and per points (2) and (3), the positive consequences are probably significant. This means that people are probably better off being allowed to not show their gender.

But b'gosh, I've let yet another cat out of the bag by introducing the concept of "perceived risk" and claiming its existence.

Why do I think there is perceived risk?

Personal experience. If you haven't run into a sexism debate yet, you haven't browsed any serious technology forum with any sort of regularity. If, in a sexism debate, you don't see comments about men doing untoward things to women, you probably haven't read the debate very thoroughly. If there is a gorilla in a room, and nobody sees it, nobody talks about it; if there is no gorilla in a room, but everyone thinks they see a gorilla, people talk about it: people talk about what they see. I hear enough talk either from women complaining about creepy guys or from people talking about such complaints that I figure it is commonplace. In lieu of evidence I go with intuition, because at some point I have to make a decision.

I call it perceived risk because, in short form, people think that things they don't want to happen (anything from creepy private messages to violence) will happen if they show their gender. I'm trying not to accuse anyone of malice, negligince, cowardice or irrationality. Perhaps in some ironic twist this itself is cowardly.

So, from an ethical standpoint, I hope this is enough to justify allowing people to hide their gender.

There are many more questions: what risks are perceived, how do they come to be perceived, what risks are real, how do they come to exist, what are the effects of perceiving risk, how can real risk be prevented, and how can negative effects of perceiving risk be prevented, with an eye towards both valid and invalid perceived risk.

In an effort to broadly treat the last two topics:

It is progressively easier to take advantage of people who rank lower on Kohlberg's stages of moral development:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kohlberg%27s_stages_of_moral_de...

An conception of the ideal of justice based on categorical imperatives (not necessarily in the Kantian sense) is not a guarantee of making the right decisions. However, it makes many decisions easier. It allows one to have sincere belief in their judgments about a situation, and to recognize irrational and unfair behavior before it has a chance of affecting oneself or others.

Compassion is excellent, but in too many cases trying to make a compassionate decision leads to feelings of uncertainty and powerlessness. Self-interest is necessary for survival, but in too many cases trying to make a selfish decision leads to feelings of isolation and unfairness. Laws are a necessary component of a free society, but they are written by flawed human beings, and often prescribe no choice at all or an obviously bad one.

Conversely:

Making decisions based on rationally chosen principles leads to a better situation for humanity as a whole. Contrast the success of the American revolution with the failure of the French revolution: George Washington adhered to the principles of justice and fairness and Napoleon did not.


I suppose I should be clear from this point on: I am against Google+ forcing people to show their gender.

"Well... that's the point. I really don't want to talk about it as an ethical decision, and I guess I can avoid that by pointing out that it is more obviously a good business decision."

In this case, I don't like making it a business decision for two reasons:

1) It is all but certain that Google considered the business repercussions of forcing people to show their gender. They almost certainly balanced the number of people they would not be able to get against the fact that the data is not indexed and searchable and concluded that, from a business point of view, it was worthwhile to force people to show gender. In the end, without real data, there is probably not a good way to make the business argument in a way that convinces google that they are wrong from a business point of view. (Of course, while testing, if the data they gather says that this is killing their business, they'll probably change the way it works).

2) If we can make the moral argument, and Google busy it, they are less likely to start changing their default privacy settings, etc... on people just because its good business.

Of course, I realize there is strength in making something a business decision. It means that even if they don't buy the moral argument, we still get the outcome we want. But, in this case, I think the two reasons stated above outweigh this (especially point number 2 given the experience with facebook).

I'm having some trouble connecting your last few paragraphs ("An conception of the idea..." onward), which are very general in nature, to the specific topic here. As far as I can tell, you are basically arguing for some sort of rules based morality. Without getting into if that's desirable or not (though in many cases, I agree it is), its not clear to me what rules you are in favor of. Please do explain...

(On your moral argument and discussion of perceived risk, I essentially agree).


It doesn't matter whether women are at actual risk; it's about the perception of risk.

And what proportion of 'em perceive this risk when filling out a little box on the internet?

You don't start a social network by alienating people, regardless of whether they're 'right' or 'wrong' to feel the way they do.

Hang on, let me rephrase that for you:

You don't start a social network by alienating people, regardless of whether they're right or wrong to feel the way they do.

There, much better without the scare quotes around right and wrong, don't you think? Sounds less like you're trying to have and simultaneously skip a debate about epistemology in the middle of a sentence.

Aaaaanyway, what proportion of customers are alienated by this? Surely for every person who complains, ninety-nine women don't see an issue with it?


>Surely for every person who complains, ninety-nine women don't see an issue with it?

1% of Google's profits is more than you'll probably ever make in your entire life.


Guys, lets not get carried away by the issue here.

The issue is NOT about gender identification. It is Google+ not providing the ability to hide your gender on your profile (I won't say they're FORCING you to post your gender).

The issue of Gender Identification is merely an example provided to justify the usage of such a feature. So let's avoid a massive gender debate here, when you can read all about it in the post itself.


There absolutely should be an option to hide gender on your profile. I was lucky to get a +1 invite early but didn't create an account because of this issue.

Here's why: I'm a hacker. I do freelance work for a living. I avoid all references to my gender in anything work-related because it creates too much extra mental overhead. Instead of focusing on getting things done I end up wondering whether a disagreement on a technical issue would disappear if I was male. Or wondering if I didn't get a contract because I'm female. Or (worse) if I got a contract because of affirmative action or because a company is trying to cultivate an open forward-thinking culture, rather than for my technical ability.

It isn't that I want to hide that I am female, exactly, its just that it doesn't have any affect on the quality of my work, but disclosing the fact that I am female unfortunately can create unrelated complications that get in the way of doing my job.


