The slow rise of women’s lib (the term was coined in 1964!) and the extreme patriarchal dominance that overshadows much of the Western world might lead you to believe that women have been a little slow to get involved in the gadget department, but research shows this isn’t exactly the case. In many instances in the last 100 years (we’re talking post corsetry) a woman would have had full control over the household budget and any major purchases for the home would have been run through her first. This made advertisers- and product creators- realize they needed to start tailoring their devices towards the female of the household, and once this started- well; they didn’t make pink laptops for men now, did they?
As society evolved, women have grown into miniature tech powerhouses, comfortably handling power drills (a predominantly male orientated area) choosing what cars the family would have and what fridge would cater for their needs. We’ve seen manufacturers battle each other to create female friendly gadgets (likely due to stats that say women control 80% of household spending), from products slapped with pink, to entries where more thought has gone into them; think ‘how will this help make my life easier’ rather than ‘ooh pretty’. There’s been a noticeable uptick to women being well informed about their gadget purchases- and sites like Chip Chick show this area is growing, rather than falling. The sector might be booming nowadays, but there has always been a place for women and gadgets- and we can prove this historically!. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and look at some of the strangest, funniest and most fascinating ways that women have been targeted with new technology.
Kodak Cameras- and the Kodak Girl
It might surprise you to learn that Kodak cameras have always had women in their headlight in terms of marketing strategy, dating back to the early 1900’s. At this time they created a campaign called the ‘Kodak Girl’ and created cameras specially designed to attract women- think easy to use buttons and cute colourways. The campaign ‘Kodak Girl’ was actually coined way back in 1893 by George Eastman, which was centered around what he described as a ‘fashionable, young, vibrant and independent woman’. The eponymous Kodak Girl was pictured roaming the world, camera in hand, and this might be one of the earliest depictions we’ve seen of a ballsy woman in technology. I love her fearless spirit and think it’s great that George Eastman chose to go this route, rather than the archetypal ‘woman displaying the male gaze pose’ that’s so commonplace today. It’s great to see that women from the 1890’s onwards have had a fascination with technology, and I’m happy that Kodak were brave enough to strike outside the sexist box and be confident in portraying a woman as clever, inquisitive and gadget savvy.
Bendix Radio, 1946
It’s easy for us to forget how important the radio used to be in the home, as it was the main source of news for most people, and brought really important updates in times of war. This is an advert form 1946, ten years after the Bendix Radio Corporation formed and shows a woman enjoying some alone time with her radio. She epitomizes the style and grace of the era, with an inclination towards the aspirational in terms of dress and quality of hair. The suggestion is that having a Bendix radio will allow you to be like this lady- glamorous, confident and comfortable, and this is a nice allusion to draw. This would be a post war era and people were just starting to enjoy luxuries again, and with more women in the workforce than ever before, ladies now had their own disposable income- and buying luxuries like this would be something they might well consider.
Sears Kenmore Stove , 1971
Mad Men may have had us feel that the sixties were starting to make strides in terms of sexism, but this advert for a Kenmore Stove from 1971 doesn’t dispel the idea that women were strongly considered to be the queens of the kitchen. OK, it implies that you’d do so in a very manicured manner, but it still suggests that this is their ‘domain’, and echoes of this notion are still felt today. The slogan is pretty offensive- “Designed for you, but built for your husband,” and I don’t even want to start a social deconstruction of this message, from the social implications to the inferior way it describes women and their manufacturing prowess. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 may have been in place for almost a decade, but there still isn’t a lot of equality for women- especially in a marriage, Sure, Kenmore are implying that a woman’s view on a kitchen appliance has weight, but not that she’d create it or even know how to use it properly. I’m glad we’ve moved on from this.
LG Shine Mirror Phone (circa 2007)
The shine may have worn off pink gadgets to some extent, but the LG Shine was released back when a veneer of pink was all that was needed for manufacturers to sell a product to women. Created with a unique ‘mirror finish’, one of the main selling points of the phone was that the 2.2 inch screen could turn totally reflective, allowing women to check their makeup/ fix their hair whenever they wished, as well as make calls and texts.
As a phone, it was actually pretty decent for the time, weighing in at 119g and featuring a 3.5mm jack, polyphonic ringtones (look, this was a draw in 2007) and able to hold a microSD card up to 2GB. Sure, it lacked 3G and infrared, but it was 2007- and this was a budget phone. A shoddy 2 megapixel camera finished the phone- and made it possible for you to snap pictures of your makeup- after you’d checked it in the mirror, naturally. Advertising was targeted directly at the female consumers, with stars of that time drafted in to make it seem appealing- check out Lauren Conrad’s bad acting skills in the video advert. Thankfully, we’ve moved on a little from phones which major selling points are checking out girl’s behinds/lipstick stains- but how far have we evolved?
Casio Camera Makeup Mode, 2011
Apparently the evolution of women towards gadgets with stronger selling points than being makeup friendly is still a way off, as the Casio Camera unashamedly targets itself as being a fully featured ‘makeup mode; camera, to such an extent they even bought the URL http://www.makeupmodecamera.com/ to advertise it- and this is in 2011! The cameras are actually fairly impressive pieces of kit, with the top end ones featuring 14.1 megapixels, a 26mm wide angle lens and HD video recording, but the downside is that the advertising is geared towards the fab ‘makeup mode’ which allows ladies to play with 12 levels of image processing (read: on-camera Photoshop) to ‘help smooth the appearance of your skin and soften facial shadows’. Great, a camera with a helping of guilt and age induced paranoia. When will they start packaging it with some anti aging cream or a subscription to Proactiv- can’t be that far away really.
