Why Facebook changed its friends icon

Holy crap don’t they have programmers there? The site can tell what GENDER the logged in user is, and use that gender as the one in front.

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This is great, so when is facebook going to stop deleting the profiles of trans women?

This is basically just a distraction from all the misogynistic shit facebook is doing but doesn’t want to be held responsible for.


The people here that think this is striking a blow for equality are vastly overstating the significance of this gesture. The graphic artist did not even notice it until they wondered why the female glyph had a chip in it. Were folks previously upset by this icon? I see nothing to indicate as such.

Second, all the talk about ‘being in the shadows’ is someone’s interpretation - not fact. You are looking at a 2-D object and trying to determine how far back or how much smaller it is to fit a ‘in the shadow’ narrative that is in your mind. There are plenty of other people that just see two normally sized people standing close to each other. I don’t know about where everyone is from, but I generally see taller men than women. It just looks like two normal people (the height proportion looks about right) - there is no shadow cast anywhere and I don’t see the female glyph as far back from the other anyway. I would buy the ‘in the shadow argument’ if the torsos were offset (like the group icons) and not parallel on the same plane. This is almost always used to indicate different Z planes.

At the end of the day, I think the artist had good intentions. I don’t think anyone is denying that women often fall into the shadows of men. However, if the artist had done it and not blogged about it - a.) would anyone have noticed? and b.) if they did, would they have seen the same significance she did or simply thought it was a site redesign?


How many genders are there? Please list them all.

(Not, I didn’t say “sex,” I said “gender,” which aren’t the same thing. Of course, even listing “sex” gets into gray areas.)

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And yet, look what a long thread we have here. It sparked discussion!

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And possibly sucked attention from other discussions. See e.g. these two:

This happens when people overthink things.

Yes, yes, and yes. Discussing lipstick change on a pig won’t help the pig stink less.
(…mmmmm bacon…)

Facebok policies are actively endangering quite a number of people. An imperceptible-if-you-aren’t-told-about-it icon tweak won’t make it any better.

Congratulations on the most comprehensive I’m Not Interested in This Issue So You Should Talk About These Issues That Interest Me post I’ve seen in a while!


Well, there seems to be quite an inverse relation between the number of comments and the importance of the topics. It’s not limited to this one post, sadly.

Well, this post in particular is mostly discussing whether or not this is an important topic to discuss. Which seems to happen pretty often.


That’s the thing though, In my younger days this surprised me too, how could people not just accept things that are blindingly obvious.

I’ve since come to understand how this happens and in hindsight its not very surprising at all. Because of this, I understand that merely accepting your surprise at face value is both the right thing to do because it is genuine yet condescending because it is predicated on rejecting one set of arbitrary social mores as unfit for purpose for another, also arbitrary set which is deemed (And this is the problematic bit) not only progressive but objectively true.

You didn’t say this explicitly, but being surprised that cultural signifiers exist and that most people interpret them in context appropriately is reactionary. So keep on arguing for what you believe in, that’s just great. Don’t be surprised at the surprise of your surprise unless you want me to believe that you are affecting surprise as a rhetorical device.


Sometime the demos must be saved from the ravages of the democratic free-market.

That’s not at all what I was getting at. I could be wrong, but this assumption seems to be based upon the premise that people would naturally be socialized to some social mores or other. I rejected this logic as a toddler, considering it intellectually dishonest to assume anything about people who one does not know. The motivation for doing it is simply that it would be convenient to have some predictable protocol. But without testing such schema, they are all ad-hoc protocols. It’s like the neo-conservative political philosopher Leo Strauss said, the masses need to believe the same thing in order for society to function, and it ultimately doesn’t matter what it is, or even if it is in any way true. This I think is rather cynical and sets a rather low bar for social interaction. In the real world, success tends to be based upon rapid adaptation, rather than living by axioms centuries past their sell-by dates. The trick is that it would be reactionary to correct having been “socialized” in the first place, and most people appear to have little control over their circumstances in this regard. I suppose any conditioning or training could be seen as reaction to a prior state. Also, one could assert that refusal to be socialized is itself a reactionary impulse, but this seems to have the disadvantage of both universalizing processes of socialization - as well as implying a sort of logical regress.

Also, I do not need to limit myself to what I may believe in. Part of the point I was making was that people seem to readily internalize mores which they themselves are aware (on some level) contradict their own values - or worse - which fail their auditing process as even being true or possible. If we start from a presumption of critical thinking, it might then follow to not believe everything you are told, and instead subject it to some scrutiny. For instance, if one has never had any compelling reason to internalize sexism, racism, classism, etc, then mores one may be exposed to have an uphill battle in persuading you. Adopting them could actually demonstrably anti-social, regardless of how statistically normal they may be. So when people put forth personal values and social mores which appear incompatible with each other, I can often point out, with a minimum of value judgements, that they “can’t get there from here”. My own beliefs often don’t enter into it. I prefer for people to operate free of internal contradictions, rather than adapt to me or anyone else.

