Girl in the Machine
Monday, November 26, 2007
Oh so pretty.

Recently I tripped upon an article called "Cool Tech and Accessories for Women," and I couldn't help but take a read. I wish that it was hope that spurred my curiosity, hope that maybe, just maybe, lazy journalism would not succeed this time and that I would find a thoughtful, well-written piece that didn't fall back on some of the most obvious feminine stereotypes there is.

Alas. The article started right off saying that women can "assert themselves" in a male-dominated environment by toting around a tech accessory (like a cell phone or handheld video game console) in a "quirky color" such as green, purple, and -- you guessed it -- even pink. And it only gets better:
"The female consumer, being as fashionable as she is, wanted a camera that not only captures great pictures, but that she is proud walking around with," says Greg Morrison, digital product marketing manager, Kodak Canada.
Blargh. Here we go again. First of all, the fashion industry does NOT equal just women, and especially not ALL women, for that matter. As well, the article states that gadgets that are specially designed for women are thinner with rounded edges that "accommodate small hands" and can "slip into a pocket or purse." I guess men are all running around with their enormous meatpaws grasping monochrome PDAs while suffering a marked lack of pockets, then. Is this article seriously insinuating that women the only people who prefer their gadgets lighter and more portable and in less "conservative" colors such as black or gray?

I disagree with the idea that most things must be designed specifically for one sex or the other. Just like I think a button-down shirt looks nice on a masculine or feminine form, I think whether your camera is red or has rounded edges or whatever is something that has universal appeal. Women aren't softer or more delicate than men. These are design choices rooted in aesthetics and not on any particular sex-based need.

There are many women that don't care what their keyboards look like just as there are many men who do. It doesn't matter what the majority on either side appears to be. Why not market towards all people who lean towards these aesthetics instead of boxing in all female consumers as having strictly "fashionable" needs? This could be an important step toward tearing down harmful gender roles, but, unfortunately, stereotypes sell. Just look at the "Boys" and "Girls" sections of any toy store.

I also chalk it up to pure laziness. It's never explained quite how women "assert" themselves by carrying around a green cell phone. Why would such a thing not allow men to do the same? And while it just happens to be one of my favorite colors, I know many female gamers that wouldn't be caught dead with a pink DS or a PSP. It's all a matter of preference, not some kind of hard-coded, binary-gendered genetic need. I wish I didn't have to state the obvious here, but articles like the above unfortunately remind me that I do.

We also see here that it's not just an issue of color but of design. A more "feminine" design -- thinner, curvier -- automatically equals female approval? I don't project myself onto a piece of technology before I want to buy it, thank you very much, and I find this description's proximity to that of the normative female form rather creepy.

Let's consider the original Nintendo DS design versus the newer DS Lite, as well as the original PSP and its Slim counterpart. Neither of the new designs were created for a specific female market, as this streamlined model is just plain nicer-looking and better for everyone. Both consoles also come in a nice rainbow of creatively-named colors (Felicia Blue, anyone?) that all sorts of different gamers enjoy. However, the pink models are consistently preyed upon for their ability to reign in the wimmins like moths to a Cosmopolitan-colored flame. It's as if we've never been aware of video games before and all we needed was some "fashionable" coaxing to take the dive.

Don't get me wrong, it's definitely awesome that technological goodies such as video games and PDAs are no longer being seen as just a "guy" thing. However, the approach is all wrong. Not only is it sexist to coat a digital camera in feminine stereotypes as a way to lure in the ladies, it's downright patronizing to pretend that, until now, women just never had a lick of interest in technology. It's inclusion on patriarchal terms, and it doesn't at all bother to tear down the stereotypes that caused the exclusion in the first place.

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 Posted by BomberGirl
 3:36 PM + Link to this post

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