Do You Keep Your Camera off on Zoom?

“Everyone turn your cameras on!” the club president tells our meeting group. “That way I feel like I’m talking to actual humans!”

Boys quickly turn their cameras on, revealing their dimly-lit rooms, scraggly unshaven faces, and large over-ear headphones. And one by one, girls begin to turn their cameras on as well. Hair is wet out of the shower and comfy sweatshirts are tugged down to make them more presentable. But no more than five girls ever turn their cameras on.

Next comes the chorus of “Sorry I didn’t get ready today!” and “Please excuse my messy hair!”

This process is consistent with most Zoom calls I’m a part of. Girls avoid turning their Zoom cameras on, and then feel the need to apologize for their appearance when they do turn them on.

There’s no doubt that women today feel more pressure about their appearance than men do. We live in a world full of judgement, and we are all judged immediately by the appearance we portray to the world. But for women and girls, we are often more conscious of this judgement, and the judgement oftentimes feels more extreme than it is for men.

Basically, girls constantly feel pressure to look good, even in quarantine, even on Zoom.

And it does feel good some days to get dressed, even when you’re not leaving your house. It feels nice to put on earrings and maybe even shoes. But you certainly don't need to! We are all doing so much right now, and if your appearance hasn’t been on your priority list, that is totally fine!

The thing is, girls feel the need to apologize for their Zoom appearance more than their male counterparts. Boys show up to Zoom calls in their pajamas and giant headphones, facial hair longer than ever before. They feel no need to “pardon their appearance” or make excuses for how they look. Girls, on the other hand, do oftentimes feel this pressure, resulting in many girls leaving their cameras off altogether.

But over time, leaving your camera off can be detrimental to your position in the club, in the friend group, or even in your career. You want people to remember you, after all!

A girl looking at herself in the mirror smilingIf you’re uncomfortable with looking at yourself in the corner of a Zoom meeting, that is totally normal! Our brains aren’t used to being able to see what we look like while we’re talking. You can actually turn your camera on, but hide your own video in the corner. That way, the group can see you, but you can’t see you. It’s just like real life!

So next time you’re in a Zoom meeting, pay attention to how participants address their appearance. Even in large lecture classes, boys oftentimes have their cameras on more than girls. In smaller meetings, notice who apologizes for their lack of makeup or frizzy hair. Be aware of gender stereotypes, and how they affect interactions even in Zoom meetings. I dare you to leave your camera on, and be proud of your beautifully quarantined self!