Guestblog: user avatars and the unmarked state

This is an anonymous guestblog entry by a cultural critic, fullstack developer, and kdrama enthusiast living in North America. Geek Feminism has mildly edited and retitled it.

“what I want (well, one of many things)”

Recently I saw a news bit about an upcoming convention for, I think it was, women game-writers. There was, of course, the inevitable bit about how women don’t need their own gaming convention, and leaving out the menz, and the usual.[…]

I’m all for safe space, but now I want one in my industry. Someplace where I could post this, and know I’m talking to people who won’t act like I’m seeing things, or practically pat me on the head with the patronizing, or tell me it’s not a big deal (or that it doesn’t bother them so naturally it shouldn’t bother me) and I should get over it, or whatever. But since I can’t find that locally, it’s all y’all instead who get to share my pain. I mean, this shit really is insidious.

user-business-boss.png, user-business.png, user-female.png, user.png

user-business-boss.png, user-business.png, user-female.png, user.png


5 thoughts on “Guestblog: user avatars and the unmarked state

  1. Deborah

    Does that icon set also come with “user-black.png” or “user-latino.png” (but of course not “user-latina.png” because as we all know you can’t be TWO things that aren’t normative)? It reminds me of how Playmobil 1.2.3 used to offer a “family” and an “ethnic family”. (“Ethnic family” was later rebranded — at least in the USA — as “African American family” I believe, and now both sets are mercifully discontinued, although Playmobil still default to white for 99% of the toys not specifically labelled as exotic, ie. Native American Family. Protip, Playmobil? Using ‘native american’ doesn’t make that kit anything other than deeply racist.)

    Urgh, I feel like I’m derailing, which I’m not trying to. Just, yes, agreed 100%, the assumptions of normativity in even something as stupid as an icon set are outrageous. I mean, maybe it would be asking too much for it to respect non-binary gender (what can you do in 10×10? LJ/DW userheads are good examples of ones that don’t show a default gender, but they only allow that by making genderlessness marked as bald and faceless), but at least offer -male and -female versions of every icon, with the suffix on every one, without quite so much pink/bluing.

      1. Mary

        I’ve discussed this somewhere before I think, but it’s very easy to be Euro- or North-American-centric with animals also.

        1. jon

          I’ve thought about this some for a site I’m working on … I wound up punting: people who don’t choose a default avatar get a colored circle, with the colors chosen at random from a shortish list. It doesn’t look like anybody!!!!! Which is, in this context, an advantage.

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