Are Gadgets Just for Guys?

are-gadgets-just-for-guys I’ve been searching around for some interesting items to do news postings for The Gadgeteer, and I came across something intriguing.  I had searched Google for “gadget gifts ” and had found one web site that had a thirteen-page list of “gadget guru gifts for guys.”  Male gadget gurus, at least in the opinion of Gifts.com, might enjoy iPod accessories, Flip video cameras, weather stations, picture-taking binoculars, and many other electronic goodies.  There were a few non-tech items, like a coin bank for grown-ups – but even that looked like a computer keyboard key.

Things took a different turn when I decided to search Gifts.com for “gadget gifts for women”.  This time I got a 26-page list of gift ideas.  Sounds great, right?  I expected to find most of the same gadgets on the men’s list, minus a few things like the hot dog rotisserie for the grill, perhaps.  The other thirteen pages I thought would have cases in more feminine colors, maybe some organizing wallets, even perhaps one of those metal hangers that keeps your purse off the floor at restaurants.  The people at Gifts.com saw things differently.

The gadget gifts for women included some nice cases for laptops and gadgets, as I expected.  It had several gadget-type toys for kids – I guess only women buy toys for their kids, or perhaps only they are expected to play with their kids?  They even had a book about gadgets for guys – that was recommended as a Father’s Day gift for your husband or dad.  Not a lot of electronics on that list – unless you count the digital timer for your kitchen.  (I know I don’t count that!)

Most of the gadget gifts for women consisted of kitchen items:  a tri-blade peeler, a knife block, trivets, a wooden cutting board branded with the family name, and even a set of melamine measuring cups!  Okay, I might allow them to call these things kitchen gadgets, but why are they only suggested for women?  Men cook, too.

Things I do not allow to use the gadget name, but were on the gadget list for women, include:  perfume, boots, oven mitts, and lovely “girls’ night out” t-shirts emblazoned with “You Can’t Afford Me” and “Boy Scouting”.   Come on!  Unless the perfume comes in some sort of air-brushing gun with an air compressor, how could anyone call it a gadget?

When I was a kid, things were considered to be either for girls or for boys.  My father wouldn’t let me have a little race car set when I was twelve because it was a boys’ toy.  He would make me stand and hand him tools while he worked on our cars, but he wouldn’t explain what he was doing.  My sisters and I were expected to help keep the house clean, but we apparently weren’t capable of using tools to change a spark plug.  But isn’t that nurture, not nature?  Was I the only girl who wanted “boys’ things?”

When I got a job, I had money to buy my own gadgets.  I started out with stereo and television equipment.  I moved on to computers, PDAs, iPods, ebook readers …  But never a set of melamine measuring cups.

I don’t have a deep technical knowledge of electronic gadgetry, but I know what I like and I know how to use those things.  Eventually even my father came around.  He once refused to let his nephew – who owned a television repair business – hook up the new television my sisters and I bought him as a gift.  He told his nephew “Janet’s going to hook it up.  She knows how to hook up my satellite and my stereo to my TV.”  I truly was proud to hear him say that.

Have things changed at all since I was a girl?  I know my fourteen-year-old daughter, Rachel,  is being raised differently than I was.  She’s never heard “no, that’s not for girls.”  Rachel loves her gadgets.  She likes the look and feel of the electronics, and she doesn’t want them covered up with cases.  She got her first PDA (a hand-me-down) when she was in kindergarten, and it was loaded up with ebooks and games.  She can’t live without her iPod and her laptop.  The few times she’s been grounded, the punishment is to take away her electronics.  She IS a bit of a Luddite when it comes to books.  She owns a Sony ebook reader, but she prefers paper books.  I will admit she doesn’t know how to work on cars – neither her Dad nor I can teach her how.

Are people like Julie, Rachel, and me really so different?  Do most women really not like gadgets, or do manufacturers and retailers just have the wrong idea?  Julie pointed out to me that there are more things designed for women now, like pink cases and laptop bags.  She did stress that electronics designed for women, like the Vivienne Tam netbook, are rare.  But making something pink doesn’t necessarily make it appeal to women – it just guarantees it won’t appeal to men!  As far as bags go, I would prefer a bag that has lots of storage space for my laptop, my phone, my iPod, my Sony reader, a ton of cables and chargers for my phone, my Bluetooth earbud, and everything else I’ve mentioned – but not be the size of a truck.  I want the same electronic devices and computers that men want – but would a nice color kill them?  Something other than black, silver, or pink?

What do you think?  Do you find that people in your circle follow the traditional gender roles?  When it comes to gadgets, are men really from Mars and women from the kitchen?

Posted in: Articles

19 comments… add one

  • DStaal December 16, 2009, 11:06 am

    I think the main problem is probably that _guys_ raised when _you_ were raised are the ones setting what goes in what category: That’s how they were raised, and they just haven’t thought about it. If it gets pointed out to them, they notice it and probably change, but it takes them an effort to notice.