Don't you think you are doing other females a disservice by doing quality work and hiding the fact that you are a female? Maybe you'll have to deal with those headaches you describe now, but then maybe you can make it easier for your daughter, or inspire other young female hackers. Isn't that worth it?

I can appreciate it if you aren't up for this fight, but think of it like this: wouldn't it have defeated the purpose if Rosa Parks wore a disguise when she sat at the front of the bus, so that no one would be able to tell what race she was?


When I was younger I worked for a nonprofit that supported women in non-traditional fields. I guess I'm just too tired to fight anymore. I'm no Rosa Parks. When given the choice of spending my time hacking or discussing gender issues, I will pick hacking every time. I deeply respect the folks who have the energy to tackle the issue head on.

BTW, my clients do eventually find out that I am a woman when we do phone calls.


Exactly. I would like to hide my gender not for any gender related issues but for purely aesthetic reasons. You could play a game of “which one doesn't belong” with my profile and gender would win. There is no reason to explicitly name my gender in my profile. Google did a nice job with making nearly everything optional and making sure your profile looks great no matter how much or little information you enter, gender just sticks out like a sore thumb.

Google should just leave everything as it is and let us hide gender. Other profile fields already have an UI for doing just that.

That's not to say that other reasons for hiding the gender are invalid, it's just not even necessary to discuss them. Google should allow us to hide the gender even if those reasons were invalid.


Right, and I don't think Randall's long-winded post really made that clear at all IMO.

Basically, the request is: don't make the Gender checkbox mandatory when signing up - or - I guess make it so I can completely hide my Gender.


Mandatory labeling of race, religion, and, yes, gender is rarely wise...


And that's a separate issue to what Randall is raising.


> It is Google+ not providing the ability to hide your gender on your profile ...

Seriously, what am I missing?


I don't know. I had the feeling you were raising a contradictory point? Or am I mistaken.


He's written about gender very well before.[1] It is certainly a subject that I don't know very much about, but I appreciate that it can get very complicated very quickly. What are the good reasons for requiring it to be public?

Secondly, do you think that "other" is enough? To what lengths should developers go to handle rare corner cases?

[1]: http://blog.xkcd.com/2010/05/06/sex-and-gender/


Clearly, gender should be represented as a user-chosen 32-bit value with separate R, G, B, and A channels, and conveniently represented as an 8-digit hexadecimal number.

In this Portable Network Gender (PNG) system, the R channel is degree of traditional female gender; the B is degree of traditional male gender; the G is a catchall for other gender expressions (or perhaps a lookup table rather than a magnitude); the A indicates the overall transparency/importance of the other values.

On the other hand, this only offers around 4 billion unique combinations, which may not be enough to represent the diversity of the planet's 6-billion-plus individuals (not to mention situational identities). Everyone deserves gender-appropriate and gender-precise targeted advertising! So ultimately, a new Gender Protocol offering 128-bits of resolution may prove necessary (GPv6).


Jokes aside, I like to fit people into two numbers between 0 and 1, non-inclusive. The first, number A represents your gender identification, with 0 being ideally female and 1 ideally male (remember the scale is non inclusive of the bounds). The second number B represents the gender identification that you're attracted to.

So, for example:

Hetero male: A=0.8, B=0.2

Gay male: A 0.7 b 0.9, or a 0.8 b 0.7

It's a convenient way to explain gender to nerds, and remember that there are error bars on each number that vary over a lifetime.


Unfortunately, your specification of the "B" category appears to leave no room for a distinction between, say, a guy who likes uber-masculine men and uber-feminine women, versus a guy who likes humans more toward the center of the scale. (I assume the first guy would like 0.1 and 0.9 people, and you'd record it as the average, 0.5; and the second guy would obviously like 0.5's.)

Clearly we would need a graph with a bunch of data points representing the person's attraction to humans everywhere along the gender scale. For example, at a resolution of 0.1:

  gender score: attractiveness
  0.0: ----------------
  0.1: ----------------
  0.2: -------------
  0.3: ---------
  0.4: ---
  0.5: --
  0.6: ----------
  0.7: ----
  0.8: -
  0.9: ----
  1.0: --------------
And while we're at it, why don't we add scales for attractiveness due to body type, perceived youthfulness, hair color, etc. (Let's hope they can be considered independently. Dear god, the complexity if that weren't the case--I suspect it isn't...) Methinks this is a problem that could suck up as much, or as little, effort as you're willing to put into it.

Some people--probably people who spend a lot of time dating, and who are attractive enough to be able to choose for whatever traits they want--would actually find useful the ability to specify things like that. Others might not care, or might not even know what difference most of these traits make to them (I would probably fall into this last category). Mmm, it might be interesting to see what the hardcore daters would discover about their own preferences (and how they might change over the course of dating). Does anyone know of any interesting studies or results in this area?


Interesting thoughts, and I agree with most of them. Perhaps you could think of my two number scale as a first approximation...? :)


I don't know how much has your technique been exposed to the scrutiny of gay people, neither I want to be overly critic... But just be aware that many gay men are far from identifying with being "ideally female", and many gay women are far from identifying themselves as "ideally male".

Making gender one-dimensional is of course richer than using a boolean flag, but I think the problem is even more complicated than that.

EDIT: as gjm11 states, I'm wrong and your scale is indeed two dimensional, as in one might feel a (wo)man and be attracted to a (wo)man.


yid's scale doesn't propose conflating homosexuality with gender inversion, and ver[1] examples put the "gay male" at the same place on the gender scale as the "hetero male". That's the whole point of proposing two numbers.

