Friday, January 29, 2010

On Behalf Of All Wimmin: An Open Letter To Steve Jobs About The iPad

Dear Steve Jobs,

For months I have been looking forward to the release of Apple's new tablet computer, as I look forward to every new product released by your company. I have put off buying a Kindle, even though all of my friends have them; or even speaking to my sister about her beloved Sony Reader, for fear that I will become so envious that I will have to go into therapy about why she gets everything nice even though she is the youngest. So imagine my dismay when I heard that you were naming this new product the iPad.

Now, this ill-chosen, sexist name did not immediately make me think of a menstrual pad, but since other women have begun to make this obvious connection between a personal computer and a personal hygiene device, I have not been able to get over how crushed and mortified I am. I don't know if you have ever tried to write something on a menstrual pad, but believe me, it is not easy: the pen sticks constantly, little bits of fluff stick to the point, and there is really no room for more than a paragraph anyway. And because I loathe my body completely, well, anything that makes me think of vaginas or menstruation disturbs the creative process. I can't even imagine taking the iPad into a faculty or department meeting. There I would be, trying to work on curriculum or responding to the latest dictat about the budget, and thinking vagina, vagina, vagina. How can I work in an environment where I am being sexually harassed by my own computer?

What is worse is that I have now begun to imagine all your products, formerly beautiful to me, as the gross, sexualized items you have secretly intended them to be all along. It's so upsetting I can't tell you.

For example, there is the iPod, which makes me think of seed pods, which makes me think of testicles. Ee-yew.

Or the iBook, which makes me think of the Book, which makes me think of Leviticus, which inevitably leads to thoughts of bestiality. Double ee-yew!

You see the problem, I am sure. As a committed and long term feminist, I have learned many things about the condition of women from the kinds of critique that are being aimed at this new product of yours: I have learned about patriarchy, the ownership of my own body, and the work that gender does to distribute power in society. This latest insight -- that a personal computer could fix in my mind, indelibly, visions of menstrual pads and vaginal walls at their most unattractive has been more distressing than I can say. On the other hand, hearing from my sisters everywhere on this matter has also been a critical step in what it might mean to move to the next level of consciousness as a feminist. I intend to spend the rest of the day writing manufacturers of bed pads, pads of paper, paddles, paddleboards, paddle wheels, padlocks and pad thai noodles, demanding that they immediately remove their products from the market and rename them, or face a feminist boycott of unprecedented proportions.

Sure, I have other things to do. But feminism is a commitment that goes beyond the self to our responsibility for a collective sisterhood. Since the battles for equal pay and women's right to the integrity of her own body are already won it is time to address the oppressive patriarchal impulse behind the naming of consumer items that is holding women back and shaming them in the workplace.

Thank you for your attention,

The Tenured Radical

22 comments:

Horace said...

HeeHee! Nice to see a little good-natured ribbing about this nascent controversy.

Oops. Sorry. I know "nascent" makes you think of childbirth, which excruciatingly painful and (generally) exclusive to women.

I shall be more careful about language (especially phallogocentric language) in the future.

bitchphd said...

I don't find the name sexist or controversial--just hilarious.

Moria said...

Heart.

I have to say, I was really running out of leak-prevention and absorbency jokes - way to up the ante.

Dr. Virago said...

Like BitchPhD, I didn't find the name offensive...just dumb (and hilarious because of it). And I think the sexism angle was more about how it's clear there wasn't a woman in the marketing room when they named it -- and that's an important point about gender equality, IMHO.

Also, Jobs raves about portability, but does it fit in purse? No. (Except maybe a big hobo bag.)

It's also dumb because it's too close in sound to iPod -- especially for certain dialects of English in both N. America and the UK.

But mostly, it's a dumb product. It's way too expensive, doesn't do what a cheaper netbook can do (which, btw, might fit in a purse), and doesn't even do what an iPhone can do (which definitely fits in a purse).

Add the dumb name to the dumb product and it's about as useful to me as a MaxiPad -- now with wings! (I'm a tampon user myself.)

Activist Historian said...

Thank god for feminist visionaries such as yourself who aren't afraid to stick it to the man. I feel better knowing that as I linger apathetically in my postmodern malaise, you are leading the charge on the front lines of these important issues for the next generation of young women.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, maybe just a bit too touchy on the subject, like one of those chips, ah boulders, on the shoulders?

Humor is one thing, but taking it to the polictical level is just plain exploiting humor!

Anonymous said...

Wait - it's not yet April 1st, is it?

Stephany said...

heh I wonder if their new version will have wings.

Anonymous said...

As Colbert reported, could have been called the TamPod.

FrauTech said...

Hahahahaha. Nice.

Some of these people need to look up satire.

Anonymous said...

I realize that this particular piece is satire--and very good satire at that! Still, I am amazed at the criticism leveled at the naming of this particular product.

Just what the hell else was Apple supposed to name it? I figured the name would be iPad along. It makes sense. Do you think of feminine products when you pick up a "writing pad"? How about a "padfolio"?

Anonymous said...

Not to mention we should boycott all blogs that use Typepad.

FrauTech said...

iSlab. There that took me 5 s and I'd say it's about an equally good idea.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

Jobs deserves some slack as a seminal figure in the personal computer revolution.

JackDanielsBlack said...

Good one, TR -- very Swiftian!

Becky said...

You betcha:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krN1CMlybqw

At least it didn't include a belt!

dance said...

[late comments....]

On a different angle---I'm seeing lots of comments that the iPad is the perfect computer for a wife, or for a mother (which concepts are apparently equivalent to non-tech savvy people who stay at home and do not work, ARGH).

I'm also thinking that the ability to toss an iPad into a slightly oversized purse, and the inability to fit it in a pocket, may result in a slightly different gender story with this latest high-tech gadget. (Dr V, 8x10 inches totally fits in the same type of purse I tend to carry to conferences or any time I'm out and about all day)

Re women in the room when they named it---I think men are picking up on that connotation just as well (possibly more), and men are generally more horrified by such things than women. I think it's much more likely Apple had the arrogance to say "eh, we'll redefine the connotations by launch" than that they totally missed this one.

Also, rhetorically, I think iPad *does* connote feminine hygiene more than ThinkPad, NotePad, etc. Not sure why, but the "I" is apparently just not strong enough to do anything. Someone get Language Log on the case!

Ben said...

iSlab would just make me think about ribs. Mmmmm...ribs.

Shane Landrum said...

Thank you for lightening this morning's dissertation-deadline and job-search work. (Any bit of writing that can make me laugh out loud under such circumstances is doing something right.)

Townsend Harris said...

Now that Apple's producing a bigger sibling to my iPhone, I'll call them, respectively, the MaxiPad and the MiniPad.

Firefly said...

I think the "femine" / "feminist" reaction is silly and being hyped. Has no one ever written on a PAD of paper? It is not sexist to refer to a Writing Pad; those who zoom right to an egocentric feminine hygene reference need a bigger vocabulary ( I was going to say dictionary but was frightened away by possible misunderstanding) and need to have a larger world view beyond a mirror.

Ally said...

Very funny! I was unaware of any controversy over the name, though I have to admit that as a woman, my first thought was, "hmm, that's kind of unfortunate." I can't help wondering how many women are at the levels of the business that came up with the name.