Thus Spake Zuska

Gender Smog – Dell Version

Hat tip to reader James Ramsey…

What do women really need in computer? Because, what with our vaginas and all, our computing needs are so, so different from those of men. Thank the goddess Dell is looking out for us, with its helpful marketing strategy that emphasizes “color schemes, cases and dieting tips”. Oh my god, I can accessorize my laptop? I must have died and gone to heaven! Here’s a “Tech Tip” from the Della site (isn’t that so cute??? get it? Dell, the real site, is gendered “guy”, while Della is for us girls. I mean, who would want to buy a laptop from a guy site, right?):

Tools like Gyminee help you track workouts and reach your fitness goals. You can even map out new running routes via sites like Map my run. Improve your mood by listening to music, viewing pictures or even watching a movie. Some netbooks even offer an optional DVD drive

Yes, because women need MORE encouragement to focus on their bodies. Oooh, a DVD drive? How techie!

Pardon me while I hork up my lunch.

Last fall a Dell “back to school” catalog arrived in my mailbox and I almost blogged the cover. It showed a young girl in a sea of pink, holding a pink laptop. If this is the most creative marketing that Dell can come up with to reach the female consumer, I hope the company dies a swift painful death.

Comments

  1. #1 m
    May 15, 2009

    Ha! They must have gotten some complaints. They got rid of the “Della” logo pictured in the NYT article. Now it just says Dell. That fixes it, right? Its still the the same schlock otherwise.

  2. #2 Danimal
    May 15, 2009

    Dell must have gotten their marketing advice from Paris Hilton.

  3. #3 JLK
    May 15, 2009

    Hence my die-hard dedication to the mostly gender-neutral Mac.

  4. #4 JustaTech
    May 15, 2009

    I was glad I wasn’t eating when I read this in the paper. I mean, really? What year is it? What’s the age demographic? Hell, even if they’re advertising to tweens it’s still wrong on at least a dozen levels. Even my boyfriend was insulted.

    It’s one thing to sell after-market laptop cases in dozens of colors and patterns (oo, FSM art!). But to imply that I wouldn’t know what to do with a computer, which I have been using since I was 4, unless it’s pink and tells me to feel bad about my body is beyond insulting.

    Epic FAIL Dell. You can take that “Della” and shove it up your nose, because there is certainly nothing else in your cranial cavity!

    (Now I feel bad about wanting a red netbook. Dammit!)

  5. #5 D. C. Sessions
    May 15, 2009

    The marketing genius responsible for this must never have been in the same room as a woman. Or, if he was, he made sure that her mouth was full so she couldn’t say a word.

  6. #6 becca
    May 15, 2009

    “Hence my die-hard dedication to the mostly gender-neutral Mac. “
    Well, it was a nice thought. (click the namelink)

  7. #7 Comrade PhysioProf
    May 15, 2009

    There ain’t no pink ThinkPads!!

  8. #8 Tsu Dho Nimh
    May 15, 2009

    @5 … the marketing VP is a woman.

    Can we now excoriate her for being a tool of the male oppressors?

  9. #9 D. C. Sessions
    May 15, 2009

    Becca, there’s nothing wrong with people pimping (or pinking) their Macs. The ones you linked to are all actually quite attractive (for Macs; I don’t swing that way.) I’m having a bit of trouble coming up with an outfit in my wardrobe that would go with those, but part of that is just my own coloration.

    No, what’s profoundly insulting about the Dell abomination is much more basic:

    There is the Dell site, which contains computers for gaming, personal use, and business use. Then there’s the Della site, which no doubt exists because after all women don’t do gaming, personal, or business computing.

    Spit.

    Well, it’s Texas. Maybe they don’t allow women to have brains there or something, so those who are stuck behind the lines there have learned protective coloration and other techniques for survival in lethally hostile territory.

    And, yes, I realize that “aren’t allowed to have brains” and “lethally hostile territory” are at best relative. Much of the South has distinguished itself in that particular bit of relativity.

  10. #10 Erin
    May 15, 2009

    Wow. Errr…wow.

  11. #11 frances
    May 15, 2009

    I only like netbooks when someone is hacking OS X to run on it, hate pink and listen to black metal to improve my mood.

    (And here I was getting all excited about Toshiba’s 512gb SSD drive…I make a crap girl…)

  12. #12 Niklas
    May 15, 2009

    Hmm… I’d actually like some help reaching my fitness goals, and i do sometimes improve my mood by listening to music, does this mean that i’m a woman? Can i buy that laptop anyway?

