Facebook’s ‘Female Trouble’

Last Wednesday, a crowd of protesters descended on Facebook’s Madison Avenue office, demanding that everyone’s favorite shame-sharing platform diversify its board of directors to include women. The protestors, organized by the advocacy group Ultraviolet, delivered a petition signed by 53,000 non-gender specific persons, or approximately .000066 percent of Facebook’s 800 million active users. To use a phallocentric simile, these protestors are like sperm: miniscule, but capable of causing some serious anxiety if not handled correctly. I don’t think it’s necessary, or even desirable to force Facebook to institute an affirmative action-style system to add women to its board. Mark Zuckerberg and his Beastly Boys would probably just pick the applicants with the largest cup size as revenge. Still, this protest is a symptom of two things: 1. Sexism and gender are extant, and 2. Facebook clearly doesn’t understand its target demographic. Facebook should seriously reconsider whether it is, as M-dog claims, gender neutral in its board selection, or perpetuating one of the most lucrative frat parties in the world.

Facebook should diversify its board for the simple reason that a significant percentage of its users are female. It’s simply a good business model. For Facebook, a social networking site, it would probably behoove them to hire at least one qualified female board member simply because she is a woman. Sexist? No. Smart. And not just for politically correct public relations cred; some 58 percent of Facebook users are women, or reasonable facsimiles thereof. In my experience, even the most maudlin of men are annoyingly candid about their incomprehension of how women work and, how at least one of my friends puts it, “vag-speak.” Phrased in less vulgar terms, women inevitably have a different perspective than men. If Facebook got a female board member or two, there would be fewer awkward instances of Facebook removing “pornographic” pictures of women breast-feeding and tacitly approving pages that advocate violence against women. Facebook would be a better product simply because it would be more appealing to both women and men.

That said, Facebook is a private company, not a government institution. We can opt-out at any time of this imagined community of ill-advised drunk photos and “I cans Haz yo num8a?!” events. As powerful as Marky Mark is, if you defect from Facebook, his funky-fresh Gestapo is not going to come after you. One naive protester called on Facebook’s female users to “boycott Facebook every Monday until the company adds at least one female member to its board.” I’m not sure why Monday is optimal protest day, but let me say this: if you’re going to protest, be consistent and firm. Otherwise, you sound like an alcoholic who swears he can quit “anytime,” while taking swigs out of his mouthwash bottle. Boycott Facebook entirely, 24/7. If enough Facebook users suddenly defected, that would make a statement. Actually, these ladies (and gents) need to hook up with Anonymous, and do some real damage.

Here’s the thing: getting Facebook to break up its patriarchal circle jerk is not, and should not be, an end in itself.

Facebook’s board is just a symptom of a larger institutional and social problem. Of Fortune 500 companies, 11.3 percent have all-male boards, and a grand total of twelve of those companies have female C.E.O.’s. This doesn’t surprise me; despite the fact that women earn a higher percentage of the bachelor’s degrees and it’s been scientifically proven that women can, in fact, get through an entire board meeting without crying or having their period or both, many top industries remain complete sausage fests. There is not a dearth of qualified female applicants for these jobs. We still live in a society that facilitates advancement for men and hinders women, for a number of reasons, some insidious, most just comfortable holdovers from the quaintly sexist era recently made cool again by Don Draper.

This isn’t gender-warfare rhetoric; society as a whole loses out when talented people are discriminated against, explicitly or implicitly, on the basis of their gender (or race, nationality, religion or sexual orientation). Let me encourage Facebook to take the “no girlz allowed” sign off its clubhouse door.

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