On the internet, you can be anybody
So, I have a job that involves running my company's social media accounts.
I try to do this without sounding too much like myself. That's the point of being a copywriter, after all. It's had an unexpected side effect.
Maybe it's the username, maybe it's the brand tone of voice, but everyone I have a text convo with assumes I'm male. I always get referred to as 'he'. Or 'man', or 'dude'.
I don't mind, and it makes zero difference to our business operations, but I find it really interesting.
It's the way that you say it
Ever since I started learning Japanese, I've tried to use 'feminine' language. Certain words and parts of speech are considered more 'female' than others.
Using the 'male' equivalents is seen as weird... like 'eccentric and possibly deranged' weird. Like the Yorkie bars of the Japanese language. Not for girls.
We have English equivalents, but not so ingrained into the language itself. It's more about how you say something than what was said. The way I speak in English is far less 'womanly' than the way I speak in Japanese.
(And the way I speak in Japanese is apparently so feminine sometimes that it borders on 'effeminate gay man'. I think I overcompensated. I need to work on that.)
Anyway, my English is fairly neutral - especially when it's for work purposes. It's clearly influencing how that account's being perceived.
Text doesn't give enough context... sometimes
How many times have you taken a text the wrong way because the sender didn't use any emojis?
Context is important to understanding social interactions, and on the internet that applies tenfold. Without a face in any of the social profile photos to put the words to, people default to 'huh, must be a guy'.
Maybe I need to use more pink heart emojis? Nah, that wouldn't work, I know guys who do that all the time. So what's causing it?
It's not me, it's you
My attempts to build familiarity and rapport with people includes calling them 'dude'. (I do already know they're guys when I call them that.)
It feels like they look at that use of 'dude' and assume I must also be dude. Refer to me as 'man', and lo, I shall refer to you as 'man'... bro. Brofist? Yeah, bro.
Dude, I didn't mean me when I said that.
I wasn't aware that only dudes called other dudes 'dude'. It made me start to wonder if I was missing something. Or if I should just use '...you' like Carl from Llamas with Hats.
I've seen other Twitter accounts call their followers 'babe' or 'lady'. If it fits the brand and doesn't piss people off, fine. But I don't see any of those followers using those words back. Tweet me if you spot anything that proves me wrong on that point.
The challenge for all copywriters, male or female
Ages back, I wrote a post about being asked to write gender-specific copy for a client.
That was about addressing different genders, rather than being seen as one or the other. But writing this reminded me of writing that.
'Gender' in copywriting is largely specified by the brief and the tone of voice. In some cases - cologne, nappies, makeup, football - it's obviously weaved in. In many others, it's not a consideration.
The most formal business social media accounts sound exactly like... businesses. They're not male or female... or human. They're reeling off stock phrases with no personality - and it's a little disconcerting that companies think they need to sound that way to be successful.
I haven't gone out of my way to be 'the woman behind the brand', but at the same time I haven't laboured over staying gender neutral at all times. If people assume anything about my writing style, it isn't doing any damage to the company either way.
Giving social media work for a client a noticeable male or female slant may not be a bad thing. As long as they don't assume it's the opposite of the one you intended.