I often get comments that say “Thank you, sir” or emails through my contact forms addressed to Mr. Lorelle. In France, “Lorelle” is a last name as popular as Johnson in English countries. I understand that “Lorelle” is a tough name to identify with a sex. Not the point.
I live online in a world where we don’t care what sex you are. If you like, you could change your sex and be a female who blogs male or a male who blogs female. It’s up to you to choose your identity as well as your sex online.
Think about this concept in today’s multicultural, virtual world. In some countries, women still cannot vote, drive, work, or be seen in public without masks and covers, so the idea of a successful blogger being female often never occurs to men from those countries.
Many years ago I was helping a young Arab man on the WordPress IRC Live Chat. We solved his problem in about 20 minutes, then he graciously thanked me at the end by calling me “sir.” I thanked him for his kindness, correcting his misconception about my sex. This led to a 30 minute debate, quite colorful at times, telling me that I couldn’t be a female as I spoke code and web. Once he accepted the fact that I was female, he started drooling over me, wanting personal information and further contact as the idea of a foreign woman with a working brain was exciting – in the wrong way.
In general, two things do not matter when it comes to the online world: Age and Sex. Whether I am helping you on a forum, one of my many blogs, or through email, I do not care nor think about how old you are nor your sex. Do you?
The only time age and sex matters is when laws are being broken or age-specific content is being delivered. The rest of the time, no one should care.
I worked with the brilliant and creative genius Dave Moyer of WordCast for a couple years before I found out he was only 15 years old. What? We’d become best buddies online, working on a variety of projects and podcasts, and it never occurred to me to ask his age, nor he inquire of mine. It wasn’t until we were to meet in person when he asked if his mother could call to check me out. Confused, he explained his age. I was dumbfounded.
The stranger part of the story is that his mother never called. I waited for three days for the dreaded phone call, panicking at the thought. I asked my husband what I should say to verify I wasn’t some kind of pervert after her son, and he just laughed at me. I finally asked Dave when his mother was going to call. He said she’d “googled” me and found me worthy to hand out with her son. What in the world she could have possibly found through Google to verify my sanity and safety around her son?
It’s a question you might want to ask yourself. What could be online that might verify your stability, security, and safety to be around children – or anyone else?
Teaching web publishing, social media, and web writing, I tell my students that the only time your sex matters is if your topic is specific to your sex such as mommy and daddy bloggers, or those who make a point of being male or female as part of their blogger identity such as Grammar Girl, HotForWords with Marina Orlova, Girl’s Gone Child with Rebecca Woolf, and The Girl Who by Monica Bielanko.
The only time your age matters is when it defies expectation such as a 101 year old skateboard champion or 12 year old doctor. The rest of the time, it really doesn’t matter, and honestly, no one really cares.
Your Blog Exercise today is to double check your sex and age at the virtual door when you comment on blogs, forums, and in social media.
If sex and age matter on your site, flaunt it. Make it work for you. Be the aging tri-athelete or the genius youngster. Be the sexy female or hunky male. Make it matter.
For the rest of us, make sex and age not matter. Check your About Page and author descriptions to see how sexist or age conscious they often are and fix it. It really doesn’t matter.
Watch how you use sexist and ageist language as you write.
Teach your readers to make sex and age not matter, too. It really shouldn’t matter. The first 18 years, it matters, as does the last 18 years. Make the 50-60 years in between not focus on sex or age.
Let’s make the web a safe place for everyone to play, share, and publish irrespective of their sex or age.
By the way, knowing Dave Moyer’s age made me worry that it might change our relationship. It never has. That says something for the power and magic of the web to allow us to make the best of friends with a wide and diverse population.
Remember to include a hat tip link back to this post to create a trackback, or leave a properly formed link in the comments so participants can check out your blog exercise task.