I have just changed my Facebook profile so that it no longer has my gender on it. Not that it's a secret or that I can't remember what it is any more - I'm just really fed up with every time I log on being bombarded with hundreds of adverts for diet products. I'm not on a diet. I have a BMI in the normal/correct/healthy range, I exercise regularly and I eat when I'm hungry or near a sushi restaurant.
The Facebook advertising system is supposed to allow advertisers to target the customers most likely to be interested in their product. But I don't seem to be getting any adverts that are hitting me because I'm a university graduate, because my favourite film is Secrets and Lies or because I'm a member of the group "I have more foreign policy experience than Sarah Palin". You would think Republican adverts for foreign policy researchers would be over-loading my system. No instead the only measure I am being profiled on is "has vagina" (tick) therefore "must hate own body and want to be size zero" (uh-uh).
Now as a teenager I suffered quite seriously from anorexia. I made a pretty full recovery, but there are lots of women out there who aren't as lucky as me - those currently experiencing eating disorders anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating. And BDD (body dismorphic disorder) along with other related issues - like feeling the need to have extensive sugery or bottulism injections on their healthy bodies. Is Facebook checking to make sure it doesn't send adverts like these inappropriately to those with or at risk of developing issues with their bodies? Maybe they could add an extra box to people's profiles. Are you interested in starting an extreme weigh-loss diet based exclusively on grass seeds and acai berries? No? Oh, ok we'll leave you alone then.
But it works - since going gender-neutral on Facebook I have very few diet ads. Instead my adverts are mainly for theatre tickets, loans, legal services, other facebook apps and christmas shopping sites. I seriously recommend other women do the same if they want to be able to surf the web without having their self esteem sureptitiously eroded!