EUROSTAR Group, a multimedia and electronics company based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has created the world’s first tablet designed exclusively for women, the ePad Femme:
“The world’s first women’s tablethas an 8 inch capacitive screen tablet made exclusively for women which will adapt to their diverse lifestyle. This tablet comes in a light shade of pink, has special features and a wide range of pre-loaded applications such as yoga, fitness, cooking, health, entertainment and many others.”
So women shouldn’t use tablets not designed specifically for them? I had no idea!
That a company felt the need to design a special gendered version of an existing product (a product which is already used by people of all genders), is confusing and offensive. Making assumptions about how the product will be used by that specific gender is equally confusing and offensive.
There are a few issues, with the actual product (currently only available in the Middle East and parts of Asia) and with the marketing of it, which irk me:
It’s winter solstice time, and for my nieces and nephews, that means presents. Unfortunately, most mainstream toy stores are polarized between pink and blue, and the intent seems to be instilling and reinforcing traditional gender roles rather than encouraging play. It’s so obvious, even little kids can figure it out. If you don’t believe boy toys and girl toys are marketed differently, check out the Gendered Advertising Remixer to see them hilariously juxtaposed together.
I would like to offer a few strategies I’ve picked up for buying things for children– specifically for other people’s children, as I am not a parent and do not claim to be an expert.
Books. Sometimes I worry that buying books all the time will hurt my chances of being the cool aunt. But then I remember that’s ridiculous, and high-five myself because books are the best. A Mighty Girl has tons of suggestions for books with positive female characters, from princesses who rescue themselves to Rosa Parks. You can even browse by genre and by the kid’s age. And you don’t have to stop at showing that girls can kick butt. The Achilles Effect suggests books with healthy images of masculinity, and both sites offer toy recommendations as well. Read more
In board gaming sometimes we talk about themes that seem “tacked on”. It’s what happens when a game designer makes a game and then decides to set it in, say, Ancient Egypt, even though it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the way the game is played.
And that’s kind of how last night’s episode of Top Chef Canada felt to me as well. As usual, I enjoyed most of the episode, but I thought the theme deserved a little critique.
(Alert: spoilers ahead)
For the elimination challenge, the chefs were paired off and asked to create hors d’ouevres for a baby shower for last season’s host Thea Andrews and current judge Shereen Arazam. Since one of the women is expecting a boy and the other expecting a girl, the chefs were tasked with creating a “girl dish” and a “boy dish” for each team.
This made no sense to me because food doesn’t innately appeal to someone based on gender. I watch a lot of cooking shows and though it may have happened, I’ve never seen a judge say they didn’t like a dish because it was “too masculine” or “too feminine”. Read more
I came across this ad (left) in a Sociological Images post by Lisa Wade that looked at how the Blue Buffalo Trading Company has subtly gendered its advertisements by colour-coding all its dog-related images blue and all it’s cat-related images pink.
It struck a chord with me because I’d been channel-surfing the week before and come across a sitcom in which a male character was being teased for getting a cat, under the assumption that single men owning cats is an indicator of effeminacy or homosexuality.
I’d written it off as just absurd at the time but the Sociological Images post made me wonder whether there was actually a larger stereotype out there that dogs are pets for men and cats are pets for women.
Talking to some friends and looking into it further I’d argue that view does exist. Certainly the way we describe cats and dogs tends to be gender-bound. In the Blue Buffalo ad, all the dogs on the site are referred to by male pronouns while cats are treated as female.
So maybe the whole idea that there are cat people (vain, demanding, intuitive) and dog people (high-energy, affectionate, but maybe not all that smart) is just another way to ask whether people are more masculine or feminine. Maybe it’s just a way of reinforcing a gender binary. Anyone who’s owned dogs or cats know that there are animals with many different personalities. I’ve definitely known some high-maintenance dogs and some pretty relaxed cats.
That said, it seems to me that there’s more of a stigma around men owning cats than women owning dogs, although if you have any examples of women being teased for being masculine for owning dogs, I’d be really interested to hear them, so please comment below.
Lisa Wade speculates that the reason we stigmatize people who own cats (men and “cat ladies”) is because in our society masculinity=cool, and therefore it’s seen as more cool to own a dog than a cat. She points to an ad campaign targeted at men to try to convince them that “it’s okay to be a cat guy” (i.e. owning a cat doesn’t threaten your masculinity).
The ad is cute, but the campaign still implies that it might not be cool to be a cat guy if it stopped you from riding your motorbike or showing how tough you are.
What do you think? Have you seen examples of the idea that cats=feminine and that therefore straight, single men shouldn’t own them?