Gendered Products Women Never Knew They Might Need

by | March 28, 2013
filed under Feminism, Pop Culture

ePad back and frontby Librarian Karen

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 tablet has 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:

epad femme apps“.. Adapt to their diverse lifestyle”: Not sure if the UAE is the best example of a country where women have a diverse lifestyle. According to a study quoted in this article, because education in many Middle Eastern countries is free, women are highly educated, and yet because of strict religious and cultural expectations, it is common for them to stay at home after having children. So the product is marketed towards women in countries where they are highly educated, yet the product itself reinforces the idea that all they should do is shop, cook, do yoga, and act their husband’s secretary.

“Wide range of pre-loaded applications”: Looking at the pre-loaded apps, it seems that women are obsessed with cooking, shopping, and looking good for their husbands, and that they are incapable of figuring out how to download new apps. I will then assume that a tablet designed exclusively for men would include apps for sports, cars, beer and fart jokes. And it will be blue, of course.

“Light shade of pink”: I hate pink. Hate it. Why do companies insist that if they develop a product for a specific gender type, it must be a specific colour? (I’m looking at you, BIC, and your “pens for her”). Is it easier to use if it’s pink? I’m sure there are men who like pink, just as there must be men who don’t like blue.

While I can see the appeal of a tablet marketed towards less tech-savvy users, it’s neither accurate nor realistic to assume that those users are women. Why not market it as a general all-purpose tablet? It’s wi-fi enabled, comes pre-loaded with Google, Skype, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Gmail, and it functions as an e-reader. There is absolutely no need to market it specifically, or exclusively, for women.

Lastly, the company prides itself on “its ability to correctly anticipate emerging and changing market trends.” I hadn’t realized that there was an emerging trend for gender-specific tablets. Too bad it’s currently only available in the Middle East and parts of Asia! (On a side note, I’m wondering about the misspelling of the word “clothing” in the Cloathing Size Conversion app.)

But how can we prepare girls to adapt to such new and confusing technology, regardless of where they live?

Fortunately, Kinder Chocolate has the answer: Kinder Surprise eggs for girls! No longer will girls be overwhelmed about how to assemble and play with the toys in the previously gender-neutral eggs. Parents (or rather, mothers, because fathers obviously can’t play with the pink toys: that’s just wrong) can now prepare their daughters for their assumed future as princesses by only buying them the “for girls” eggs. Yes, the Kinder Surprise eggs containing the Hot Wheels toys are in blue, but they are not labeled specifically “for boys”.

Kinder pink and blue

Kinder’s parent company, Ferrero, doesn’t have much information on their website about their products, so it’s difficult to determine what prompted this gender segregation of the toys. It’s disturbing to think that there may have been a strong enough demand from parents to create a girls-only version. What if a boy wants one of the “for girls” toys – is there something wrong with him if he does? Will he be chastised, ridiculed, bullied?

If we allow children to gender-stereotype when they are young, how can we prevent or discourage gender-stereotyping, or any kind of stereotyping, when they become adults? If parents feel it’s acceptable to select toys for their children based on gender, then what about other aspects of development, such as school subjects and extra-curricular activities? Your daughter wants to play soccer? No way, that’s a boys’ sport! Your son wants to learn dance? That’s for girls!

If Kinder’s message is to provide a bonding moment between child and parent while stimulating play and creativity, they are now sending the message that gender-stereotyping is an acceptable part of that moment.

My issue is not with products which are gender-specific as obviously there is a time and a place for those (tampons, for example – although they needn’t be pink!), it’s the new products which do not need to be gender-specific, which more often than not are labeled and marketed for girls or women. Why are men the norm and women singled out as the exception?

EUROSTAR’s ePad Femme and Kinder Surprise’s toys for girls are only two examples of existing products unnecessarily re-packaged and marketed based on gender. Why not focus on developing products that are more environmentally friendly (less packaging, please!), or can aid persons with disabilities?

Being a woman doesn’t give you inherently different interests or basic abilities, but companies who make these products make us feel like it does.

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