[1] I normally don't use these funny gender-neutral pronouns, but here it seems called for.


I like this idea. Could be useful when doing some fuzzy computations.

EDIT According to the comment by walrus down the thread (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2741580), we should upgrade this system to use three numbers :).


[deleted]


"Now you forgot the bisexuals! ;p"

You know, I thought that at firs too. I was going to say that it doesn't make sense to say a bisexual has B=0.5 and that we should have B_male and B_female. However, as I tried to think of a situation where you'd want to split that into two dimensions, I couldn't come up with one. As long as we read B as a relative preference it makes sense to say bisexuals have B = 0.5.


It seems that giving people an option to make it non-public would be sufficient. That's not a crazy corner case, really.


Yup I see it as an oversight.

While I believe that people get overly sensitive about gender (or any politicall-incorrectness), I also believe that it is in their right to do so, and if Google does fulfil this request then all the better for it.

Aside, though, this post by Randall seems a little overkill at this stage... unless Google has taken an obvious stance on the issue there is no reason to take umbrage.


He's making a point since this is such a frequently overlooked issue. By raising awareness, other companies and startups are less likely to make this mistake.


> seems a little overkill at this stage

Better to correct earlier than later.

> no reason to take umbrage.

I don't see umbrage, just a desire to have something fixed.


I vote for the solution below which asks "how do you wish to be identified" instead of "what is your gender".


Which is larger? The number of people who would object to "what is your gender" on weird-ass gender politics grounds, or the number of people who would object to "how do you wish to be identified?" on the grounds that it's ridiculous politically correct pandering to weirdoes? I don't just "wish to be identified" as a man... I am a man, and I have the external sexual organs, facial hair, Adam's apple and XY chromosomes to prove it.

Someone's always gonna complain, no matter what you do.


This fixes the issue of "there's more to gender than male/female/other", but it doesn't fix the issue of "women might not want to get sexualized comments sent to them".


I vote for the text field option.


Relavant: Diaspora does (or did) exactly that.

http://www.sarahmei.com/blog/2010/11/26/disalienation/

HN thread: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1944628

Slightly less relevant: gender done right by, of all things, a social networking game.

Here's a review: http://borderhouseblog.com/?p=3053


The range of answers you get when you give a free text entry field is wonderful, and proves why this is the best route.

On matters like forced revealing of gender, my gender is rage.

I'm in the process of trying to convince an genderfork academic I'm friends with to actually put a 20 marks question on an exam "what is your gender?".


Anyone care to explain why they're downvoting this?


I found the comment quite difficult to parse. I'm guessing that is why.


To be fair, it actually is hard to parse - I'm re-reading it, and trying to work out how to word it better, but the fact that I'm actually using a freeform gender, and the academic term genderfork, makes it hard to see how.

I'll have another stab later if I have time - My gender is currently busy.


I'm with you!

It would also be ideal, given the current sexist state of language, to add a combo box to choose if you want to be refered to as "he", "she", or, in what now seems like a distant utopia, gender-neutrally, obviously given each language possibilities. That would be so much a big step into having gender equality on the net that the fact no big social network has done it yet tells us about how misunderstood a problem discrimination and biases towards sex and gender are.


The user specifies what pronouns to use, and perhaps there would be default values (or you could fill them all in by selecting a "traditional" option). I actually really like this idea. Users would be able to hide their gender if they wanted, and if they wanted to use something like "he or she/him or her/his or her" or "ey/ey/eir", they would be able to just fill it in, and the system would use it in its automatically generated notifications and stuff (Alex posted a comment on eir webzone). This would give us an easy way to gain exposure and experience to the various attempts at creating gender-neutral singular third-person pronouns, and maybe figure out which ones are good (or whether it's worth bothering about).

Also, it might allow for funsies like this.

  Possessive: His Majesty's
  Subjective: His [random from: Awesomeness, Sleepiness, Whimsy]


I pity the people working on localization if you have that system.

Also, some languages, for example Finnish, doesn't have gender-specific 3rd person pronouns, so giving them that option wouldn't make any sense to them.


Male, female, other, and leave blank / prefer not to disclose are all the options I would list. It's important to allow women and men who do not want to disclose their gender that option. It's also important to allow people who would like to list their gender as other to do so. Gender is an extremely tricky issue. Whatever you do, I recommend NOT listing "male to female" or anything of that sort. Transgendered people identify, from my understanding, as their adopted (actual) gender, not the one society would often assume them to have. I hope this helps.


>Secondly, do you think that "other" is enough? To what lengths should developers go to handle rare corner cases?

Other is enough. It covers all the possible alternate cases. If the person really doesn't identify with either gender, they can select it. If they don't want it to be public, it's broad enough that selecting it doesn't reflect anything on the person, especially if they post pictures(like several people in the "other" camp do in the comments have).

Randall even admitted in his blog post that it's simply not worth the effort to cover all the possible cases. The problem with this entire thing is that it's so complicated. The original survey apparently wasn't good enough for a segment of the population, and the question was framed for pure genetics. You're damned if you do and damned if you don't, because you'll get complaints no matter what you do.


FTA:

>> Our culture's relentless treatment of women as objects teaches them that they are defined by the one thing that men around them want from them—men who are usually bigger, stronger, and (like any human) occasionally crazy. This feeling—often confirmed by actual experiences of harassment and assault—can lead, understandably, to a lifetime of low-level wariness and sense of vulnerability that men have trouble appreciating. <<

I want to comment on the attitude Randall is projecting in the above referenced quote. It's a commonplace attitude in the modern world today. That a woman's only protection is a man's forbearance. I feel this attitude is also toxic to our social fabric -- it really is just another form of gender bias. Attitudes like this lead to strange unintended consequences: Single, unmarried men cannot be seated next to unaccompanied minors on a plane. Men are now less likely to come to the aide of a screaming or crying child in public.