    Also, from the people around me, people follow the traditional roles (or close) more often than not. It’s not the _rule_ by any means, but it’s certainly the more common situation.

  • Mimi December 16, 2009, 11:33 am

    We’re heading into a new era. I hope it’s an era w/out pink and polka dots as color options! :) I work at a large hardware store and we have “womens” tools. Yes, they’re light pink in color. There’s no way on God’s green earth that you will find pink tools in my house! I love power tools. :) Get me something w/ Lithium batteries, and I’m a happy girl. If I could afford it, I’d have more gadgets that the puny few I have!

    I grew up with a dad who loves gadgets and he passed it on to us kids! We were one of the first families that had the Atari games for home use where we lived! It’s still the same all these years later.

    There’s a txting competition and a girl won it this past year and won a large check to boot! I’m tellin’ you, the ladies like the gadgets and NOT pink ones!

    My boys are gadgeters already, too. They love computers, cameras, hand held games, console games, etc. Gadgets shouldn’t be divided between his & hers!

  • Andy Chen December 16, 2009, 11:41 am

    It has to be some cultural bias that “girls don’t play with boys toys” and vice versa. Kind of a shame, really.

  • Philippe Radley December 16, 2009, 11:57 am

    My wife and I have been gadget lovers for a long time. We are old-timers too (I am 74). We share our enthusiasm for our iphones and macs and airbooks and pc’s. My wife supervised the installation of an audio system (called “ReQuest”) in our home, far better than I could have. My feeling is that there is nothing sexually oriented about any gadget, men love gadgets all right, but in my view so do women.

  • Lynn L December 16, 2009, 12:09 pm

    Wow, reading your article was like reading about my own life growing up. I remember I could not get a 10 speed bike and had to have a 3 speed because girls did not need all the gears. I also was not allow to be a percussion player in the band for the same reason. I totally love gadgets and I am a computer programmer. I don’t have any kids myself but I def encourage my nieces to do what they enjoy and not worry about stereotypes. Between myself and my husband I am the computer geek and gadget geek. He is the audiophile though and I tend not to mess with the stereo too much! Great article.

    • Julie December 16, 2009, 12:47 pm

      I can see that things are changing with this generation of kids because almost all their toys are gadgets. iPods, cameras, mobile phones, game boys, etc. When I was a kid, all I wanted for Christmas were boy toys. I remember asking for army man costumes, walkie talkies, LEGO, etc. I didn’t get any of those things… I’m not sure if it was because I was a girl or because we just didn’t have any money though. My Dad was the one with all the gadgets. :)

  • Danielle December 16, 2009, 2:00 pm

    I just checked out Gifts.com’s gadget guru results for women and only see 11 pages of results that are all entirely electronic in nature. maybe they fixed it because of this post? http://www.gifts.com/recipients/her/gadget-guru/ohFr6a264icp?mode=72

  • Munnz December 16, 2009, 2:32 pm

    This is my 1st post here – I just had to tell you that my wife wants absolutley nothing to do w/ gadgets, same w/ most of her friends, or they have any it has to be as simple as possible, no advanced features(MP3 player that plays music, camera that takes pictures, phone that make phone calls). I only wish she did because I love ‘em. She won’t even allow our daughters a DS. I let them play w/ my stuff on accasion though. On the gender issue, my wife and I never say to the girls that’s a boy toy and you can’t have it. (Believe me, the more the better, lol) They on the other hand have a very clear notion of what is for boys and what is for girls. Thank god they like lego’s.

  • Janet Cloninger December 16, 2009, 3:13 pm

    @Danielle I tried gadget gifts for women and gadget guru gifts for women and ended up with the same 26 page sort. Both of them also had the engraved cutting board on the front page. I did my search using the keywords field at the upper right of the page.

  • Claire Strodtbeck December 16, 2009, 4:06 pm

    I love my power tools AND my gadgets AND my sixty thousand computers. I also like pink (and every other color in the visible spectrum!), though. My toaster and hair dryer purchases were both driven by the giant Hello Kitty logos on them.

    That said, I think the car thing is more generational than gender-based. We live in a society where mechanics are plentiful and labor is cheap, so why change your own oil when you can pay Wal-Mart $12.95 to do it for you? I know how to check fluids and could probably change a tire if I had to (but that’s what roadside assistance is for, right?)…

  • Cyberg00se December 16, 2009, 11:46 pm

    I’m a female geek type, and I grew up mostly thinking that toys designed for girls were from the reject pile, and that guys got all the cool stuff. Let’s see, there were the race car tracks (Which, like you, I also never got), the action figures, and the bikes! Oh the bikes! My cousin gets a cool black BMX while I get a pink Huffy with tassles! Oh the humanity! All the cool toys I remember from my childhood are actually memories of playing with his action figure and lego sets.

