"It's Not A Kitchen Gadget, It's A Tool!"

Ladies, all these years you've been using blenders and understood them as belonging to the category "kitchen gadget".

But when he uses the manly new stainless steel RPM blender, it's not a kitchen gadget, it's a tool!

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Or so the manly man on HGTV's "I Want That! Kitchens" informed viewers this afternoon.

It was a beautiful spot on the show. We saw the happy nuclear family at home, mom reading to the kids, and dad - dad practiced a few karate kicks for the camera. That helped establish his manliness for us, prior to us seeing him in the kitchen using that gadget - I mean, the new RPM blender tool.

The RPM Blender, we should note, comes not with a silly scale that reads "chop - whip - blend - puree". That's what you'd find on a girly-girl kitchen gadget blender. No, the manly man RPM blender tool comes with a tachometer! That's part of how you know it's a tool, and not a gadget. Also, its squarish, chunky base and the toggle switch help mark this tool as Safe For Men To Use - Will Not Cause Shrinkage.

It is touching indeed to see HGTV doing their part regender the kitchen. And nice to know that after it gets gussied up for the boys, the stuff that's been marketed to women for years as gadgetry can now be classified as technology.

To sum up: Gadgets are for girls. Real MenTM use tools.

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Of course, the phallic nature of the lid has nothing to do with it being a "manly' tool...

My husband quickly claimed the Dyson vaccume cleaner, calling it the "man vac"... of course, since I can't let him get away with that, I get to call it something else if I've used it last.

Personally, if men want to use household appliances, I really don't care what they call them.

By philosopherP (not verified) on 04 Nov 2007 #permalink

"Gadgets are for girls. Real Men(TM) use tools."

Damn straight. Better not try makin any pink girly drinky-poos like strawberry-fuckin-daiquiris in my Tool, either. It's for grindin MEAT. Red meat.

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 04 Nov 2007 #permalink

Um... There's small blenders, there's big ones. There's quiet one's, loud and powerful ones. There's white, black, green, yellow, red, orange and pink ones. They come in plastic, steel and aluminum. There's blenders that look taken from the 50's and taken from the set of Star Trek. There's blenders styled to look good in a old-cabin style kitchen, boat pantry, 1920's minimalism or in blond Scandinavian design. There's an entire separate class of blenders designed to work and look good in a professional kitchen as opposed to a home. There is - naturally - a Hello Kitty model.

So why is this one, specifically, a problem?

A tachometer? What the hell? Unless you know that approximate RPMs at which each food "chops - whips - blends - purees" you're kinda SOL, aren't you? Otherwise, everything ends up liquified or in teeny pieces. I don't think even manly professional chefs learn those particular formulae.

Well, this particular machine seems pretty low-quality. But overall there's some good design decisions there. "puree", "chop" and so on are also pretty arbitrary labels that depend on the ingredient and the amount; you need to use the thing for a bit to get a feel for when to use what. Indicating the RPM is not better but probably no worse either.

A chunky, square, heavy base means it stays stable. Big, protruding buttons are easy to manipulate if you have flour or dough or oil on your hands so you can bump them with the back of the hand - or if you're old or rheumatic or disabled and can't deal with small, fiddly buttons. And brushed stainless is a great idea in a kitchen because it shows any dirt or grease instantly - this is the reason it's used in professional kitchens that need to follow food safety guidelines. If you missed cleaning something you know it at once.

There's a reason many "professional tools" look like they do; don't discard it out of hand. Even if this one is low-end and perhaps not worth getting doesn't mean the basic idea isn't sound.

Janne, I think you have completely missed the point.

It's not about whether or not the RPM Blender Tool is or is not a great blender, or a stylish blender, or a good blender for seniors or people with disabilities.

It's about how HGTV was marketing the blender, and the way gender is wrapped around its presentation. It's about how technology itself comes to be gendered. It's about how what women use is just gadgetry, but when men handle it, it becomes a tool, it becomes technology.

It's about gender, Janne.

And a Hello Kitty blender is not marketed according to gender? Or any appliance that is pastel-colored and rounded as opposed to black and orange with sharp lines?