Just because some Vikings rape and pillage does not mean that all men do. Just because my grandfather was of German descent and fought in WWII should you assume he was a Nazi (he was a medic for the Allies).

Google+ is supposed to have privacy options "superior to facebook". (And considering they also have access to our search history and email, they had better be). Women online (and this is likely not their first social networking experience) have the same access to those privacy tools as everyone else. Let them block the harassers and those that objectify them.

(But still some really good points made about co-opting "Other").


    Many women grow up with a sense of physical 
    vulnerability that's hard for men to appreciate. Our 
    culture's relentless treatment of women as objects 
    teaches them that they are defined by the one thing 
    that men around them want from them—men who are 
    usually bigger, stronger, and (like any human) 
    occasionally crazy. This feeling—often confirmed by
    actual experiences of harassment and assault—can lead,
    understandably, to a lifetime of low-level wariness
    and sense of vulnerability that men have trouble 
    appreciating.
This is so absolutely dead right on the money, I find myself wondering where a male author gets such an insight. I feel this way, and I was raised in idyllic suburban circumstances surrounded by loving and honorable men.

(Edit: Here's an old comment of mine on the phenomenon of women preferring gender anonymity online: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=750413 )


The linked essay[1] is worth reading. I had no idea that sex testing was so complicated - it explained to me a lot about why sex-testing for (usually) women's sport isn't as simple as I'd assumed.

[1] http://linuxmafia.com/faq/Essays/marriage.html


i agree that it is a complex issue. the problem is that he negates his argument by saying "many women" and trying to say what they feel. "many women" is pretty much a gender enhancing phrase


I actually think that "many women" isn't exaggeration.

Similar issues are discussed frequently in many forums. It's only you don't know what you don't know!

Edit: Ok. I exaggerated. But we really don't know.


I don't get this trend at all. Something is wrong with priorities and perceived risk vs. real risk. It's pretty difficult to assault someone physically over the internet (http://bash.org/?4281). On the other hand, woman broadcasts her gender when in public. Will x years from now we all be walking in some kind of uniform enclosures as to protect from anyone knowing if one is male or female?

Also, in some languages name is very clear indication of the gender. And even some ambiguous nickname won't help, because in some languages you usage of verbs, adjectives etc. differs depending on gender.

Recently I saw a story about some kindergarden in Sweden where kids were not allowed to say "he" or "she" when talking about person but rather had to use something equivalent to "it" (I don't think English has equivalent to that, Russian language has "оно" for neuter nouns). To me it looks extremely stupid. But I guess it is easier just to ignore our differences than teach to cherish them and respect the other side.


It has nothing to do with assault over the internet and everything to do with the way others perceive you. I would love to imagine I live in a world where it doesn't matter what chromosomes and sex organs you were born with, and really, I have kind of found that in the Cocoa developer community. That is why I enjoy talking to those people.

But just /join an IRC channel with a female nickname. Play online games and talk with a female voice. Someone somewhere is going to make some kind of fuss over it and it is incredibly annoying. I like to do things like raid in WoW...and most raids want people to join ventrilo/mumble voice chat. I never talk unless a friend is in there with me or unless I hear another female voice. Period. I do not want to hear "IT'S A GIRL (or prepubescent boy)!! /whisper Can I see your tits?".

So I may not care about hiding my gender on my google+ profile because it's mostly just a bunch of people that know me already some other way in circles, but there are definitely places where even my thick skinned attitude towards "tits or gtfo" can't help and I don't want anyone to know what I might be. I understand some people may think that about google+ and fully respect and support their desire for such a feature.

I can't say I know the best way to deal with this problem, but I don't think it has as much to do with ignoring differences as much as it is not infusing our own gender biases into the way children think and learn about how to interact with each other. In a way, ambiguity can foster a sense of respect (or at least, caution).

There is no other reason for me to be running around with gender ambiguous usernames on websites, IRC, chat, and more where I am interacting with people I don't know.


As a random suggestion for the WOW raids, might it be possible to use software to distort your voice so that it sounds male (or at least androgynous)? Come to think of it, even males might want to do that so they can have, like, a really deep voice that sounds like the big heavy warrior character they're playing, or maybe an old gravelly voice if they're playing a wizard--or a female voice if their character is female, for that matter.

Does anyone else think that would be a cool idea?


I've considered it! I used to play with someone that liked doing that to poke fun at someone else who had one of the deepest voices I had ever heard, too.

I think the problem would lie in that the distortions might make it harder to understand someone. The primary goal of talking is to draw attention to a problem or strategy, not to make it harder to understand someone. Hard enough time doing that with accents and varied dialects and fluency of English :(

Usually when I am in a situation where I don't want to talk, I just say that I'm listening but I don't have a mic. It's usually not a problem because I type fast enough that I can yell in text without needing to pause playing my character.


There is free (as in beer) software to change the pitch of voices:

http://www.screamingbee.com/product/MorphVOXJunior.aspx


As an experiment, I spent nearly two years in a community of people my age (16-25, mostly 18-20) of all genders, advertising myself as a girl and communicating in a relatively gender-neutral way. I marked my gender as "Other" and only claimed to be a girl when queried directly, with the response "I'm a girl."

My experience was that girls seek the camaraderie of other girls online, and tend to be more aggressive about privately establishing lines of communication outside chat rooms, but otherwise there's very little difference in the way that people act towards people that they suspect to be girls online. Notably, there were just as many sexual or suggestive advances from women as there were from men.

