The Sweaty Knitter, a wonderful blogger and lover of all things fiberarts, shared a really interesting and downright hilarious video clip with me and her readers from the Ellen show. The clip was about the truly remarkable new product from Bic. Yes, that Bic company; the one that manufactures pens, shavers and other stationery products. Well, Bic decided to further fight for equality and gender issues by releasing their new lines of pens: Bic for her.
Take a moment and view the clip from the Ellen show here. It’s hilarious and super poignant, you will enjoy it.
Now we can begin the critical examination of this revolutionary product that makes all women sigh in relief at the newest expression of gender equality.
What do you suppose spurred this product into creation? Can you just imagine the dialogue at the company meeting to get the product green-lighted? What in the world could have been the sales pitch that made the shareholders look at each other and say “oh yeah, that’s a winner”? Well, I guess it would have included the necessary but ignored fact of the intrinsic difference in women’s and men’s hands. Sure, if that existed. Oh wait, I bet some of you are thinking, “Hey! Women’s and men’s hands are different; they tend to be different sizes!” You would be true, but what also must be considered if this “difference” is really about sex. Sociological examinations of groups reveal that groups actually are more “internally diverse” than “externally diverse”, meaning that members of a group are usually more different from other people within the same group, than outside the group. By this evidence, men and women are likely more similar than different, while women are likely more different than other women than men in general. So, does a pen whose entire premise is based on perceived differences between males and females make sense? This is when the difference between “sex” and “gender” becomes very important.
What the pen’s marketing is actually based on is perceived differences in gender. Remember that gender is not the same as sex. Sex is based on the biological sexual organs of a person (which is not as simple as male/female either). Gender is a performance based on expectations, personal motivations, and assumptions. It is what sociologists call “socially constructed”. When a woman wears a dress and does her hair in a feminine style, she is “doing gender”. When a boss at work tells a male to cut his long hair in order to get or keep his job, the boss is policing gender. When men get together to talk about women as sexual objects, discuss their sexual prowess and their “conquests”, they are reinforcing gender to each other and themselves. This is how gender is socially constructed.
The pen product is based on perceived gender differences, such as assumed differences in color preference. The pens come in a “feminine” pink and purple. As Ellen joked in the clip, “…they come in both lady-colors, pink and purple.” Additionally, they apparently have a “slim” barrel. Not the first time “slim” has been marketed as a preferred feminine trait.
In a prior article, In the Fog of Daytime TV, I talked some about Steve Harvey and his (and many other public figures) tendency to chock up human differences in terms of sex. This is an example of how this ideology can pervade other parts of social life and why it is always important to critically example and discuss gender. This crazy product venture, which has managed to incur a great deal of sarcasm from consumers, may not have gotten that green-light at our theoretical stakeholder’s meeting.
Amusingly, I browsed and found several other articles with the same WTF tone about this ridiculous product. Check them out:
I’m glad to see that many women and even some men have taken the time to discuss how disappointingly absurd this product is.