Gender-theming sells. Just like age-theming (how many products aren't sold on the implicit premise that your parents will hate it?), or various subculture-specific productizations. Yes, this kind of marketing can be damaging if it is pervasively towards only one group (whether gender or age, particularily), thus excluding other gorups. But that isn't the case here, is it? My point above was that as far as kitchen tools go, there's options aiming for just about any subgroup on this world (and possibly out of it).

And since gender-specific preferences aren't going away any more than age or any other subgroup preference, it's somewhat pointless to try to remove it. And since taste for "macho" things is present in a consumer segment (just like Hello Kitty-themed merchandise), why would that segment not be served by manufacturers? If someone wants to wear camo and use Xxtreem Blenderz, let them.

Thinking a bit further (sorry to be so disorganized); isn't this development a good thing? We have two problems: many domains are dominated by one gender; and participants of the minority gender is often required to implicitly conform to the perspective given by the majority one.

But that domain split is more about the perspective, the framing (ugh, dislike that term), imposed rather than about any real difference in ability or interest. So the generally desirable outcome is for all participants to be able to participate using their own perspective, not just that one imposed by the majority.

And traditionally, the kitchen/food preparation domain has been rather female-dominated, with a female-oriented framing (it's "appliances" not "tools"). But lately, of course, an alternative framing has developed, and men, though still a minority, are now participating in that domain in much greater numbers now that they can do so on their own terms. Isn't this what we'd want to happen in all those other domains that deplorably still require all participants to submit to one single perspective?

"So the generally desirable outcome is for all participants to be able to participate using their own perspective, not just that one imposed by the majority."

In which case, reinforcing majority-imposed, artificially-created gender norms does the opposite of the desirable outcome.

It's been my experience and my observation that:

Beliefs inspire behaviors.

Behaviors create consequences.

Some consequences cause harm.

My sense is that Zuska's blog is predicated on the premise that gender beliefs and the behaviors and consequences that result from gender beliefs are culturally programmed, and thus gender beliefs are also plastic, flexible, changeable, malleable, reprogrammable, and perhaps even removable.

I see that the latest comments have begun to address changing behaviors. That's fine, as far it goes, but to me trying to tweak that one variable without addressing the others: beliefs, attitudes, consequences, and harm, in my experience that limited approach doesn't do much. The value I get from Zuska's blog is that it delves into the underlying mechanism of our culture, including beliefs and attitudes and consequences and, too often, harm.

That's the conversation I come here to experience. Dismissing all but one aspect of that conversation feels unsatisfying to me.

Janne, I'll try this once more. You seem doggedly determined to ignore what I am saying but here goes.

And traditionally, the kitchen/food preparation domain has been rather female-dominated, with a female-oriented framing (it's "appliances" not "tools").

This, Janne, is exactly the problem. "kitchen" has been associated with "feminine" which has been associated with "gadgetry" and with "not-technology, not-tools". Tools and technology, on the other hand have been associated with masculinity.

Now we get a blender specifically designed so that men can use it and not feel their penis shrivel, and presto! They get to call it a tool! Suddenly, the blender is no longer mere gadgetry, but has become technology! The same exact device, the same function, a human being using it for the same purpose - but if you are a guy, you get to claim it as a tool and as reinforcing your masculinity. The RPM Blender is "his tool" in "her kitchen". (all puns intended)

This is NOT a positive thing. It does NOT undercut traditional gender roles, it reinforces them. It reinforces the notion of masculine as superior - and as owner of technology - over feminine, who just plays around with gadgetry. It does NOT say "hey, those women have been using technology all along! And it's pretty cool technology! I'd like to use some of THEIR technology!" Now THAT would be progressive. But it isn't. It doesn't acknowledge that the things traditionally associated with women are, in fact, technology. Only when a man claims it and remakes it will it be acknowledged as technology.

My blog post is intended to point out the manner in which the HGTV spot supports and reinforces traditional gender roles and the appropriation of technology to the masculine. I offer it as yet another example of the sort of thing that goes on ALL THE TIME, so often, that it becomes just background noise. Gender socialization, and in particular the gendering of technology, is pervasive. This is yet another example.

Yes, it's nice if guys come in the kitchen and take responsibility for more housework. But it's nice only if they do so as equal partners, not as someone "helping" the woman with "her" work and getting special credit for doing this extraordinary thing outside the sphere of normal behavior. TV segments like the HGTV RPM Blender spot do not support an understanding of men and women as equal partners sharing responsibility for managing a household.

