Apple Products as Feminine?

MM sent us this interesting contribution to Gendered Products Week: The main idea is that Apple products are pretty and easy to use and their staff are friendly. Which is all especially appealing to women, who like pretty things and friendly people and can’t figure out the technical stuff. On the other hand, as the article points out, Apple makes great and very successful products– showing the value of ease of use, friendly staff and attractive products. (Which are all pretty clearly good things, a moment’s reflection reveals.) So what do you think about the article? Standard stereotyping of women? Or interesting re-valuing of the traditionally feminine and denigrated? I’m leaning toward both.

6 thoughts on “Apple Products as Feminine?

  1. Jender, I’d take both. Friendly and attractive seem to be thought of as feminine in the writer’s eyes and she does seem to treat that as something like essentially feminine.

    At the same time, she sees it as really just where the design of expensive high tech products should be. So she writes as though there is no inconguity between being high tech and feminine and in fact thinks the feminine in high tech is really good.

    BUT it does seem really problematic, apart from its assumptions about what’s gendered. There’s an assumption that Apple is marketing their products to women, but there’s really little evidence for that. And I think the visible top of the company tends to be very white male, no?

    Now, having said that, my sense is that Reed College, where Steve Jobs went (but did not graduate from), may be one of the less macho schools in the States.

  2. The original (pre-OS X) interface was designed by Susan Kare, (who made the Mac Apple pirate flag too), and without Ellen Hancock there wouldn’t be an OS X.

    And while certainly the top few public figures at the moment are male, compared to PC manufacturers, magazines, user groups etc, there is an awful lot less sexism and other bothersome behaviour in the Mac world.

    Macs also happen to be built upon the geek utopia of UNIX.

    So while I’m not sure Apple is ‘marketing their products to women’, women have been involved in the making at the highest level since the beginning…

    Somehow it seems as denigrating as when the world would say of Macs, “Oh but they’re only good for graphic design”.

  3. Well, I remember when the first “clamshell” iBook came out – lots of men rubbished it and said it looked like an oversized makeup compact or a gaudy handbag, dubbed it the “BarbieBook”, and said that it was too “girly” for serious business use – a giant plastic handle and a white with tangerine, green, blue, purple and pink.

    And it doesn’t take too many drinks until the ardened PC user will tell me that the Mac is “faggy”.

    Apple are marketing their products to humans – men and women alike. That, among technologists, there is some idea that anything that’s well-designed and easy-to-use is feminine, faggy or otherwise suspect is an unpleasant quirk of technologists, sadly. And I say that as someone who spends the vast majority of his screen time inside a terminal emulator.

    A related observation: back in the bad old days, computer magazines would carry advertising for very sleazy premium-rate bulletin boards systems where those who knew how could download porn. I don’t remember ever seeing one of these adverts in a Mac magazine, but the general PC mags were filled to the brim with them. And a lot of adverts that were very, very gendered like the famous “Our servers won’t go down on you either” ad (see http://www.jroller.com/obie/entry/sexism_in_the_it_industry ).

    Which reminds me of the first dotcom cycle: the tech press made an enormous fuss about how sexy they found Kim Polese, who was product manager at Sun for Java, then went on to start her own company. Of course, being the product manager on one of the most talked about (and now widely used) programming languages ever and then building a company and selling it for $239 million – those things weren’t really discussed as much as the “OMG sexy geek girl!1!” angle was.

  4. Hmm. The on-off switches on a Mac or an iPod are impossible to find — that’s if they exist — and you can’t configure anything yourself (like the ladies razors that can’t be opened up). Ueber-frustrating in my opinion, but they certainly *look* prettier and men seem to love them. Metaphors abound!!!

Comments are closed.