The punchline, of course, is convincing people that "MostAwesomeDude" is a girl, but that's not exactly magic.


I have had that experience in some communities. I have not in others. Like I said, the Cocoa developer community? I have a hard time thinking of the last time I had a problem with someone. Online gaming? It happens half the time I open my mouth to talk. Sometimes it's just honest surprise, like a guy I know that was shocked the person he talked to occasionally over text and had respect for being pretty good at what I played was female the whole time. Most times it's just someone being an idiot. Usually the latter seems to be because there is some kind of anonymity involved (see also: http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/3/19/). It's one thing to be `YouJustGotOwned` in a game or `foobar` on irc, it's another to be talking from a twitter account that is associated with your name, company and professional reputation, for example.

> Notably, there were just as many sexual or suggestive advances from women as there were from men.

Well, two things:

1. I never claimed women weren't capable of doing that. I have participated in female-majority communities where the men were hit on and treated badly, and I didn't like it. Everyone needs to treat others with respect as much as possible.

2. A big part in whether or not that is acceptable behavior from anybody is if the other person is/people are okay with it. I feel okay flirting and hitting on others when I know the interest is mutual, and I don't feel bad doing it. I can be as sexually suggestive and crude as I want in front of friends and people I know. What is distasteful is doing this to someone that doesn't want any part of it. What is also distasteful is misreading someone's behavior as implicit permission to do things like hit on them.

> otherwise there's very little difference in the way that people act towards people that they suspect to be girls online

I like to subscribe to the theory that the vast majority of people are somewhat reasonable. Most of the time there isn't a difference and that is where I'm perfectly fine being open about who/what I am. It's definitely a small minority (and partially due to selection bias) that can cause headaches though, and they're not always obvious or in public. That doesn't mean they don't exist.


Counter-points:

* When you're a women on a forum/chat/irc/etc, you are pretty much guaranteed to get a deluge of messages/comments/etc from guys, especially socially awkward guys that would never think of attempting such a thing in person.

* You're missing out on this: http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/3/19/

* It's easy for people to develop obsessions at a distance that are based on no actual reality before ever meeting someone in person. See celebrity stalkers for examples. Most of these cases are people that have never actually met the celebrity in question, but are in full out crazy mode by the time that they enter physical proximity to the celebrity.

* There's a difference between inferring gender, and broadcasting it. From the article this is portrayed as the difference between saying, "Hi, I'm Randall," and "Hi, I'm Randall and I'm a man." While both of these statements may seem logically equivalent (since you could deduce gender from the name), they are not equivalent in human interactions.


Black people broadcast their skin color when in public. In some languages, name is very clear indication of race. Therefore, let's add a drop-down to your profile so you MUST choose from one of the following: White, Black, Other.


> kids were not allowed to say "he" or "she" when talking about person but rather had to use [a gender-neutral pronoun]

At first, that struck me as excessive, too, but on the other hand, I can't help but wonder how much of an effect language has on the way people think, and gender-specific pronouns are something that really reinforces the concept of "other".

There's no logical reason for encoding gender into the grammar of a language, particularly as opposed to some other construct that would be better at distinguishing between multiple subjects in the same passage.

Of course, I wouldn't go to the extent of forcing children to use non-standard language, but I can't disagree with the idea that we'd be better off switching to gender-neutral pronouns.


Lets propose that you have a child, and in your wisdom, decide that letting your child roam on the streets is low risk and thus ok.

Do you then proclaim to everyone that they must let their children roam alone on the streets as the real risk is low?

What is important is people have a choice to act on their perceived risks. In your example, the ability to wear clothes to hide their gender is their choice, it is not imposed on them.

In this case, they do not have a choice that is sufficiently suitable.


It wasn't 'it'. It was hen, which comes from a mix of hon (her) and han (him), often used in litterature and online to avoid assumption about gender online. It has a very different meaning from it, since it obviously refers to a person of either gender. :)

I'd say that it's all ABOUT cherishing the differences.

Whether people like to or not, they force a whole bunch of assumptions and expectations on children about gender, and I don't think it's much of a stretch to think or notice that they pick up on it.

These people just try to decide and control what notions and expectations about gender and identity they give.

As an example, they had the 'boy' toys with the 'girls' toys to try and remove the notion that such things existed, to avoid that those children both don't have normal gender-identities but who wants to follow the expectations of adults and authorities would feel comfortable, and ideally not even think of feeling uncomfortable, with their choices or preferences.

They didn't force the children to play with all the toys if they didn't want to, they just tried to remove barriers created by society to allow them to be different or themselves, if that ended up being a stereotypical pink-princesses loving girl, or a boy who loves soldiers and trucks: that's perfectly fine.

But not EVERY child are these. I at least believe we should try to let those who aren't be what they are, just as we should allow those who are to be what they are.

[edit] added a smiley so it would come off as less aggressive. [/edit]


It's not a "trend". We came out of the cave and realized that gender is not a simple binary. Or are you under the impression that it is?


> We came out of the cave and realized that gender is not a > simple binary

That's a bad reason to pretend gender differenced do not exist.


  > I don't get this trend at all. Something is wrong with
  > priorities and perceived risk vs. real risk. It's pretty
  > difficult to assault someone physically over the internet
  > (http://bash.org/?4281). On the other hand, woman
  > broadcasts her gender when in public. Will x years from
  > now we all be walking in some kind of uniform enclosures
  > as to protect from anyone knowing if one is male or female?
It's not that easy... Are you for instance aware that many would argue there are more than two genders? And they may use not only social but also biological arguments?

