A puzzle of gender: a unique culture generated by a weiniang forum

Due to copyright issues, all the images in this post will be links to the forum.

As Tom Ewing said  “.. online communities have a generalized model of the development of unique culture within it.”[1] Today, I will introduce a forum named weiniang Bar, which is a good example of how the forum’s unique culture affects its use and development.

Weiniang is a Chinese word  translated from the Japanese word 男の娘, which means a man who has a woman’s appearance. In the early 90’s, it was a characteristic type of characters in Japanese comics. Today, some people choose to appear as Weiniang as their life style. As a life style, they are willing to make efforts to maintain their feminine appearance. For example, they have to do a lot of aerobic exercise and at the same time be careful with what they eat in order to make their muscle curve like womanly muscles.

According to Lampe and Johnston, “Joining persistent, large groups makes sense to the new member as they are able to see a wider array of viewpoints, and have their own messages viewed by more people.”[2] Most new comers in this community desire to confirm their self-identity through approval from other community members. Thus, the most common way to show themselves is by uploading a picture. The most desirable responses will be like “You must be a fake Weiniang. You must be a real girl. “ http://tieba.baidu.com/p/2583353828.

In fact, since many young women are fans of Weiniang, many active users in this forum are girls. Some of them post their photos in the forum and claim to be Weiniang. Also, some Weiniang upload their pictures in the forum and claim to be girls. Hence, it is really complicated for users to distinguish girls from Weiniang. The discussion about the gender of the photo’s owner can go on forever, until the owner posts a documentary photo from his/her daily life.

http://tieba.baidu.com/p/2433769458?pn=1.

On the other hand, some community members do not care about the gender of the photo’s owner, and just enjoy the beauty of the photo. Most of these commenters treat the poster as a woman. As Benestad claims, “Gender belonging is positive when the gender perceived is given a positive value, both by the individuals and by the others.’’[3] These users prefer the performed gender of the owner, which they value positively.

To summarize, there are two types of reactions to a photo owner’s gender. The first one is the commenters investigating or second-guessing the owner’s ‘true’ gender. The second one is the visitors enjoying the owner’s beauty. These two different attitudes can be considered as a kind of forum culture. Actually, the photo owner most likely get satisfaction from both attitudes, and the community members can also detect that the photo owner is enjoying the comments. This satisfaction tempts commenters, encouraging them to post their own photos to obtain the same kind of satisfaction. This kind of satisfaction is central to the culture, and attracts more and more visitors to join, promoting community growth.


Reference:

(1) Tom Ewing(2008): Participation cycles and emergent cultures in an online community. International Journal of Market Research Vol. 50 Issue 5: Web 2.0 Special Issue

(2) Lampe, Cliff, and Erik Johnston(2005): Follow the (slash) dot: effects of feedback on new members in an online community.Proceedings of the 2005 international ACM SIGGROUP conference on Supporting group work.

(3) E.E.P. Benestad (2010): From gender dysphoria to gender euphoria:An assisted journey. Sexologies (2010) 19, 225—231

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