  13. #13 Lora
    May 15, 2009

    I once had the non-pleasure of discussing my computer needs with a few Dell sales employees.

    Astonishingly, a computer that does not have Windoze pre-installed, a computer without 50 useless bundled child-oriented programs that I will have to uninstall on receipt of computer and a computer with a decent processor and chipset were not available for purchase through their business.

    Also, I, a lowly biologist, knew more about computers than their own “tech service” reps who were ostensibly paid actual money to assist me in my electronics needs.

    Maybe when they remediate these issues, they will have some female customers. Given their current product line, though, it seems they are targeting stupid people whose technological goals consist of downloading pr0n and letting their children “do homework” on teh intarwebz unsupervised.

    To give credit where credit is due, they certainly motivated me to learn to build my own computer out of components from New Egg, and I saved about $1600-1800 that way. That was a very liberating experience, realizing that even the hardware of computers is quite easy to manipulate once you’ve got the hang of matching up plugs and things. Guess I should thank them for making me so frustrated with the ready-built Intel-monopolized industry that I finally said “fuck this shit.” Best technological skill I ever acquired!

  14. #14 Peggy
    May 15, 2009

    So if you wear a blue shirt, you use a blue computer; a green shirt, a green computer; a pink shirt, a pink computer – does that mean that if I have several different colored outfits I need to buy multiple laptops? I wouldn’t want to clash. Or maybe I’ll just stick with my nice silver Mac, since that goes with everything.(Becca: those pink Macs you link to are after-market mods.)

    I wonder who Dell(a)’s target customer is? The “tech tips” seem to be aimed at someone who is completely unfamiliar with both computers and the internet. I’m not sure who that would be exactly, since web sites and “lifestyle” software are frequently discussed in women’s mags and on Oprah and other programs aimed at women.

  15. #15 Danimal
    May 15, 2009

    @Peggy: “I wonder who Dell(a)’s target customer is?”
    Paris Hilton, Jenny McCarthy, etc.

  16. #16 Julie Stahlhut
    May 15, 2009

    Dieting tips? For laptops? Aren’t they already shrinking enough?

    Oh, never mind ….

  17. #17 Kim Hannula
    May 15, 2009

    My husband is getting a refurbished pink netbook, cause it’s cheap and he wants something to travel with. I told that owning a pink computer would be a good way to demonstrate his comfort with his masculinity. But he seems to think that he needs to cover it with skulls and install Linux or something.

  18. #18 trained entomologist
    May 15, 2009

    I can’t stand pink cr*d, unless it actually connects directly with my biological status as a female.

    A workout tracker sounds fine on a computer. Just make sure it includes sets/reps for the weightroom as well as time/distance for cardio! Yes, more girls ought to lift some weights!

  19. #19 becca
    May 15, 2009

    (Becca: those pink Macs you link to are after-market mods.)
    Valid point. However, I don’t buy the notion of “I became a devote of mac because they are gender neutral”.

    “Or maybe I’ll just stick with my nice silver Mac, since that goes with everything.”
    Beige also goes with everything (think of Khaki pants), but Mac decided beige was just SOOOOOOOOOO lame (remember the g3 iMac? remember the strawberry g3?). Fashion always comes full circle, gender-influenced or no.

    “I can’t stand pink cr*d, unless it actually connects directly with my biological status as a female.” Huh? Do you mean like a pink Aylesbury spatula?
    /confused

  20. #20 ambivalent academic
    May 16, 2009

    You can even map out new running routes via sites like Map my run.

    Feck off. Srsly. I can already do that with my (ancient and gender-neutral PC). It’s a free web-based software via YahooMaps. I know lots of d00dz who use it too. The Map My Run site is for people who run. There isn’t anything gendered about that shit. And now they’re making it sound like you can only get it on a pink Della computer. I Blame the Patriarchy. (Woops, wrong blog.) Pbthbthbthbthb!

  21. #21 Peanut
    May 16, 2009

    Seriously, why does the “female version” of ANYTHING have to be pink or pastel?

  22. #22 ambivalent academic
    May 16, 2009

    Aylesbury spatula! I just got that! HAHAHAHA!

  23. #23 Zuska
    May 16, 2009

    Heh heh heh! That Becca! She gives me hope for the future!

