On March 7 I texted Cha Cha to ask for a reminder of what Rikers Island in New York was. I got the following response in a text message from Cha Cha*:
The two options were really distasteful to me personally, but I also took issue with the principle of dichotomizing gender and refusing to provide service until I chose one gender. I responded by texting back: Neither.Hey, b4 we answer, pls help us personalize ChaCha to better meet ur needs. Just answer 4 short Qs! -- Q1. What is your gender? Txt MALE or FEMALE back to us
Cha Cha did not like that, and texted the following in response:
Chick Flick or Wrestling? We need 2 know ur gender so we can send you offers u care about! Txt MALE or FEMALE to keep ChaCha-ing.I understand (although I do not like) the need for ad space in this service. I also understand that targeting ads makes them more effective. However, in the format of a texting service, targeting ads based on gender is problematic. Text messages are short correspondences and they do not serve well to accomodating the other numerous, multi-layered gender identities that many people would feel more comfortable with.
Texting basically makes it necessary to rely on a gender dichotomy that just isn't realistic for most people. Chick flick or wrestling? I like neither of those things. That's exactly why I refused to answer Cha Cha's gender question and will not be allowed to Cha Cha anymore.
*The interesting thing is that I was discussing this with two other people who use Cha Cha and neither of them has been asked to answer the gender question. I am not sure how the service chooses who has to answer the question or when.