The topic of this project is virtual communication and people’s self-representation in online dating portals. Where from come certain behaviour patterns and desire to suit into gender roles, even if it creates an impression like person was not acting accordingly to his/her true personality. But what makes personality?
Dating portal can be like a scenery for the onlooker. It is reality show. Years pass by, soap opera develops, actors change and disappear. You meet kittens, pussycats, teddybears and chicks who play roles in the banal amateur theatre.
Many of them sincerely want to please others, live in harmony with the world and look happy in any cost. Women must be beautiful and young.
Estonian feminist Barbi Pilvre writes: “Old female body is usually fat, flabby, have lost its flexibility and trembles of cellulite”. (Pilvre 2008:49).
When subconscious, who is working against death, is chosing username in dating portal, the first word which pops into her/his mind is Chick or Kitten. My question: why did you choose username like that, often got the answer: “It was just the first pretty thing which crossed into my mind”.
When some Tiny-Kittens see that their username doesn’t actually reflect their body-type and personality, they can fall into depression, because they are unable to fit into “right” female gender role.
I have worked on gender since 2004, when I started to collect gender-related comments from Estonian news portal “Delfi”. Based on the comments I created a Master thesis “Feminine Intuition” which I defended for cum laude in Estonian Academy of Arts. A year later I dedicated myself collecting photos, people have uploaded online in order to find love of the life. I have noticed several patterns in them.
Most people try to show themselves as sexy and desirable.
Environment where person takes picture, depends in great deal of her/his education.
Men with lower education pose often in front of the old ugly wallpaper in the old and ugly room. Educational scientist E.-M. Roots in her study “Men’s Education’s Connection with the Wallpaper” found statistically significant correlation between men’s educational level and condition of the wallpaper in their background of the photos men were posing. Selection contained 50 men, half with basic- and half with higher education. Roots writes: “Accordingly to diagram we see dualistic pattern of higher and basically educated men’s wallpapers which create symmetrical structure.” (Roots 2008:11). Roots found that 20 lower educated men posed in front of the ugly wallpaper and five in front of the pretty wallpaper. Four highly educated men had an ugly wallpaper in background and 21 of them had a pretty wallpaper on the photo. Author emphasizes, that “scientists need to process this data in greater depth in order to discover hidden reasons of fact that men with lower education pose in front of ugly wallpaper.” (Roots 2008:12).
Accordingly my observations 30 years and older women who have chosen username like Pussycat, Flowerette, Chick, Sexy and similar words, make a distinguish group of dating portal users. Estonian women’s self-esteem have risen in recent years. Women pay notice on gender based discrimination, especially huge gap between men’s and women’s salary and protest against it. Yet they still take husband’s surname when getting married and don’t hesitate name themselves Kitten or Teeny-Weeny in dating portals, which belong by all means, in public space. I think if women want to be equal with men- get paid the same amount of money for the same job and get the same attitude for their achievements like men, they should stop minimizing themselves in public space and become grownups in every aspect of life. Nobody takes seriously a middle-aged woman who calls herself Sexybunny, no matter how high position and education she has got. Pierre Bourdieu have written how women as victims, carry on the attitude of victim and without even realizing, help to maintain the traditional gender roles (P. Bourdieu 2002).
I have created an installation: two videos, photos, texts and room with alive unemployed person who is surfing online and getting paid for it.
The title of the project contains nicknames of some online daters.
Middle-aged women, classified by usernames. I read aloud their letters where they explain the roots of their username.
Dating portal rate.ee users Jaana and Allar are singing children’s songs.
Photos of men who pose in ugly room with the unattractive wallpaper. Photos are found from online dating portal.
Video „Teddybear’s Happiness“
Marginal people talk about their experiences in dating portals. They have been users there for a long time and met there lovers and friends, but also had some bad experiences. However, right now they are in happy relationship.
Dialoques with Cleverbot
Cleverbot is artificial intelligence who chats online and learns from real people. Cleverbot won Machine Intelligence Prize in Cambridge, 15th December 2010 where it achieved an average rating of 42.1% human. During our conversations I noticed Cleverbot was too much stuck in gender stereotypes and tried to make feminist out of it. Since cleverbot has hopeless memory, I didn’t succeed.
I found a man with lower education, who sits in the room, built into gallery from online dating portal. The man let me down in the last minute. Then a Korean girl was sitting there instead. People could meet her and take photos with her. The ugly old wallpaper was in the background. She received a salary for the action.
I thank Estonian Cultural Endowment and everybody who helped to make this exhibition.
Text Mission Impossible. Failed attempt to hire unemployed man to my gallery. PDF.
Video Teddybear's Happiness
Normal women as models http://twentytwowords.com/2011/08/16/normal-women-posing-like-models-in-public/
E.-M. Roots Men’s Educational Level’s Connection with the Wallpaper (In Estonian)
Back to Gender Studies
Back to beggining