Sociological Images accuses Facebook of sexism and ethnocentricsm for using a “white and male” image as its default avatar to represent a typical user, while opting for “orange avatars of both sexes” to represent its “global connection” capabilities.
So why does this shadowy male figure look just like me?
Sociological Images writes:
So when Facebook wants to represent global humanity, the avatars are orange and of mixed sex; when Facebook is charged with representing an individual, the avatar is white and male. This is not random or accidental. Globally, as Facebook, ironically, reminds us, people are not “white.” Representing people in this way centers men, Western countries, and whiteness (because there are non-white people in Western countries, too) and marginalizes women, non-Western countries, and non-whites (though one might argue that at least ALL of the avatars aren’t white and male).
What Sociological Images fails to note is that the Facebook avatar is only as exclusively “white” as a silhouette artist’s subject is exclusively black (which is to say, not at all). Similarly, the avatar is only as exclusively “male” as its haircut—-short hair with a funny cowlick. Nope, can’t be a woman!:
Facebook’s “global” avatars don’t represent users of both sexes—-they represent users with both long and short hair. As far as a vague shadow drawing of human can ever have a gender, the avatars looks pretty gender-neutral to me. I identify more with the short-haired “dude” than the more substantially-coiffed orange “lady.” It seems to me that the argument for a more “female” avatar is actually just an argument that the androgyn get a girlier haircut.
Perhaps Sociological Images should be asking why Facebook is so sexist and racist, but not sufficiently heteronormative? Why, Facebook, is your default avatar so vaguely androgynous for all users—-male, female, gay, straight, cisgendered and trans? Shouldn’t real men be able to choose a manlier avatar (the chin could be better-defined), and women one with a less queer-looking haircut?
I am outraged.