Apparently I’m a Man on the Internet?
So a friend of mine recently started a weird, slightly mean internet project of sorts which I thought spoke to a lot of what we’ve been talking about in this class. Let me just preface by saying I do not approve, and I have made this clear to my friend. So, my friend knows a guy at college who keeps a blog, which my friend describes as “hilarious,” and not in an intentional way. It’s one of those personal blogs that maybe three people read, and those three people all know the author personally. So my friend (and my friend’s roommates) decided to start a blog pretending to be a girl, and have slowly started posting on the guy’s blog– with the objective of eventually striking up an internet relationship of sorts. My friend and his roommate are all guys. They’ve described what they’re doing- the act of pretending to be someone else on the internet, as “fun.” They can talk about the personality of “Mel” (their female alter-ego) at incredible length and detail, as well as her relationship to the internet and her blog. In order to seem “more female,” they’ve been using The Gender Genie , an application which analyzes text and tells you whether the author is “male” or “female” and how many points “male” or “female” they are.
I decided to test the Gender Genie myself, and it told me I was male three times (I used the paper I wrote for this class, a personal blog entry, and an entry from this blog). When I pasted in a short story I wrote, it told me I was female. I’m female-bodied and identify as such. The algorithm that the Genie is based on, from what I can tell, basically thinks that analytical= male, personal= female. One of my friend’s roommates (who has been participating in the “Mel” blog farce,) used the Genie on his personal writing and came out “female’ every time, which he reacted to rather badly.
So, my question is, if something like this is “wrong” most of the time, what’s the point? Does it retain any of it’s usefulness as a tool? Or, does it’s usefulness lie in the very fact that it is wrong, which allows us to further explore the constructs that surround the idea of gender as dichotomous?