From a purely robot-logic point of view, it would seem as if putting the woman in front is just as “sexist” as putting the man in front.

How do you feel about this classic business course book cover?

The two white guys winning, and the woman and the black guy losing?

Now, a purely logical critic (i.e. by a robot) would say “well, somebody’s got to win. Having it be the white guys is just random. To make the woman or the black guy win would be just as sexist and racist as making the white guys win.”

But this argument is stupid, because it ignores centuries of the staus quo being that the white guys were always in front, due to systemic sexism and racism. Having them be in front yet again doesn’t just read as a random chance, it reads as “white guys winning as always.”

Likewise, having the small woman behind the big man in the Facebook logo looks like the same recognition of the sexist status quo, the man in front, the kind that men have been trained not to see because it’s always there.

In the children’s books I read to my kid, a full nine out of ten of the characters — especially the animals who could equally be either sex — are male. Why? And if a new children’s book comes out with a similarly pointlessly-male character, and the editor pushes for it to be made a female, should the author say “well, that’s just as sexist for it to be female?”

No, small changes that symbolically push women to the front are merely attempting to provide a counter-balance to our subconscious attitude of centuries of sexism, where men being in the front is the norm.

When I google “social people icons,” they are almost all either stereotypical male symbols, or the male in front:

You don’t even need to think of this change as Facebook putting women ahead of men — it’s putting a woman in front of a man in one icon in a sea of millions of men-only or men-in-front icons.


I agree, for the most part. With the qualifier that this is still an ethnocentric/localized perspective. Because the same “systems” cannot be assumed for all times and places. Better to index it in some way, such as “in 20th century USA” or such than treating it as universal. Otherwise, it’s the same bias trap of saying “Yeah, technically, but that doesn’t matter because those aren’t the obvious examples I am talking about.”

But, this could be a regressive move for those who do not share those same attitudes, conscious or otherwise. Saying “our” to share in values you refute could be seen as dishonest, or at least assuming too much. Why not “some people’s subconscious attitudes”? It seems contradictory to suggest. on the one hand, that we are incrementally contributing to awareness - while on the other, saying that we all naturally see it the same way.

Probably a bigger problem! Who is more deserving to be a stereotype? Men or women? How is unthinkingly accepting these any better than doing so with racial stereotypes? Causally, it seems probable to me that if people refuted the stereotypes, the rest of the symbolism would effortlessly fix itself.

When it fails to be true, we can say it that way but since it is still true, it seems silly to qualify the statement.

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I can’t tell if you’re arguing a hypothetical just for the sake of arguing, or if you’re actually worried that this is a regressive move in all those woman-dominated societies who are yearning for more images of men in front.


Not at all, it seems to be the same process people often use to avoid positive change in other areas of life. Not unlike: “I can never do math”, or “I always over-eat”. The most pervasive cognitive bias many people often suffer from is that of assuming their experience to be universal. To normalize it for all people, times, and places. IIRC there is plenty of evidence that this greatly hinders people’s understanding and problem-solving abilities.

Even if it was true that all cultures everywhere have always been racist and sexist, this in no way suggests that they have all been biased for/against the same sexes or races. To assert, for instance, that white men are favored in Kenya or China could well be contra-factual. But most people seem to dismiss this out-of-hand with, “yeah, but I’m in the US, so I don’t care about that”. One might not, but this is hardly a refutation of it being ethnocentric. It’s cherry-picking to let this slide, but suggest that sexism (for instance) should be confronted.

Neither. I think it’s naive to assume that all people in any society just happen to see it the same way. And I think it’s counter-productive. Is it more likely that there is a demonstrable “collective subconscious attitude”, or that it is really an aggregate made up of differing individual attitudes? Looking for such a distinction might sound like semantic nitpicking to some, but I think these reflect fundamentally different kinds of problems, which would not be solved with the same approaches.

Who cares about all cultures everywhere? We’re (that is, everyone but you here) talking about current culture now and for the last few hundred years. Please name a current culture that isn’t racist and sexist.

Quit moving the goalposts.

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it didn’t sound okay at all.

Skepticism is not an attack, and in my opinion, however comfortable one is that they ‘know’ the opinions of others is one thing; but, however comfortable one is telling others at length what their opinion is, and how ignorant they are, and how their language skills are substandard… that sort of thing in general will be a pretty good predictor of how that person will treat women. and men. any other people really. In lots of contexts.

It’s symbolic, you might say.

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