The introduction of the new Apple tablet, the iPad [cough] was made by Steve Jobs and a bunch of other men, and anxiously anticipated by a bunch of other men, and enthusiastically applauded yesterday by several other men. Women? We were busy wondering if men would be willing to be sent to the store to buy us our iPads.
Now, listen. We know that the tech industry is dominated by men. We know this is true of Apple in particular, in fact. We know this and buy our Apple products anyway because for the most part, Apple makes great products, and besides, if we wanted to buy tech products made by industries with equal female representation, we’d probably be typing on Smith Coronas or using feather pens. But still, talk about telegraphing the fact that you’re made by men! Maybe men live in a world where the word “pad” means “tablet of paper” or “home” first, and “menstruation product” several definitions down. But for me, a “pad” unmodified by the additions of modifying phrases like “of paper” or “come on over to my” means the inferior menstruation management product that I rejected when I was twelve and never looked back. And, oh look! there’s already a late-night comedy sketch made about it, even before it was launched.
Jamie from Design Milk had this to say:
“Yes, it is finally here, the Apple tablet, named the iPad. I think it’s an unfortunate name, clearly not coined by a woman, but it’s quite lovely to look at. I hope it lives up to the hype. For now, I’ll stick with my iPhone/Macbook/Kindle trifecta until I read some reviews.”
CNN reports that (male) tech writers are sure that the
iTampon iPad will be popular in spite of its name, choosing to believe that Apple could serve up a plate of broken glass and shit and call it “champagne” and people will buy it.
Marketing is only one part of a product’s success. But it can be a HUGE part of it. What does this name tell me? It tells me that Apple is not consulting very many women on its marketing team, or in its design. It tells me that Apple doesn’t even have any women in its focus groups, or else it is not listening to what they say. It tells me that Apple it is not a company terribly concerned with the fact that the name they’ve chosen might have other connotations to a woman than to a man. Apple was concerned that the product’s earlier proposed name, the iSlate, would have connotations too closely associated with older technology and “the Flintstones.” For a company that wants to reposition itself at the intersection of liberal arts and technology, Apple should know that the juxtaposition of the cutting edge technology of their tablet product with a name of technology from a simpler time is exactly the kind of thing we liberal arts people get excited about. DUH.
And are those things enough to make me boycott Apple? Probably not, let’s not kid ourselves, I love Apple. But my distraction with the name is enough to make me think about whether or not I really need this product. It’s enough to allow me to evaluate it without the rose-colored lenses of the Apple fanboy.
Right now I’ve got three devices that the iPad is supposed to replace with just one. In theory, that would be great, if it didn’t appear that the iPad only promises to perform the tasks I use each device for with less precision than the original. You want me to get excited about a gadget with an unfortunate name that I’m having a hard time getting over and not notice the fact that it is just a bigger iPhone without phone service, a Kindle with a backlight that strains my eyes, a laptop without the keyboard that requires me to learn how to type without my thumbs? I’d rather stick to my three buddies here.
If you want to be at the intersection of liberal arts and technology, you might want to consider thinking like a literary critic thinks. In that world, nothing about word choice is accidental, and everything is always already overdetermined. This product makes me think about something you put in your underwear when Aunt Flo comes for a visit. Is that what you want me to think of your product, even as a secondary definition? Oh, I guess it didn’t occur to you what I would think about it.