Could We Quit It With Stereotypes About “Tech Gifts For Women?”

shutterstock_1161979528Tis the season for that perennial favorite: yet more lists of “tech gifts for women.” It seems like every year I run across this rubbish on one site or another, and it gets more annoying every time.

Here’s one of this year’s entries, but they’re all pretty much the same, assuming that women only want “stylish” accessories and that the only tech we might possibly enjoy must involve cooking, travel, or fashion.

Similarly, I despise “tech gifts for moms” lists, because they assume that the only item of technology a mother could want are smart toys or fancy baby monitors. You know what this woman and mother would want as a tech gift? A high-end graphics card for my gaming PC, or maybe a really sweet set of hex wrenches. And yet somehow I don’t see anything like that on these lists. The “tech gifts for dads” lists like this one are no better, assuming that all dads must want coffee makers plus smart home everything. What if Dad’s the one who wants the stylish fitness accessory? What if Mom is more interested in a smart tech device?

Past incidents demonstrate that marketing technology exclusively towards women is a lesson in absurdity. I’ll never forget the short-lived Dell “Della” laptop from 2009. Here’s what I blogged about it at the time.

Designed for a woman’s lifestyle and Oh. So. PINK! (Take a look at this this screenshot of the web site.) It had crap hardware specs and could barely run anything, but hey! It’s pretty and feminine, so line up, ladies! Dell quickly removed its Della advertising, but not before the public backlash turned the product and the company into a laughingstock. That was a decade ago. This is 2019, but very little has changed.

Even as I was writing this, more posts came pouring in. “Gifts For Her!” this one proclaims in the title and accompanying picture, although the actual text spoke more to gifts by interest than by gender which makes me wonder if this was an editorial choice and not the author’s original intention. Another article proclaims ideas for the “teenage girl,” because apparently the only thing a teenage girl could be interested in is the perfect Instagram photo.

Why is this such a big deal? Because women in tech still make less money than men. Because young women see articles like these and realize that the STEM industry may not welcome them even if it’s their lifelong passion. I remember being teased and insulted as a kid for liking computers. That was decades ago. I had hoped things would improve. They haven’t, and it’s long past time for this technology gender-shaming to stop.

Not only are articles about “tech gifts for women” degrading, they reinforce the binary assumption. There are plenty of nonbinary folks out there who would love a stylish fitness gadget or a smart home device… or a set of hex wrenches, come to that.

The Guardian has a good article on this topic, talking about, among other things, this year’s cringe-worthy Peloton ad. As author Hadley Freeman points out, “Gift guides need to get more specific and reflect real people.” I agree.

So could we please quit it with the “tech gifts for women” nonsense and simply write articles about tech gifts for everyone? Tech gifts for fitness fans. Tech gifts for photographers. Tech gifts for gamers. Tech gifts by interest, not by gender.

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