Also supposedly we as humans use technology to improve our quality of life and to sometimes tame what we don't like about the current rules nature has us living in. Why shouldn't we build technology so that one can chose to not broadcast gender information? I mean, it's not as difficult as the uniform enclosures, and for example we do build dams should someone believe changing the course of a river is for the good of a bunch of people.

To answer to your own analogy with one of my own, if we could make an Android app that makes everybody on the street ignore our gender when interacting with us publicly, would it be wrong to use it if I wanted to?

  > Also, in some languages name is very clear indication of
  > the gender. And even some ambiguous nickname won't help,
  > because in some languages you usage of verbs, adjectives
  > etc. differs depending on gender.
Modern language is also somewhat a technological creation, we do study and shape language in a daily basis... and yes, it's currently sexist. That doesn't mean we shouldn't discuss and act in ways between our reach to make our social networks less sexist.

  > Recently I saw a story about some kindergarden in Sweden
  > where kids were not allowed to say "he" or "she" when 
  > talking about person but rather had to use something 
  > equivalent to "it" (I don't think English has equivalent 
  > to that, Russian language has "оно" for neuter nouns). To
  > me it looks extremely stupid. But I guess it is easier just 
  > to ignore our differences than teach to cherish them and
  > respect the other side.
One could discuss for years about to what extent those differences and sides are themselves social constructs that are today imprinted on our language... but I myself believe it would be difficult to any of us to sum it up as cleanly and insightfully as Hofstadter has already done in http://www.cs.virginia.edu/~evans/cs655/readings/purity.html (which reading I recommend, and has already been discussed here http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1421022)


I've always found Munroe's position on gender equality weird - despite what he says, he 'others' women in his main work. Female stick figures have long hair, even if the strip has nothing to do with gender. Male stick figures have no such indication. That is: 'male' is 'default'.


I fail to see how the males aren't just the female stick figure with short hair. Your viewpoint is at fault here, not the comics.

I see what you mean in a way - that the male stick figures don't have long hair. Again, though, this is only your viewpoint - very rarely is the stick figure's gender actually mentioned in the text of the comic or otherwise. Besides, not all females have long hair, many of the not-overtly-female stick figures may also be female despite not having long hair. Only your viewpoint, again.

The internet: where you can argue about the gender of stick figures.


Well, a couple of things here. Firstly, when the gender of a character is revealed, it's in line with what I've said. There are no long-haired males or hairless females.

Secondly, long hair denoting femaleness is a cartoon trope and that's how it's used in xkcd (note my issue is not the trope itself here, but that it is used by someone who says they're passionate about equality). Using your argument, you could argue that the cartoon characters with long eyelashes and pink bows in their hair could be male, but of course in real terms that's never how they're seen.


I see what you're saying, but I don't think these two are in any way inconsistent. Gender equality starts with breaking down people's assumptions. If people just saw stick figures, I think they'd assume they were male. Thus, to break that assumption, he needs to do something to make it clear that some of them are women. So, if he has scientists talking about something, having half of them be women should, hopefully, ingrain a little more that women can be scientists.


The male stick figures have short hair, as is typical of men in the society from which XKCD originates. Your criticism is very strained.


I find your defense very strained - essentially you're saying that Munroe draws 'stick figures with hair' and it is just coincidence that male 'stick figures with hair' are indistinguishable from a normal stick figure.

This is part of the 'othering' of women - "you look different to what 'normal' looks like".

In any case, common male hairstyles in anglo societies still stand out from the head, as much as the non-dangling part of ponytails.


One advantage of publicly disclosing information about gender is that you know it's public. It's possible to glean someone's gender from the language they use (see http://bookblog.net/gender/genie.php), meaning people who kept their gender private may be lulled into a false sense of security. Admittedly I still agree that you should always have to option to select which of your details to make public (or to limit which groups/circles this information is available to), but thought I'd chuck in a counter argument to keep things interesting.


He's quite a bit harsh with his own culture (presumably the American culture). American culture is way ahead of most cultures in terms of respect for women. Travel to Africa, Asia or South America and you'll realize your culture isn't all that bad. (Disclosure: I'm not American)


I would argue that it's better to rate something based on how it should be, not on alternatives.

It drives me mad when people say "<so and so country> is better than <other country> because they only lock up gay people, not kill them" or "country A is better than country B because women there can go outside without a man, even if they can't vote". Sure, it might be better, but can we not agree that it's still shit?

I can't really speak to sexism in America (I'm English, and on my trips to NYC/LA I haven't personally experienced it at all) - I'm not saying you should hate America because of problems, but don't brush them away as being fine just because there are far worse situations elsewhere.


I agree with you, but in this case it seemed that the author was putting emphasis on his own culture as opposed to other cultures. Replace "Our culture" with "America" here:

> America's relentless treatment of women as objects teaches them that they are defined by the one thing that men around them want from them

I might be wrong though.


I'm not sure why Google is getting a free pass on the public profiles requirement. Every other social network I've used has an option to block search engines from indexing your profile.


I think they unambiguously want to be indexing everyone's whole social graph. Facebook and others certainly do it anyways, but under the pretense that some people are to remain hidden and others are not...


There is an option -- check near the bottom at https://profiles.google.com/me/about/edit/d .


"If you currently have a private profile but you do not wish to make your profile public, you can delete your profile. Or, you can simply do nothing. All private profiles will be deleted after July 31, 2011."

http://www.google.com/support/profiles/bin/answer.py?hl=en&#... http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2321727


That only stops Google+ internal search from returning your profile given your name. Your page is still public (and linked to by, for example, your friends' pages) so any search engine can index it.


