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Lady Brains: Dumbing Down Technology for Women

Wed, 03/20/2013 - 9:27am
Kasey Panetta, Associate Editor

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Manufacturers are constantly trying to find ways to appeal specifically to women. The justification is often that their product—be it pens, cars, or toys—sells with men, but they’re trying to attract more women. It’s a logical thought process: Figure out what a demographic wants, market those specific traits, sell more product.

At least it’s logical until you reach the point of insulting.

Introducing the EPad Femme, a $190 tablet made “exclusively for women” by Eurostar Group.

At this point you’re probably asking how a tablet can be made exclusively for women. 

The 16GB, 8- inch tablet, with an Android operating system, features an all-pink background and comes pre-loaded with several lady apps including cooking, grocery store, yoga, and shopping apps, plus a “Women’s assistant” offering weight-loss tips.

Let’s back this up a step. Are they insinuating women couldn’t figure out how to download those— or a myriad of science, technology, literary, news, or game—apps without help?

Courtesy of EurostarCourtesy of EurostarBabies use the iPad; it’s not a complicated device.

By creating a “this is for girls” tablet that comes preloaded with all of these basic apps, are the manufacturers implying that women can’t figure out how to use tablets?

Preposterous, you say. Except that’s what’s actually happening.

“The Tablet comes preloaded with applications so you can just turn it on and log in to cooking recipes or yoga,” Mani Nair, the Associate Vice President for Marketing at Eurostar, told The Media Line. “It makes a perfect gadget for a woman who might find difficulties in terms of downloading these applications, and it is a quick reference.”

Courtesy of EurostarOn one hand, I understand her point. Tablets already come pre-loaded with different apps, and this is just a variation of apps. Pre-loading apps concerning issues traditionally relegated to the female sphere is patronizing and, frankly, annoying. But, to insinuate it’s because the owner would have trouble finding these apps in the app store is downright offensive. Not only is it incredibly easy to download apps, I would argue that perusing the app store for apps is one of the best parts of tablet ownership. Fruit Ninja, anyone?

I'd like to see the Emasculine complete with apps about sports, beer, and technology hit the market. If people are having trouble finding apps, I'm not sure why it's assumed it's just women and that men don't need this super helpful tablet. (Maybe it could come in camo.) If you're going to pre-load apps, make sure they appeal to a variety of interests, not just what women are "supposed" to be interested in. Perhaps a woman likes to cook AND read up on the latest tech news.

Technology like this, while possibly well-intentioned, is too one-dimensional to be successful. It relies too heavily on simplistic stereotypes rather than offering options. You can’t make assumptions about people simply because of their race, religion, gender, geographic location, or anything else about them in life, and you can’t do it with technology. Women, just like men, come in all shapes, sizes, interests, passions, and hobbies, and companies need to account for that.

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