This study only really begins to answer my research questions, as three and a half weeks worth of time would not permit enough opportunity to thoroughly investigate such a large Facebook group via qualitative-based study.  Nevertheless, it provides some interesting findings.  I’ve found this group to be a site for the performance of identity (gender roles) and social control, the assertion of shared knowledge/culture and group membership, a grounds for both critical and passing whimsical discourse, and even an environment that can forge discursive practices amongst its own members.  Suffice to say, stating that all this surprised, intrigued, and disturbed me is, in short, an understatement.

It is the digital architecture that has enabled this group to exist as it does.  For 200,000 people to come together in any capacity is an impressive feat, and this group does so on the principle of shared values and understandings related to gender.  Users are able to contribute asynchronously and with a measure of deindividuation, disembodiment, and with a disregard for their distance between one another.  The interface of the group channels users into certain behavioral patterns (reflexive and proactive) by encouraging connection and sharing, and displaying levels of activity and interaction.  As Caplan (2003) and McKenna and Bargh (2000) note the web brings with it a propensity for the enablement of passive individuals or those who would otherwise engage in discourse.  This group may provide an optimal outlet of (sexist and dialectic) expression for those who are finding themselves in a world that increasingly problematizes gender roles and stereotypes.

Observations of the description of the group are just the skeleton of the experience and yet they make up the bulk of what I examine here.  The real interest lies in the meat between the bones—the wall and discussion posts.  Though I haven’t had the time to really dig deeply into the discourse the clues are all there.  Post titles sprout up relating to an assumed Christian God and advice for all kinds of hopeless male romantics.  Women perform submissive or particular gender roles through their expressions in posts.  One male dared to defy the list item by item.  Half of the responses to his approach were rational and argument-based… and the other half just (assumed and) made fun of him because he couldn’t possibly have a girl friend.  The atmosphere constructs the feeling that defiance of the so-called suggestions leads to failure in the romantic universe.  The place serves as a public forum of sorts, with popular topics that might be considered disconnected, like rating other people in the group based on attractiveness or abortion, and other topics perhaps more apparently relevant, like homosexuality as a lifestyle and desired features in a potential mate.

Really, it’s not that far from what one would expect of a group with such a variety of perspectives from a youthful American audience.  The digital architecture changes some of the ways people exchange information in the joint but at the end of the day it’s the same topics of gender and sex that relate offline-world roles and statuses.  The group, if anything, reflects that these issues are still contentious offline and feminists still have their work cut out for them.  The variance in perspectives within the group and lack of consciousness in regards to its sexist nature only make this an even more daunting task.  Ulterior functions of the mandates are another question entirely.  I’d suspect on some level the author probably wishes to affirm his views and values by creating a group and seeing the support for it grow.  And on another level he likely poses the rules in such a way so that people engage with them and debate how they should be interpreted.

Gender studies (and feminist sociology) should look to Facebook as a primary performative realm where stereotypes might be influencing greater numbers of individuals than ever before.  New avenues to raise awareness and combat sexism need to be developed in response to its perpetuation online.  In the scope of Facebook this could be oppositional groups, or resistance movements.  In the face to face world it should include expanding the curriculum of gender and women studies courses to include discussion of the digital aspects of and influences on identity.  The partial answer to the question of who frequents the group helps to provide a target audience: high schoolers and youth outside of college.  The list of items indicates the gender roles and stereotypes they may believe in and the discourse surrounding reveals their interpretation.  An educator can find a good road map to assessing and addressing these beliefs.


As I’ve mentioned I wasn’t completely happy with my research.  I felt like I was too steeped in bias and that my measurements and observations were clouded heavily by my feminist perspective.  I entered the picture with a little bit of a perception of wisdom and experience and perhaps should not have.  I feel that to break myself of these beliefs and biases I would have had to spend more time amongst the participants in the group and more carefully examine my own expositions and interactions.  Ethnography can certainly be a valid social science method, but I feel it’s only effective (and really qualified as research) when done in the long term.  Likely most of the participants in the group would be surprised by my observations, and many might even react in a defensive fashion.  In fact to sway them I would have to rearrange the tone and emphasis of this work completely, instead describing more simplistic theories of feminism and construct a basic need for gender inequality.  The text would instead be focused on teaching the reader to perspective take and consider the positionality and characterization of men and women seen in the group—in hopes that they could see the power disparities.  Beyond this I think future researchers could dig deeper into my preliminary findings by asking participants more specifically about their opinions of certain items on the list (and the relationships they construct).  Others could read more precisely through the various discussion topics and better discern key informants (frequent and intense contributors) and interview them for their perspectives.  I found a little bit of this in my discussion about politics but the twenty or so involved were far from representative of the two hundred thousand clamoring about the group.

This project has certainly been a valuable learning experience.  It’s given me a bit of a chance to debate and rethink gender roles as well as more importantly practice digital ethnography (beyond content analysis) for the first time.  It helps to expand the horizons of the Facebook project portfolio a bit and provide readers with some more information about the digital ecology.  And finally, for all of its frustration with limited time and a tumultuous subject, it’s been an enjoyable endeavor.