Gender has always been a sensitive topic when discussing social media and online worlds. Since gender is constantly updating and creating more definitions, defining oneself with a gender has been more complicated. Humphreys describes how role theory is involved with how we portray our gender and how others receive our performances. These performances often cause some of the controversy regarding gender and how we interact with other members of the community.
No matter how we portray ourselves in social media, our gender will be studied and harassed by others. Males are still depicted in stereotypical traits like being aggressive and dominant while women are being depicted as dependent and submissive. Humphreys explains how these traits can be traced from any type of interaction in social media sites, such as pictures of Facebook to trending topics of Pinterest. Even the language we use online is analyzed by our linguistic styles. With online use, men are associated with assertive language and sarcasm while women use more polite and evading language.
Despite being harassed, women have become very successful in social media by creating blogs and tips videos for standard makeup, fashion and etiquette. Humphreys points out the success is due to women staying in specific social spheres that do not cross into dominant norms, such as male dominated video games. As an avid gamer, I have noticed more women enter the gaming field and have been more accepted and respected by the audience and peers. This type of movement needs to be expanded on in different topics to allow all genders to have the option of discussing any topic in a desired field. Hopefully, women continue to push into underrepresented topics and squash gender inequalities that are present in dominant social spheres.
What I find troubling is when Humphreys discusses gender swapping to play a video game. A survey was conducted asking why gamers would gender swap instead of playing their desired gender and the result is disappointing. Many users would switch to cooperate with other players in the online game where certain genders are discriminated. Game designers allow the user to choose their gender for equal gender representation and for users to identify with their character. It’s frustrating to know that social media and communication norms about gender can inhibit others from representing themselves in different mediums. Since language can be analyzed to determine gender, the only way to ensure the other users do not know gender would be to abstain from any form of communication. Representation of gender in video games have been improving drastically in the past few years. Humphreys also stated that online games have represented women as dependent on men but that is not entirely true. Many game developers have been diminishing these roles by having strong female leads and independent female character to interact within the game. Tomb Raider has always had a female character since the 1990’s and has continued creating games that advocate for female leads.
Sexuality in online spaces have been positively evolving since the past years. Heteronormativity, assuming women desire men and men desire women, has been diminishing and moving toward accepting all types of sexuality. However, some public domain has not included homosexuality, causing users to create coded sites to communicate with others. Support forums created by social media has created a centralized community for those who wish to speak their mind. These communities will often voice key concerns and start movements to change stereotypes in social media and in the real world. Hopefully more movements are being created to improve how gender is represented and treated in social media and in the online world.