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Feb 27, 2013
THE INTERNET IS EXPLODING WITH CONSCIOUSNESS and I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon. Warning, this is pretty long. I may do a summarized version for those of you with short attention spans (If you haven’t left already).
First a brief summary of why I’m making this blog post:
Becoming YouTube did a video on “The Girls* of YouTube” (which you should watch first: Girls on YouTube | BECOMING YOUTUBE | Video #7 ) and it was somewhat controversial.
Hence, female YouTubers responded with mild irritation.
Because of that slew of responses I’m not going to dwell on obvious things like the fact that:
Those points have been discussed thoroughly yesterday and today, which allows me to focus on something I think is very important and that is the visibility (instead of presence) of women and minorities** on YouTube and how it relates to how the navigate public spaces.
Wow, that sentence was fancy. So intelligent sounding. I almost sounded like a guy for a second.***
In Becoming YouTube, Ben said something that gave me pause. He said, and I’m paraphrasing, “Becoming YouTube is meant to reflect the demographics of YouTube, which is why he didn’t interview more girls.”
So ignoring that, while having female YouTubers on the series JUST to have female YouTuber is tokenism, having female YouTubers to talk about female YouTubers in this particular video would have just been a better way to obtain data on the issue you are addressing, it is also important to note:
Dude. You don’t have ANY minorities in your documentary.
There are no Asian-Pacific Islanders, no one of Middle Eastern Descent, no one from the African Diaspora, etc.
Were any of the vloggers interviewed bisexual, homosexual, transsexual, pansexual, etc.? I genuinely don’t know but if they were, I don’t think it was more than one or two of them (simply because I watch almost all of them and most of them have indicated they are heterosexual).
I’m also not sure of the religious make-up, but I’m going to guess that it isn’t that diversified. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s probably a healthy mix of ambivalent Christianity, Agnosticism and Atheism, yes?
If not, then kudos to you on the religious variety.
I also can’t comment on class status but I’m guessing middle class, upper middle class, just because, again, I’ve seen most of the vloggers you’ve interviewed and their equipment is of higher quality which necessitates a certain amount of money, but I don’t think any of the ones Ben chose are particularly rich.
I would like to be more certain of the less visible factors of social identity before I make an analysis but we’re just going to go off my guesses here.
So first, no one but middle class heterosexual males who may or may not be religiously affiliated are making videos on YouTube? Is that we’re saying? Because that’s what it sounds like we’re saying.
And if that is not the make-up of YouTube (which it isn’t) is it the make up of “famous” YouTubers? And if so why? I mean have white men once again been the only ones to crack the code on how to be awesome in this particular field?
It’s philosophy and science all over again guys. ****
I think there a few factors that feed into why not only women, but minorities in general, are excluded from the top ranks of YouTubedom but I will need every one to keep in mind that most of this is conjecture.
Let’s be real, YouTube can be somewhat cliquey. Many people commented that Ben only chose his friends and friends of friends to be in his documentary, but it is important to note that many of the UK (and indeed American) YouTubers who are more prominent in the YouTube industry are friends. This is due to a variety of reasons, the most important of which being that they are YouTubers and therefore have a very integral commonality. But it is worth it to note that these people are often featured in each other’s videos and/or interacted with each other on their various other social networks. I found Nerimon through Charlie. I found Carrie and Lex through Nerimon. I found Hazel through Lex.
You get my point.
What is also worthy to note is that people tend to hang out with people who are like them. This is not to say people are prejudice (This isn’t a EVERYONE IS A RACIST/SEXIST/HOMOPHOBIC rant) but I think humans do gravitate to those who are similar to us, not only in personality, but also in socio-economic background ( which is typically shared by those who share our own race/sexual orientation/religious affiliation/whatever). “Birds of a feather flock together” and all that.
