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Archive for January, 2010

iMAnnoyed

Posted by pocochina on January 30, 2010

The more I think about this fuckin’ iPad thing, the more it pisses me the hell off. The Jez commenters had to go and take all the good jokes about wifi spotting and how it doesn’t have wings, and then Geek Girls Guide went ahead and looked deeper into the marketing, finding that Apple didn’t even bother to show a lady holding onto an iPad in order to appeal to half the goddamn population, presumably because she would insist on wearing white and doing yoga while exploring her “comfort and security” app. A Feministing contributor wrote about her very justified annoyance that every time she hears a word which even reminds anyone of menstruation, the blow to everyone’s delicate sensibilities has to be softened with a lot of snickering about girl-bits that have the nerve to function the way girl-bits sometimes do, which contributes to period shame in particular and suspicion and disgust towards girl-bits in general. Whatever! It sucks, I’m not going to buy one anyway. Call me when you come up with an iCup, Apple-holes.

And yet.  What the fuck, y’all?! I think what finally set me off was the ten-fuckin’-thousandth comment about how – brace yourselves, girl-folk – the word “pad” does not just refer to sanitary napkins! IT IS TRUE! Thank GOD we had you mansplainers to tell us that! Our weak little girl arms could not possibly have turned that many pages past the center of the thesaurus to find that out, Ah do declay-ah! THAT IS NOT THE FUCKING POINT. The point is that it is a piece of technological equipment, not a chemical compound that specifically had to have one name in order for it to make any sense. No, the name of a mass market product, including Apple products, is a subtle exercise in marketing. That’s where a lot of women and feminist watchers are annoyed at the iPad thing.

Allow me to drop some lady-knowledge. It is not just that “pad” happens to be a word with multiple meanings – and really, once again, thank you jag-holes for your masterful explorations of the subtleties of the English language, God knows we never would have figured it out without you – it is that “pad” is, for the vast majority of female-bodied folks, one of the words that we deeply, intrinsically associate with our first periods, which in turn is a big part of most experiences of female-bodied puberty. Even if having a period is not a part of a girl’s Very Special Woman-Becoming Time, her lack of a period is still a significant presence in her life. Not just that, either. It’s the time when we were likely to be in pain. Ashamed. Unprepared. Uncertain. Are those feelings Apple wants associated with its product? Doubtful! Moreover, it’s something that most female-bodied folks have an at least one experience of – well, unreliability. User-unfriendliness, shall we say. Even those of us who have moved on to tampons and cups, or who pretty much escaped adolescence without trauma – ha, who am I kidding with that one?! – have some experience with pads, at least some of which is likely to have been decidedly unpleasant. There’s not really a male equivalent, though I’m tempted to ask how appealing the iDirtyGymSock would be to the Apple apologists.

BUT P, I hear the baffled yet indefatigable mansplainers cry, surely you are underestimating the intelligence of women, and their ability to separate the varied definitions of a single word by context in order to allow me to wallow in my adolescent, female-body-marginalizing world forever! Not everyone thinks about PERIODS all the time, they are GROSS, I personally avoid thinking about them at every opportunity, except to say that you are probably on yours right now, because you’re being such a bitch, UP TOP, BRO!

Again, this is an issue specifically about advertising. I am no Don Draper! I am not even, despite the best efforts of my mother, my stylish roommate, and Bravissimo, a Joan Holloway. Do not hire me to sell your awesome new ferret toilet invention, our venture will not succeed, I can tell you that much right now. But I do know this: advertising is not based in your conscious ability to explore the most rational connotations of a word in orer to somehow divine the seller’s intentions. It’s pretty much the opposite of that. It relies on the subtle psychology of subconscious connotations. Those annoying-ass twenty-two second breaks in your Hulu viewing experience are the result of tens of thousands of dollars, at the least, in market research. There are many people whose jobs revolve solely around not making us think these uncomfortable things around their products. There are folks who sell actual sanitary products with less usage of the word “pad,” because they are sensitive to the fact that it can have uncomfortable connotations.

So the fact that the iPad’s name is making so many folks cringe uncomfortably isn’t just irritating because it makes us all think for a second about women’s bodies, which is already a social taboo due to women’s dehumanization at the many hands of the patriarchy. It tells us something – a lot, actually – about who is working in Apple’s marketing division and whose opinions are considered worthwhile, and none of it is flattering.

It’s not just, as a lot of folks have (understandably) pointed out, that it seems as though there are no women in Apple’s marketing division to go what the hell. (I believe that’s an industry term). It’s that either (a) Apple did not think to consider women as a specific demographic or (b) were informed of the potential discomfort of the term and thought nothing of it. It’s possible that there are no women in positions of power in marketing at Apple, in which case WHAT THE SHIT, IT IS 2010, or that there are women, but not a critical mass of women, enough so that one or more of them could feel comfortable in pointing out the pitfalls with this scheme. That’s a pretty straightforward fix, you know, HIRE MORE WOMEN AND THEN LISTEN TO THEM. However, I have to believe that option (b) is both more likely and a lot more insidious, because it implies that Apple thinks that women aren’t an important part of its customer base. Maybe they only considered that the word “pad” makes people think of periods and then makes them giggle. That is – see above! – a pretty strictly male-bodied experience of pads and periods, one which assumes that the only experience of menstruation that matters is when men cannot get satisfactory cha-cha access. Maybe they thought it was a secret lady-thing, that we only discuss our periods and the products we use to hide them from the world sufficiently at our super-secret-no-boys-allowed woman meetings, and the vow of silence we take there would be enough to keep the device from causing widespread amusement? Maybe they simply decided that they would mansplain us out of thinking that pads and periods are related! Maybe they hoped that the massive giggle-fit would result in sheer publicity, more than Apple could come up with itself during the recessbagel?

I’m really annoyed that I’m feeding the beast here. I don’t want to give a bigoted marketing decision more publicity, thus turning it into good marketing. But this is such an egregious display of male privilege, one which contributes to the marginalization of women as contributors to the workforce and consumers of technology. I’m so tired of being told I don’t count, of being told that my life and experiences are nothing but furtive, shameful chuckles to be swept under the rug away from the Serious Business. How fucking long am I going to be expected to pay $499 a pop for the privilege?

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too many f-words: teenage bodies and the purity myth

Posted by pocochina on January 16, 2010

So my last read of the few months away from my hectic school life has been The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti.  Her very strong thesis – that young women are harmed by the cultural script that values them for what they have (or, more appropriately, have not) done sexually – is backed up by a decent book.

I got the same feeling as I read The Purity Myth as I did reading FFF.  It’s not so much disagreement with JV’s arguments, or dissatisfaction with her scope of argument, but rather the feeling of a review study session with friends for an exam I’m ready for.  You know, it’s still fun to be with your friends, and it’s not like you wouldn’t be thinking about it anyway, but you’re not treading any particularly new ground.  And that’s fine.  I was aware that I wasn’t really the audience for FFF – a few years too old, and far too deep in feminist theory already – but I still enjoyed the brisk, breezy read.  I was a little bit surprised to find the same feeling happening in The Purity Myth.  It seems like a direct authorial choice to speak to young women instead of about them.  And I like that, I do, but I wonder if she’s not underestimating women whose feminism (whether it’s called that or not) is mature enough to be questioning the concept of virginity.  The importance of virginity in American gender roles lies deep, and it takes a lot of work to even get down there.

My main issue with the book, though, is that I feel like I read half of a very good argument.  Read the rest of this entry »

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