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As a music buff, I’m absolutely in love with Pandora Radio’s ability to introduce me to new music, despite issues with it’s algorithm. Pandora, however, is one of those websites that requires you to fill out a male/female gender category, it’s excuse being that it uses this information to target advertisements to it’s listeners. Deciding that I would equally ignore all ads, I simply told Pandora I was female as determined by a coin flip. A while after making my account, I was treated to an underwear commercial featuring a ten year old girl in the sidebar, and decided that I never wanted to encounter that ad again. Fortunately Pandora lets you change your gender after having made an account, and I figured that changing my identification to male would stop me from having scantily clad underage people sprung on me. So I did that. The changes in the advertisements I’ve been getting are a bit more than I expected. Here’s the summary:

Expected changes: So far no children in underwear (if I get little boy underwear commercials, I’ll may decide to front the monthly payment to avoid adds, or if I can’t do that I’ll have to bid Pandora farewell). Also, no shopping ads so far. And of course no more birth control pill ads, though they market condoms to both categories. The fact that shopping ads are only targeted to those identifying themselves as female is of course highly stereotyped, I know women who hate shopping and men who love it, but it’s such a pervasive idea that I’m not surprised to see it here. I’ve also stopped getting ads for Taylor Swift (and I gotta tell you there’s nothing funnier than listening to Suicide Commando and having a picture of Taylor Swift in the corner of the screen), but I haven’t heard anything much about her recently anywhere else either so I’m not sure if that has anything to do with the switch.

Things that surprised me: First, no more dating website ads. This confuses me, because unless a site is specifically targeted to queer people wouldn’t it be most beneficial to have roughly equal numbers of men and women on the site? I’m not sure if there is a stereotype that covers this, but all other dating website commercials I’ve seen seemed to target men and women equally. Second, and more disturbingly, I’ve started to get ads for audio books and colleges when I didn’t before. Why aren’t these topics considered unisex? Especially since women currently outnumber men in post-secondary education in America. My mother is the most avid consumer of audio books I’ve seen. Why are books and education only being targeted to those identifying themselves as men? Is the conceptualization of women as “dumb bitches” still so pervasive that it effects advertising to this extent? Then again, back in August when Pandora thought I was female I got all the ads for back-to-school textbook deals, but the audio book thing is definitely new.

Does this jive with other people’s experiences with ads on Pandora (or elsewhere for that matter)? It would be silly to generalize just based on what has been targeted at me, so I’m wondering if people have noticed similar patterns.

Edit: I have started to get dating site ads. Also, unexpectedly, shopping ads, though they are read with a male voice. The audio book and college ads continue, and continue to bother me.

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