So if prominence on YouTube is due, in small part, to WHO you know, and WHO you know is often people share some, if not most, of your qualities (both external and internal), then it is not surprising if that population is somewhat monolithic. This is not to say that these people deliberately don’t become friends with other people based on their race/gender/sexual orientation/religious affiliation/whatever but to say they are human and as humans (and specifically humans who live in the same general area) they grouped with people who are similar to them.
Furthermore, there are a lot of female YouTubers, but they are also are kind of cliquey (I found many girl Tubers through other girls). Same for Black YouTubers. Also Gay YouTubers. It’s a very cliquey place guys. Which is to say it’s like the rest of the world.
But if we stay in our cliques, and one particular clique is more visible than others, of course “famous” YouTubers will come from that clique.
2. A Whole Bunch of Flamers and Very Little Water
We’ve established that mostly females age 13-17 watch these more prominent male YouTubers, but I’m curious to know, who comments more? In particular, who criticizes more.
Though there has been considerable response to this by female YouTubers, many of the responses I’ve seen (and indeed many female YouTubers I watch) are in there twenties, or are at least 18. Most of these women have also attended college (or university). These factors, along with some others, make them more likely to be confident enough to comment, and more importantly to criticize, YouTube videos.
Whereas the demographic that seems to be watching YouTube the most are middle and high school females**** whose ability to voice their opinions, and furthermore voice criticism, is generally not as nurtured at this stage in their lives.
So when Emma made that statement that 80% of her subscribers are female, but most of her commenters, and especially the commenters who are overly critical of her, are males, I was not surprised.
Minorities are also often encouraged not to have a voice, not only in YouTube, but also in public spaces in general. Our generation is novel in that we are encouraging a much larger set of diverse voices to be heard , but it isn’t an over-night change. I’ve seen minorities who’ve made YouTube videos get attacked based on their race, religion, etc.
So when people in the documentary said that Harassment of women was focused on the insignificant (such as looks) I agreed, but I would take it a step farther:
The hate that all minorities receive is usually based on people who like society the way it currently is, and are angry with these people contradicting the way their minority group is supposed to act according to society. And whereas this hate can be almost never-ending and vicious, people of the same minority group may be hesitant to reprimand these people and/or combat the hate with enlightening/encouraging commentary of due to the fact that their voices have been traditionally silenced in the public sphere and they may not have encountered anything that has helped them overcome that societal stigma.
With little love and a lot of (particularly vicious) hate, harassment is a very real thing on YouTube.
There are many things we should be doing to address it, but perhaps one of the most important is helping to nurture those commenters who DON’T feel like they can speak up to be confident in their voices.
3. (Last one I swear) We need a better definition of YOU
The YouTube community is special because the Audience is often part of the creative process. Not only through video response, not only through comments, but through gifs, through vlogs, through shares, through interpretive dance:
My point is that YouTube is more than people making videos on an free website, it’s people responding to people making videos on a free website. And it is impossible to know the demographic make-up of the people responding because they respond on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Pinterest, Google Plus, and even IRL from time to time. The YOU in YouTube isn’t only inclusive of famous content creators, or even content creators in general. And that demographic, I’m absolutely positive, is brimming with diversity.
In conclusion, (FINALLY), Becoming YouTube I think has brought up an important point about VISIBLE YouTube. Because our true problem is why is VISIBLE YouTube is so monolithic, not YouTube in general. I think it’s worth it to extend this discussion to all minorities, I think it’s important to talk about how their navigation of public spaces affects their visibility on YouTube, and I think it is very important to note that we do have diversity already, not only in the lower ranks of YouTube, but in the people who are responding to it.
Which is just even more reason to make visible YouTube diverse as well. Who knows? Maybe YouTube can set an example for the rest of the world.
*Girls referring to people who are both biologically female AND identify as a female in regards to gender in this particular case
**It’s weird for me to use minorities for females since technically they are a majority, but you guys know what I mean
*** I had to throw in sexism joke.
****Last one I swear.
*****Can we get some more information on this beyond gender? I’m interested in the percentage that are women of color for selfish personal reasons.