It just ensures that I don't put much of use in my profile.


Why not simply reword the question to ask whether you prefer to be referred to as a "he" or "she"? In the rare case that it doesn't align with your genetic or anatomic gender, it's not exactly the end of the world.


At first glance at your comment I said "how would that help". Then I thought about it a second time, and I think this is actually a legitimate way to approach the problem of gender identification. So +1 for me.

Wonder what others think


Some might prefer the gender-neutral pronoun "they".

However, I think doing things this way is going to be quite difficult to implement when you consider multiple languages. Male/Female/Other with an option to hide this information is much easier a solution.


They is traditionally plural.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singular_they#Generic_they It's been around for a very long time.


Are you saying that usage is common or are you showing me the exception that proves the rule?

I Don't think I'd ever use a "They" in a way such as being described here.

"John was late for dinner. They were caught in traffic."

Or is it "They was caught in traffic." ?


> "John was late for dinner. They were caught in traffic."

It sounds ungrammatical because the gender-neutral pronoun follows a gender specific name. The actual use is more like

"A friend of mine was late for dinner. They were caught in traffic."


This conversation is regarding asocial network where your name is always public.


I'm British: I use it quite often. Maybe it's rarer in the US?

"John was late for dinner. They were caught in traffic." is perfectly correct usage (however if you'd just called somebody by a gender-specific name there's not much point in then being gender-neutral).


If you said "They" I would wonder who else was in the car with John.


That already is the definition of "gender".

The issue here is whether there should be an option to make the data non-public.


I can't imagine why I wouldn't want someone to know I prefer to be referred to as a "he"...


That sounds like a great option for use within your account. On the other hand, someone could easily want to be referred to as "he" in his UI, but not want to present that to other users.


That's because there are really two questions at play here:

1. What gender do I want to identify myself as?

2. Do I want to publicly publish this information?

The issue is being muddied because some people that answer 'no' to question #2 are using the gender of 'Other' as a hack around the system, when in reality their gender identity is not 'Other.' This in effect co-opts the gender identity of 'Other' from the people that truly want to be gender-identified as 'Other.' Now when you view a profile with a gender of 'Other' you can't be sure if the person really identifies as 'Other' or if they identify as male/female, but are trying to hide it.

We could easily frame this problem in a different light without getting into the "OMG! There are really only two genders! I hate all this PC bullshit!" discussion. If Google+ made mandatory both choosing a gender (only a binary male/female choice) and publishing that choice publicly, then a lot of women that wish to hide their gender would choose 'Male.' Now the gender field is useless because you've designed a system that doesn't fit your users' needs, forcing them to provide you with wrong information.


Some data points:

1) I'm a 6'3" brown guy. I never get heckled when I walk down the street. I'm reasonably handsome, but in general, I don't have the sense that a lot of women are checking me out as I go about my daily business.

I was surprised to learn that my wife would get catcalls when she wasn't with me in our old somewhat sketchy neighbourhood. It never happened when she was with me, so I was like "WTF, people actually do that?"

2) At a previous job, I had a long walk to the coffee shop in suburbia. One time I was walking about 20 m behind a couple of women. I found one very attractive. I noticed that almost without exception, guys driving in oncoming traffic would crane their necks to look at her. I sometimes do this too, so I'm not suggesting that this is wrong per se, but it is very noticeable.

Imagine you're just stepping out to run some errands. Almost every guy you see checks you out. I'm not going to argue about whether this is right or wrong. I'm just pointing out that many women's experiences are very different from men's. It's a weird vibe when you can't go anywhere without being obviously on display.

3) Tall people get paid more than short people. Many short people I know are very aggressive, as though they've become accustomed to defending their turf. I'm taller than almost everyone I meet, so when I'm in an elevator with someone taller, it feels wrong. Subconsciously I'm thinking about how I'd win a fight with them. You could argue that this is just weird and neurotic, but my wife says the same thing. She knows how to incapacitate a man, but again there's just this back-of-the-mind threat assessment that's overlaid on everyday situations.

4) Sexually, mechanically, it's less threatening to probe things with your appendage than to let something into an orifice. In a non-sexual context, you'd poke a lot of stuff that you wouldn't eat. In many cultures male-male anal sex isn't considered gay for the top. Only the bottom is gay. So there's probably something biological going on here.

So to all those arguing about probability of violent sexual assault, etc. You're missing the point. It's a completely different vibe, and you won't be able to speak intelligently about gender and social issues until you understand that.


EDIT> I feel different when I'm in a good neighbourhood versus a bad one. In a bad neighbourhood, I'm on guard -- my spidey-sense is tingling.

Now imagine that for roughly half the population it feels that way even in good neighbourhoods. How does it feel to always be on guard?


I'm all for not asking for gender information in the first place. It's completely irrelevant in all but very few situations. Ending up in bed with someone who has different bits than you expected, is awkward. Everything else is just pointless.

The only real reason why computer systems ask for gender information is so they can address you "properly". Some languages have neutral pronounds (their, them, etc) for that, others don't. If your users are using a language where this doesn't exist, tough luck for them. I'm sure every language at least has some kind of rule (ie "use male pronouns when in doubt") of dealing with these situations.

My Facebook profile at least has the option of not showing my gender, even if it doesn't let me select Other or NoneOfYourDamnedBusiness.


The reason is this: Advertisment!

Advertizers pay more if the ads are "targeted", the more information you have the more "segments" of customers you got. Google gets 98% their revenue from advertizing, which means they want as much information as possible to target as good as possible so that they can sell you more crap!

Just try to give as little information as possible everytime you deal with companies as google.