    When I was growing up, even Legos tended to be sold in the boy’s section. Can girls not put square plastic blocks together?

    The only exception was horsey stuff. When you get into the cool Breyer horse sets, it’s easier to find the girl riders than if I were horse-crazy guy, but otherwise, the cool toys (and watches!) are all marketed to males only.

    And while ranting on that subject, I could out-hit and out-field all of my male friends in baseball, but was never allowed to join little league because my grandfather thought I shouldn’t be roughed up by a bunch of guys! I bring him up because he was a little league coach when my dad was a kid, and they both taught me how to play so darn well. But nope, guys only. I didn’t question it at the time, I just thought they didn’t think I was good enough. But no, my baseball skills were held in high regard. I should have pressed that issue but when you’re 8 it doesn’t occur.

    Other than the baseball thing, I wasn’t raised to fall back on gender excuses – math isn’t any harder for me and I can be whatever I want to be. And now I live with a guy who also is a geek type, and it’s nice to share that in common. He can rant about what his Nokia does that his WinMo doesn’t, and why does Nokia use SVG icons when they’re so hard to make.. and I can totally understand and actually contribute to the conversation.

    I can’t imagine being in a marriage where you can’t share some knowledge about each other’s interests, so I’d say mama it’s ok to let your girls grow up as tomboys.

  • Pam T. December 17, 2009, 10:34 am

    Girl Geeks rule! I’m the gadget person in my household, and have converted my husband. He knows better than to buy me flowers on my birthday – I’d rather have a new hard drive!

    I admit he’s better at things with tools, but I attribute that only to not having much experience. If I had to hammer, nail, and wrench things into place, I’d do it.

  • Lianne December 17, 2009, 3:24 pm

    I love my gadgets. My MP3 Walkman, my Sony Reader, my laptop. Even my kitchen gadgets.

    But if it’s pink, I refuse to touch it.

    (Mind you, my mother was a Database Administrator, and we got our first computer — a Texas Instruments 99-4A — when I was twelve years old in 1980. I grew up with technology everywhere)

  • Tina Gethers-Prince December 17, 2009, 4:22 pm

    I have to say I am as girly girl as they get and I personally look for gadgets that are pink in color. It do not matter what it is in most cases. If its PINK I LOVE IT. Be it a hammer or a case for my iPhone. I love it all. My Dell Netbook is Pink and mostly every other electronic I own if it is not in pink when I get I passit on and when the Pink option comes out I have to have it. On the other hand I love fishing and yes my fishing pole is Pink. I found it and other items I love in Pink at Bsaa Pro Shop here in Hollywood, Florida.

    My nine year old says that I am a PINK-A-HOLIC. Maybe I just love pink. I wear pink on the regular. Oh yeah I have friends that are the some way.

  • James Branch December 17, 2009, 6:55 pm

    I’ve got a few girl mates who enjoy messing about with the latest gadgets…. however, the can’t be said for the wife! She’s not interested at all! “Never has been and never will be” (her words!)

    So, although I think there is an element of the gadget world being aimed at men, I think women, or ‘Girl Geeks’ are becoming more and more common.

  • PattyM December 17, 2009, 7:20 pm

    That’s a fun article, Janet! The ‘girl toy’ aisles practically emit a pink glow. When I buy electronics or tools, I want them to do the job and not break. I could see marketing smaller grips for smaller hands. But so often the cute pink tools are cheaply made. There’s almost a patronizing whiff about them: “You can have your play tools but you can’t really step into the powerful world of construction and mechanics.”

  • Kellie December 18, 2009, 12:49 pm

    Thank you, Janet! I am so tired of women being left out of gadget magazines, marketing campaigns for gadgets, etc.; And when an attempt is made to be “inclusive”, it’s to change the colour to pink or now, with the PSP 3000, purple!

  • Janet Cloninger December 18, 2009, 2:31 pm

    Thanks, everyone, for your comments. I like pink, maybe more than some do, but I still don’t want everything pink. And pink is a color associated very strongly with little girls, so pink, while pretty, seems almost like a way to marginalize women. “Oh, look at her, trying to hammer a nail with her little pink hammer! Isn’t that cute!”

    Things don’t have to be a special color to appeal to women, and I’m not sure that color would tempt most women into buying something. Manufacturers and retailers need to direct some advertising at women. And they should stop calling oven mitts gadgets – unless they can take the hot pan out of the oven and set it on the trivet by themselves!

  • Elijah June 10, 2013, 2:32 pm

    Walkie Talkie: Though I shop with my daughter in big supermarkets or perhaps department retailers, we phone
    each other to find each other, no different if this is the case
    if I will held Walkie Talkies. Most technology feature a manufacturer’s warranty when own brand new, so take note regarding any such offerings when browsing for 2 way radios. Many little companies make the mistake by starting different using Family-FRS radios.

Leave a Comment