  24. #24 Scrabcake
    May 17, 2009

    God. I used to work on the Sims. Their marketing thinks this way, too. “Oooooh. It needs to be cuter and more social! Girls like that. No, we can’t do girls don’t like that. Let’s do a tie-in with a boy-band!” Those girls you hated in highschool? They’re all in marketing now.

  25. #25 Omphaloskepsis
    May 17, 2009

    Do you ever watch “Look Around You”? It’s a Brit sketch comedy styled after educational films of the 70’s and 80’s, and they did a sketch about a “computer made by women, for women”, the Petticoat 5. Pink case, keys designed to be easier to use with long nails, vanity mirror, built-in air freshener and only one program available – a lipstick color chart.

    Video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qptvCqtMg_o

  26. #26 Charlotte
    May 17, 2009

    Thankfully this shit seems to have skipped the UK site – let me know if I’m wrong and I’ll send them a quick rant. I got fairly good advice from the UK online staff about graphics processors and the like a few months back, but then I’m not really techy enough to make my own. I just wanted to be sure it’d run Fallout 3 the modelling software for my uni courses.

    I’m actually a complete sucker for anything that comes in different colour options and have even been known to buy pink stuff on occasion – it’s only a colour. I think JLK’s right about Macs, I can’t remember any gender crap in their UK ads when the iMac came out. Most of the style concious architects/graphics/theatre folk I know are Apple obsessives, their stuff is generally beautifully designed.

  27. #27 msphd
    May 17, 2009

    Those girls you hated in highschool? They’re all in marketing now.

    OMG that is so true, as I learned when I joined FB.

    I am glad I’m a Mac for this reason. And I am conflicted about pink (e.g. breast cancer awareness types of empowerment movements).

    Zuska- I love where you say you’re going to hork up your lunch. LOL. Always nice to visit here for the sheer mindedness.

  28. #28 eddie
    May 17, 2009

    The barbie generation is growing up but not out of the brainwashing. But doesn’t PH show that the barb-gen is as into prawns as the next guy?
    I always preferred MLP. Gimme a lilac comp with purple spots. ThinKPads do have that cute, red nipple thing, tho.
    Also, I second the Look Around You tip. genius

  29. #29 Samia
    May 18, 2009

    Omphaloskepsis: I love you for loving Look Around You.

    Apparently all you need to do is paint something pink and you’ve got the “women’s version.” If you think this is ridiculous, check out any female MMA/wrestling/boxing gear. Just about everything is only offered in a soft baby pink: pink gloves, hand wraps, sweats, shorts, bras, shoes, ankle supports, helmets, mouthguards…it’s comical, really. The lack of choice is astounding. I just saw a women’s track jacket with two mudflap-stripperesque silhouettes in boxing gloves– with platform heels and big hair. Sorry to ramble…I could write a thesis paper on the significance of over-“feminizing” female equipment in traditionally male sports.

    Zuska, I think you should do a Gender Smog piece about the stereotypes we feed children in school about important scientists (white, male, old, “loner” types) that might make the profession unpalatable to many kids.

  30. #30 usagi
    May 21, 2009

    @29: Christian MMA gear is even weirder. Check for “Jesus didn’t tap” gear. Odd on so many levels.

    Seriously, a lot of this stuff seems to descend from the Asian market. Check out some of the latest tech toys on Dynamism. The color options are a bit wider, but still very gender specific (I love that new handheld that looks like a clutch–I think it’s even available in alligator leather).

    Here’s what I don’t get about this whole idiocy–covers are easy and cheap. Applied vinyl is even cheaper. An awful lot of marketing at this demographic is about finding “the look that’s right for you.” Does it take a genius to see the potential here? iPods are available in, what, 10 colors or thereabouts? How cheap would it be to press cases in 10 colors, license some cool graphics to apply at the factory, and market it as a selling point?

  31. #31 Jeff Knapp
    May 24, 2009

    The sad fact is, all of the pandering to the worst stereotypes of women to sell products actually works. The sales numbers don’t lie. Dell knows this, Apple knows this.

    Zuska, I think your message needs to be heard by many young women – women who actually respond to this kind of marketing – as much as men need to hear it. Go to any high school campus today and you will see what I mean.

  32. #32 cheap computers
    July 21, 2009

    Its helpful marketing strategy that emphasizes color schemes, cases and dieting tips. Its great.

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.