Casio are not the only ones sharing their makeup magic shenanigans with us- Samsung also has a makeup mode on a variety of their cameras, which they like to call the ‘Beauty Shot mode’ and essentially turns the whole face into soft focus to give you that great Barbie doll appearance. There’s clearly some sort of demand or these wouldn’t be available, so perhaps we can blame this extra obsession with appearance on the Facebook generation, and how we are constantly forced to evaluate ourselves as we are now permanently on display? It doesn’t make it right, but it does lead us to interpret the psyche of the fourteen year old girl that these products are aimed at- where every bit of Photoshop helps in the battle against candid Facebook snaps and their repercussions. Considering how fast society is moving, it’s merely matter of time, before this type of makeup mode camera is targeted at men- perhaps with muscle defining qualities?
Della, the Dell Laptop campaign
Dell was possibly (hard to say) the first brand to create a bona fide pink laptop, and though I won’t argue about that need, I will say that it was very well received as they realized their female client base was getting a bit sick of the masculine black and grey products on offer. They now offer a wide variety of colored and customizable devices- but they did also suffer a blip with one particularly bad campaign a few years back.
The premise of the campaign was Della, the Dell girl. Let me elaborate. The website (now taken down) displayed a variety of women in various clichéd poses- smiling, sipping coffee, walking. It really showed women what women did- in case they needed an explanation. Their site not only showed contrived poses, but also featured a very condescending tech tips section which seemed to explain what a laptop was, rather than what you’d want from it. Example A; (about the media functions) “Listen to music, view pictures or even watching a movie. Some netbooks even offer an optional DVD drive if you’re not already streaming music online.”
There was also a lifestyle section which let you learn how to shop like a vintage blogger and how to recycle old gadgets . All very nice, but how is this related to buying a laptop? They were trying to sell a Della lifestyle and it just rang false. Still, we can put the past behind us, right?
The Tampon Taser Gun, a.k.a The Pink Stinger
Designed in 2007, this taser is more of a concept than an actuality, but worth an inclusion just to show you that technology aimed at women has been gathering momentum. The concept is that here you have a taser gun disguised as a tampon (Note: to be carried, not worn) which allows the bearer to protect themselves in times of danger. The blurb about it is fairly tongue in cheek ‘This weapon of mass absorption aims to target a niche market consumer, that being the tampon wielding women who desire private and discreet security in a friendly familiar package’, but the message is clear. Women use tech and will not be messed with anymore, so throw out any preconceptions of the computer addled lady and start realizing we’re a force to be reckoned with. I love that society has become modern enough for the idea of a product like this to be taken seriously, and yes, it may be pink, but it kicks some serious ass.
Philips Swarovski USB sticks
In the not so distant past, USB sticks were considered functional items that one would use to transport their documents with. Many companies started to realize that these little dongles were pretty essential gear for college students- and work people- of all ages and stated to make them more attractive and less utilitarian, but none got involved quicker and with more bling than Philips., Philips teamed up with Swarovski to offer beautifully adorned USB sticks that came in various pretty styles- from handbag charms, to faux heart necklaces and this proved a successful enterprise as they could vastly overcharge for their bling and women would queue up to get them (hands up, I’m guilty). The first collaboration took place in 2007, where they announced they’d be creating ‘a range of new and unique products that will take technology to a new, fashionable level for women’. The result was expensive but adorable pieces which ranged from USB sticks to accessories for phones and earphones- under the ‘Active Crystals’ brand name. Images for the collection were created to look like jewelery adverts, with the emphasis being on the ownership an desirability of the brand- a interesting play for Philips who were known more for practicality and less for the covetability of their products,
It paid off, and they’ve gone from strength to strength, though thankfully you now get more than 1GB for £100.
Check out some of their latest designs here.
Storm Tracker Geek Watches for Ladies
Geek watches have been popular for over a decade now, but earlier models all had one thing in common. Yes, there was a definite influence of LED lights and binary mechanism, but the common factor was that they all tended to be rather large and chunky- designed to fit the wrists of men. Not women. Storm is not the atypical brand when you think of geek Watches (hello TokyoFlash) but they were the first to create specific geek watches tailored for women. The Tracker watch features brushed stainless steel, and the requisite (hey this is a geek watch, OK?) LED lights which display the time in an unusual but attractive manner. Available in three colourways, it’s designed for smaller wrists but has full size geek credentials.
Get Storm Watches here
Just when you thought you were done with phones created specifically for women, along comes one designed with that exact intention… and it’s embarrassingly good. Called the HTC Rhyme (much better name than the HTC Bliss it was codenamed as), the HTC Rhyme runs on Android and features a sweet looking 3.7 inch screen. It uses the HTC Sense UI which is slick to use and well designed and features 4GB of internal memory and a 5MP camera with 720p video. So far, so regular right? How does this stand out for women? Well, the accessory kit is one lure, with a stunning looking dock station that lets the phone double as an alarm clock and a speaker, as well as a cutesy light up charm accessory which glow when you have incoming calls. There will also be a sports armband and a Bluetooth headset on offer, for extra ease of use.
The phone is a pretty shade of plum and the obvious draw for women (and men, to be fair) are how well thought out the features are, and how easily it will slip into your lifestyle. As a long-term Android devotee, I think this model is seriously impressive and though a few extra colourways would be a bonus, I’m happy that this has been created. HTC are recognizing what women want out of a mobile phone, and this is hopefully the start of great future offerings in this domain.