When discussing on talk pages on Wikipedia, comments are customarily tagged with signatures that link back to the user page of the person who wrote them, as well a time stamp indicating when the comment was made. Wikipedia allows users to customize the look of their signature. I first became really active on Wikipedia in December 2005 and ended up playing around with different signatures for awhile, until I settled on one that I haven’t changed since April 2006. Here’s what my signature looks like:
–Cyde Weys 02:02, 23 August 2007 (UTC)
I called the color “light red” at the time that I picked it, but realistically, everyone thinks it’s pink. I chose the color on a lark (and then proceeded to not change it many times on a lark), intending to convey a sense of “don’t-give-a-fuckism” about the usual connotations of the color. It only succeeds in conveying that impression once others get past the initial confusion. The name “Cyde Weys” doesn’t exactly have a lot of gender cues in it, and with nothing else to go on, people usually associate the color with femininity, so they tend to think “female” rather “male who doesn’t care” when they see the signature. Also, because some homosexual Wikipedians use pink inverted triangles in their signature, I have gotten the occasional confusion over sexual orientation, but for the most part, people don’t associate light red with male homosexuality.
The color is also disarming and harmless, which is in pretty stark contrast to my comments. They can get pretty abrasive and argumentative during heated debates It’s like the color is used ironically. One nice advantage of having a signature of that color is that almost no one else uses it. Blue signatures are a dime and dozen, and very hard to distinguish from one another without actually reading the link text. But my signature stands out from the sea of typical comments. I can skim over whole pages at a time, instantly seeing where all of my comments are (and where they are not). This helps to avoid replying multiple times to the same comment as well as helping to identify areas of discussion that I may be interested in commenting in, but haven’t yet.
I’ve long since grown numb to the confusing nature of my signature, so I’m always taken by surprise when another person raises questions. I just forget that, even though my gender is incredibly obvious to me, the signature itself isn’t nearly so unambiguous, and at any given time, multiple people may be harboring various suspicions or mistaken beliefs about me. I don’t mind though. I always get a laugh out of someone mistaking me for a female, so the signature provides a continual source of amusement. And, in some small way, I suppose it is helping to challenge traditional color-based gender identification. Wikipedia isn’t exactly small fry, and I’ve left my signature across thousands of talk pages. The people I’ve had interactions with on there have been forced to come to the realization that heterosexual men can choose to be identified by a light red color for no other reason than the fact that most do not.