The Sexist

Is the Facebook Avatar a Dude?

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!:

All 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.

  • Rafael Marquez

    This was good! I never saw it as male or female or of any particular race, I saw it as a generic person icon. I'm glad I wasn't the only person who sees that avatar that way.

  • Damian

    Socialogical images need to find something more productive to argue about. :D

  • Amanda Hess

    Unfortunately I believe they are confined to sociological images.

  • Ashley

    So what? Who cares? And yes, that guy in the photograph looks like the Facebook avatar.

  • Amanda Hess

    "You're boring, and you look like a man."


  • Justin ‘PenaltyKillah’ Lai

    I guess Sociological Images was all fired up... but here's the deal:

    Facebook's default avatar is also the male avatar used in the 'global connection' image on Facebook's sign-up page. A separate female avatar was also created for that purpose.

    When a stick figure is drawn, with no hair or a little, it is immediately considered to be 'male' by, well, at least by a lot of people. Only when the hair flows down to shoulder-length and a skirt is added does the stick figure be considered as 'female'. (Bon Jovi stickmen will never be mistaken! lol)

    No offence, Amanda, if that's your picture above. I think we can all agree that your hairdo isn't stereotypically feminine, but who cares about that? Definitely not me. ;)

    (And here's an idea: why not the Facebook guys or gals (<- for political correctness) replace the default avatar with the female one from that sign-up image, just for a day? Let's see how many users will care about that. And those biologists say female is the default gender of an unfertilized embryo,,, ( How ironic!

  • Mindclot

    Ok well I see what your saying I have to say that if you don't like the option you can simple upload your down photo to your profile or use the female version provided. You got to realize in most countries women have thier hair long as men have them short. Its more of a western culture that has reverse the roles of gender, now a days men are wearing their hair longer, use make up, have earrings and seem to be going through the same physical and mental problems of mainstream medias views of what they should look like.

    The world turns things change and life definitely isn't fair.

  • Dave

    "And those biologists say female is the default gender of an unfertilized embryo. How ironic!"

    You mean the genetic material carried by a woman is exclusively female!? How ironic indeed!

    On topic, I always assumed it was the silhouette of the dude that made that placeholder graphic. You're supposed to add your own pictures silly.