Friday, February 3, 2012

I Write Letters

I'm so excited to finally be using this title!

So as most polo players are already aware, there's a new website in town: It's being used to track team and player statistics throughout the major tournaments of the season, and act as a registration tool for tournament organizers. While there are some technical and design issues which could be debated, my problem is with the site's presentation of gender.

[click to enlarge]
This is a screencap of the registration page for the Desert Polo Invite, taken on 2/3/12. Notice anything yet?

How about on this page, where players are sorted by who's logged the most miles traveled?
That's right. Every woman on the site is followed around by a Venus symbol. There is no Mars symbol for the male players, because as we all know they'rethenormalonesamirite? As such, this extra line of coding is seriously Othering to the women of bike polo.

Which brings me to my next point. There are only two choices on the 'gender' tab of a player's profile, as shown above. The default for all players when they first sign up for the website is male. I found this very offensive, and immediately changed my gender to reflect my personal identity. But now I find myself stuck in this catch-22, where I must either be disingenuous to my chosen gender identity, or be forever marked as Different from the other players on the site.

So earlier today, I sent Zach (who built the site) this letter:

Hey Zach,

I would like to request that you remove the coding that places a Venus symbol next to the names of every user listed as female on the website. Several other players and I have discussed the matter, and we find it to be an offensively unnecessary demarcation. We believe that the women of bike polo should be able to be viewed equally and not alienated from their peers.

In addition, we would like to request that you make the default player “unspecified” in gender. The default human is not male, and it is unfair to support the patriarchal assumption that this is the case.



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