Sexism in tech: then and now

A look at some examples of how far we've come and how far we still need to go

  • "What kind of man owns his own computer?" Well, according to this ad, it's a "wise man who owns an Apple". Fail.

  • "...a store owner charts sales on his Apple Computer... Businessmen trust Apple with the books." Fail.

  • Apple did try to sell its products to women… as something good for all those “pesky household chores”. Here are some snippets from an [[xref:|Apple 1980s TV commercial|]]: Man: “Jill, do you use your computer for household budgeting?... You could probably put a lot of recipes in there, eh?” Woman: “Uh-huh, and you can do trend analysis, generate bar graphs…” Man: “Are you really a home-maker?” Woman: “of course” Man: “So Apple is the appliance of the ‘80s for all those household pesky chores.” Was sexism played deliberately in this Apple ad in order to achieve some kind of subtle humour? This may not be clear, but the messages in this ad are quite clear. Fail.

  • Does this ad make you feel nostalgic? You bet is does. Fail.

  • Fast forward to the year 2013 and it’s like we’ve recaptured part of the 1970s with Voco’s ‘Play with my V spot’ ad. The ad came out in January when [[xref:|VentureBeat’s Jolie O’Dell|]] called out the voice-control tech company on its ads it sent in its email invitation to a Consumer Electronic Show event. Tasteful? Think not. Fail.

  • Advertisements are not the only way to display sexism in tech. In this particular Forbes article it's all about the “IT guy”, you see. This line says it all: "Celebrate geekhood with... maybe a poster of Princess Leia in her gold, Return of the Jedi bikini.” Fail.

  • An article with the headline: “How to get your girlfriend to play video games” The first paragraph sets it out: “Many men will be forced, at some point, to part with their beloved game console by supreme order of their female companions. This can be avoided using proven game system/girlfriend social activities to gradually introduce gaming culture to your loved one and vice versa.” The article offers a few steps, the first one making an obvious point. Can you guess what it is? “1. Find out if your girlfriend has ever played video games before.” That’s not all; it continues. “Try to choose a game or game system that isn’t too confusing, and doesn’t require short reaction time.” The author of the article tries to make an effort by suggesting: “Eventually, she may want to try more advanced games.” But that soon downfalls to: “This is not a given, though. She may become a guru at Mario but never want to pick up a shooter.” Oh, and under “Warnings”: “If you get her into gaming, you might never get access to your computer or game console again.” Oh no! How tragic that would be! Fail.

  • Description on YouTube: “Moss introduces Jen to a new concept in business technology: The Internet.” Here are some snippets from an [[xref:|episode of The IT Crowd|]]. Jen: “What is this?” Moss: “This, Jen, is the Internet” (Audience laughs) …. Roy: What is Jen doing with the Internet?! Jen: Moss said I could use it for my speech. Roy: Are you insane?! What if she drops it? …. Jen: You’ve got to let me have it! Roy: No, Jen. I’m sorry, it’s just too risky. So it’s a big deal that a woman would dare to use the Internet. This is supposed to be amusing? Fail.

  • Another [[xref:|episode from The IT Crowd|]]. This time it’s introducing the character Jen to the concept of the Internet browser. Here are some snippets: Jen: I just want you to install a browser. Roy: (Shouting) That’s the browser there! Look at it, that’s the browser! Internet Explorer is a browser! Behind the picture of the lady – the lady is not supposed to be there! Jen: She’s only there sometimes. But what… what the.. the ‘E’ – but that’s the button for the Internet, Roy. (Audience laughs) Roy: Button for the Internet! (Roy curses) Jen: Oh, shut up. I’m not a stupid, geeky geek. Roy: Jen, you don’t need to be a geek to know that you need a browser to access the Internet. Jen: Yes, you do. Because soon as you know something like that it pushes out something important and before you know it you are painting little figurines from Lord of the Rings. Encouraging for women? Think not. Fail.

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