Gender-theming may sell, but that doesn't mean I have to like it, or passively accept it, or not critique it when I see it. I don't want men coming into the kitchen and bringing their he-man selves along with them, because they think that's the only way men are allowed to be. I want to dismantle gender socialization and stop telling people how "real men" think and feel. I'd like to have a world where any human being could just use a blender without worrying about whether they were operating a piece of technology that had been appropriately designed for their gender. I'd like to reclaim technology as a human endeavor, not a masculine domain.

Does there exist *any* absurd manifestation of pernicious gender role stereotyping that some doofus won't show up here to defend as totally "innocent" or "natural"?

I'm just asking.

By PhysioProf (not verified) on 05 Nov 2007 #permalink

Well, there was that incident where someone made up an eastern MMO requiring that to be female, players had to take pictures of themselves. Because, you know, all those female MMO players are really guys who just want to get free loot from other guys with hot wimmin partz.

Those were some 'fun' discussions.


Dudes (an appelation I use freely with aquaintances of either gender)! That's not a blender. This is a blender!


As soon as the Real Men (TM) come up with another manly word for "Kitchen" then we "gals" will know that they have tried to pull off a "fast one." As far as I know restaurant chefs *still* cook in a kitchen...

By Mizwidget (not verified) on 07 Nov 2007 #permalink

I have to admit that there is something strangely disquieting about this sort of marketing -- on several levels. Part of it is the idea that blenders just weren't adequately manly before, and part of it is the idea of making basic household appliances gender-appropriate. What, so it should appeal to only half of the household? That's silly. (Good for sales, though, I suppose.) I get equally annoyed at the pervasive ads highlighting why women should like particular vacuum cleaners. It's the same problem, but on the opposite side. As Zuska so eloquently said before, these tools should be equally appropriate for *both* genders, since both genders can reasonably be expected to use them. There's also, of course, my general annoyance at marketdroid behavior; a perfectly good appliance has been redesigned purely to delude people into thinking that it's new! Improved! And they must have it! But I'll just have to learn to live with that particular problem. ;-)

There was an episode of "The Red Green Show" that addressed this "appliance versus tool" thing. Dalton Humphrey was addressing a meeting of "Men Anonymous" and talking about how he'd learned to use the washer and dryer. They weren't so scary once he realized that he could think of them as his power tools! He called the dryer his "heat turbine". Can't remember what he called the washer. "Stand back, kids, dad's using the heat turbine!" :-P

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 09 Nov 2007 #permalink

This does seem like a pretty idiotic thing to market to one gender, but I'm happy that at least they are marketing some kitchen appliances to guys. In any event, a blender with a tachometer strikes me as much more useful. If all blenders used that one wouldn't have the issues one has about doing the same recipe in a different blender (in which case one sometimes chops something too much or not enough). It isn't clear to me what the difference is between gadgets and tools (if it stays in one place in the kitchen I'd label it an appliance regardless) but I don't see why someone would prefer a normal blender over this one. I mean granted, it is a bit ugly but it does allow more fine-tuning and control over the blending.

By Joshua Zelinsky (not verified) on 13 Nov 2007 #permalink

It is touching indeed to see HGTV doing their part regender the kitchen. And nice to know that after it gets gussied up for the boys, the stuff that's been marketed to women for years as gadgetry can now be classified as technology.

To sum up: Gadgets are for girls. Real MenTM use tools.

LOL! If they would just come out with two colors and put the pink one on the girl's isle in the store and the blue one on the boy's isle it would save all this confusion! LOL!
Dave Briggs :~)

Ouch. This hits me really close to home, because I'm a woman who works in a non-programming job in IT. (I'm a technical writer and software tester.) Despite using tools that are functionally similar to development environments (and quite complex), and that part of a help author's job involves staring at code and/or writing map files (essentially a long string of tab-delimited C "define" statements), it's not like we actually do anything technical, right? We're just typists and proofreaders.

Do I have to mention at this juncture in the narrative that right now, technical writing is heavily (like 60-75%) female-dominated? (The men who are in it seem to be engineers to a man, which doesn't help.)

By Interrobang (not verified) on 04 Jan 2008 #permalink