This seems like a really pointlessly long rant that boils down to a feature request: Change the "other" category to "other/not-disclosed".

Also do these women who don't want to disclose their gender really need Randall Munroe to file the bug report for them?


As with other minority issues, I'd imagine he's speaking out on it because he feels that:

- The population he speaks for is a minority: they aren't yet well represented within the group

- Those who are in the group may feel uncomfortable speaking out about it, particularly because they're a minority

- The issue is important enough to that minority that it may lead them to leave or not join (and so continue to be underrepresented), and the group and the minority are important enough to him that he thinks it's worth addressing.

The "long rant" serves to bring attention to the significance of the issue, as does the fact that someone so well known is taking the time to make it.


"Also do these women who don't want to disclose their gender really need Randall Munroe to file the bug report for them?"

That's disingenuous. He's simply acting as a good "beta tester" by filing a report on what he sees as a bug. I don't think he's setting himself up as "representing women", just someone who noticed a problem and has the ability to act on it (which is true of very few people in this case; how many Google+ users have used the feedback option?)


>which is true of very few people in this case; how many Google+ users have used the feedback option?)

I have, but for more mundane UI issues. Though I suspect that Mr. Munroe has considerable amplification power of his opinions. I have multiple reshares of that post at this point.


"Also do these women who don't want to disclose their gender really need Randall Munroe to file the bug report for them?"

He's someone who gets listened to.


The feature request is to add the ability to hide your gender, not to institutionalise co-opting of "other" as "not disclosed".

I bet the post was read by a lot more people because it was written by Randall Munroe.


I understand the issues that arise with forcing people to expose more about themselves, than they are comfortable with. From a personality standpoint, my google+ account is a well defined sliver of who I am as a whole, by design. Mostly because I consider it something that could be put on a resume.

As far as the social issues of such public knowledge, I wonder, is hiding from the problem, by sexually, racially, and or religiously homogenizing profiles ever going to help cure the problem in society that makes, making these things public, an issue? Certain males, act like jackasses around women, is putting them in an isolated bubble going to cure the problem?

Does training people that you can't say xy or z around people of a certain race, stop them from being racist? It just makes them Pavlov's Dog, they know saying those things are socially bad, and keep saying and doing the same exact things, when society is more lax about those things being said or done to a different group of people, say, homosexuals.

Sure it makes it harder for them to find people to act that way around, making it seem like its less of an issue, but does nothing to change the mentality that causes the behavior, they'll just find someone else to do it to, that is more socially acceptable, like Muslims. Hiding from it, is not the way, dealing with it, which is going to cause some discomfort is the you cure it.


Are you saying you should be allowed to use racial slurs because disallowing people to say them doesn't make them less racist?


Well technically you can use racial slurs all you want, the only thing stopping people, is the social circles around them's willingness to accept such behavior. Or if you are a media figure, loosing your job.

If it was me, I'd rather know they were, than have them hide it, at least I would know who I could trust. And I think once exposed, its a problem that could be better dealt with. Instead of teaching people just keep those thoughts to your self, and let your racist, sexist, ways come out more passively. Which allows people to constantly be suspicious about other peoples motives and causes a lot of tension between people.

Though admittedly, getting people to stop needing some other group to put down, so they can feel better about themselves, is not ever going to be easy. Its a shame, in the "survival of the fittest" certain members of the species, find it easier to hold people down, than excel at it themselves. But we are what we are, and have been. At some point in our history there may have been a point to all this, but not anymore. Maybe it made more sense when we were doing these things over food, because there wasn't enough? Who knows.

I think its more effect to actually talk to people about why they think this way, what caused it. It was socially acceptable when they were kids, some one picked on them, stole their girl friend, cultural conflicts, etc. Getting to the root of the problem, than just telling them, you can't say it, but keep on thinking it.


Is there any particular reason that Buzz and Plus need public profiles? I really like Plus, but I have a friend who has voiced a few significant concerns where it defaults to public on some occasions(such as when you change your picture). Especially given that Plus is so integrated with the rest of Google's services, I want to fully understand the privacy implications before committing to it.


So he's saying extend the ability to make profile details private to the gender field. Sounds fine and logical to me.


i'd love to know what makes "Radall" the expert on what "Many women grow up with"


I've seen a video of Randall talking about a variety of stuff (I think it was "Google Tech Talks" or so), and I got the impression that he just talks to people, and listens to what they say. While reading his comics I also thought multiple times that he must be a very good observer.

That doesn't necessarily make him an expert in the sense that conducting a scientific study would make him, but it's still worth listening to him.


i don't doubt it. i just question his ability to talk about what many women feel. how many women do you have to "talk to", "listen to" and "observe" before you can consider yourself to be assigning what "many woman feel" without ever being capable of feeling it yourself?


We all draw conclusions about the feelings of groups of people without experiencing what the group actually feels. Making observations and conclusions based on those observations is necessary to reason. "Many women that I've talked to" should be the read version of all group observing statements. Then the conversation can continue about how someone else's observations may differ.


Reading the article, I also get the feeling that he can't have so much experience in this topic. What he says sounds logical, but doesn't really acknowledges all the aspects. Also I have a quite different view about how women view men, even those, who actually have really bad experiences with men.


He's the King Arthur of the White Knights of the Internet.


<I arleady replied to another posts of yours. But here it is :) >

Incidentally a few women expressed similar opinions a few years ago on two other forums I visited.

Really, if he used "some women" (edit: or many women I know) would you have any objection?


<I arleady replied to another posts of yours. But here it is :) >

Incidentally a few women expressed similar opinions a few years ago on two other forums I visited.

Really, if he used "some women" would you have any objection?


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