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How YouTube reflects the worst stereotypes about gender

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How YouTube reflects the worst stereotypes about gender

The most followed girls speak fashion and beauty while boys are overrepresented in the field of video games or science. Decryption of the Techno-Genetic Division of Google’s Video Platform

On YouTube too, sexism has a hard time. Visibility then appears as the first signal of existing inequalities on the online video sharing platform. You just have to stop at the number of women and men who use it. The ratio would be 46/54%. Where the rub is that women in the top 50 most viewed channels in the world are rare. The first of them, the Mexican Yuya, arrives only in the 28th place – outside artists’ accounts or TV shows. In the top 100, they are only a dozen.

In France, the top of this ranking is still very masculine and gives pride of place to young comedians such as Cyprien, Norman, Rémi Gaillard or Mister V. The first youtube use, Natoo occupies the 9th place but remains well isolated; his sisters are counting on the fingers of the hand. Despite its more than 3 million subscribers, the very popular EnjoyPhoenix, known for its videos “girly” (very good quality), arrives only in 17th position.

A gendered expression space

In addition to quantitative considerations, it is also the content of the videos that raises questions. While YouTube offers its users total creative freedom, it is clear that many social patterns are reproduced identically. Even worse “A study of the topics and views shows that the worst sexist shots are reproduced on the site,” explained a few days ago a Maze magazine article on the representation of women on YouTube.

The popular Yuya, dedicates its videos to feminine themes or considered as such: makeup, beauty and well-being. His last production? “How do I survive during my periods?” His most popular videos? Make-up tutorials or testimonials about her hair experiences.

In her image, the “influencers” who are successful are, for the vast majority, girls talking about girls’ stuff, for other girls. Boys are overrepresented in tech, gaming or, as mentioned above, humor. So many fields of interest and registers perceived as masculine.

A reproduction of patriarchal codes

More than a simple distribution of tastes according to sex, the video tutorials broadcast patriarchal dogmas in which the youtubeuses take the role of “initiators to the female-being”, as explained Béatrice Guillier, author of studies on the videos “Do it yourself” (DIY) in France, during a symposium on the subject organized this month in Tours . Out of 30 videos of “influencers” – 18 of which were fashion or beauty videos – she found that girls’ tutorials focused on topics related to the private sphere, confining them to the home.

“The youtubeuse is a prescriber of standards,” and these standards unconsciously portray the image of an accomplished young woman who knows how to take care of her, maintain her body, cook healthy, order her apartment, and so on all that, staying in the closed world of his bedroom. Videos providing advice on pregnancy or motherhood abound and are also a hit. In these, young mothers tell their community how their delivery took place, reveal what they brought with them, or recommend the best baby food and hygiene products.

Generally maintaining a close relationship with their audience through comments, these youtubeuses are the subject of many solicitations that go beyond the issue discussed in their video. Bearing the status of big sisters, they are consulted by their “fans” on all kinds of personal topics and are erected in “tutelary figures,” explained at the same symposium, Maya Paltineau, PhD student and member of the Youth Network Researchers Health and Society.

Fight the cliché of the youtubeuse beauty

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the fact that many young women are taking up the topics of women’s magazines and love cosmetics. Talking about make-up is no less noble than talking about video games. As such, beauty youtuberries do not have to be more mocked and prejudiced than their male counterparts. Often mocked for their mimetic way of starting their videos (“Hi girls, so today I’m going to talk about a product mid-squeegee”), they address topics that are not taken seriously because only female.

Perfect make-up, shiny hair, sharp style … they embody, for the most part, a certain vision of the perfect woman smiling, warm, and honest about the personality. Pretty, elegant and attentive to his appearance for what is physical. But if these famous youtubeuses beauty cardboard, they are only addressed to a female audience (or queer), and therefore restricted. Youtubers, on the other hand, elect more unifying themes – and / or considered more “nerd” – that may interest a wider target. Result? The popularity of fashion / beauty YouTube channels gives the illusion that the majority of girls are dedicated to, or even exclusive to, so-called female hobbies. Which is of course wrong.

Credible deficit

The perfect example mentioned at the recent conference “youtubeurs youtubeuses” in Tours is that of the iPhone. It’s no secret that brands are sending their new products to owners of major YouTube channels so that they can promote them in their videos. With the release of the last model of Apple, hundreds of youtubeurs and youtubeuses thus gave their opinion on the smartphone- which makes moreover a little more crack the women than the men.

The resulting videos illustrate particularly well the gendered mechanisms of Youtube. For most girls, the new iPhone is above all “too beautiful” -qualifier that comes back very little to the mouths of boys, always more reserved on the use of such terms. The youtubeuses praise the color of the iPhone (“the rose-gold is just beautiful”) while youtubeurs dwell on the technical characteristics of the device. They evaluate its accessories and note its technical prowess (“no jack”, “presence of a double-camera”, etc.).

Girls often assume their supposed lack of knowledge. Youtubeuses often apologize for their ignorance of the subject (“Well, I do not know too much but …”) and take gloves when they give their impressions. Their colleagues, for their part, communicate with “scientific” statements in a much more affirmative tone, even when they say false things, ironically in this report. What to convey the message that men are much more competent for all that pertains to technology.

Women passionate about scientific subjects are nevertheless numerous. How is this representative disparity explained? In a documentary entitled “They take the floor, “Léa Bordier and Lisa Miquet looked at the lack of visibility of women who do not fit into the box of beauty youtueuses and “navigate between humor and art, gaming, history, social issues and cinema” among them, Esther Taillifet. In the beginning, his videos were more in the category of “personal development”. But quickly, Esther has wanted to focus on more scientific topics, “his greatest passion, but especially the subject of his studies.” She says that she did not feel legitimate and therefore took a long time to get started and this, despite his thesis in astrophysics.

“I was afraid to be wrong, to say something wrong. And the fact that I’m a woman makes me go get the little beast. ”

Like her, many women self-censure for fear of doing wrong and being lynched in the (cruel) section of comments. There may be lots of girls in DIY or gaming, they will tend to slow down themselves. Or they will have to redouble their efforts to obtain recognition equal to that of men.

The tech: a world of guys

Basically, YouTube is a reflection of a much larger imbalance: the under-representation of women in the techno-digital world. They would only 33% to work there, against 53% for the rest of the French economy. More revealing still: the medium would count only 6% of processors, which promises a long life to the good old cliché of the geek an identification model that does not have their female counterparts. The proof that YouTube is in fact a magnifying glass highlighting the inequalities between women and men in the world of work well pity, for the youtubeur Guilhem, who animated a time chain MaleSingulier, known for its parodies of youtubeuses beauty:

“That’s what’s weird. YouTube was a blank page; it could have been a society image to reinvent where women would also make video games. It’s very sad to see that exactly the same patterns are reproduced here.”

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