iPhone’s gender neutrality may be my favorite thing about it

As someone who really, really hates shopping, I tend to spend way more time doing it than I want to. Why? Because the stuff marketed towards women typically sucks.

Yes, I could “just shop in the men’s section,” but at 5’6″ tall, I weigh barely 110 pounds. Most men’s clothes look ridiculous on me, and little boys don’t have boobs (I do). When it comes to watches, the average women’s watch falls off my puny wrist, so even the sleekest men’s watch is bound to look seriously clunky. Backpacking backpacks built at a scale that doesn’t cause me to topple over do tend to disappoint me aesthetically: it’s hard to find anything that’s not “coral” or “seafoam” or something similarly vomit-inducing. And why the ruffles? the lace? the multitude of peplums yearning to be free? WHY?

A few years ago, I ran across a website called Everyday Carry (EDC). It is a collection of user-submitted photos and descriptions of the gadgetry these individuals carry daily. In the site’s words,

Everyday Carry, or EDC, generally refers to small items or gadgets worn, carried, or made available in pockets, holsters, or bags on a daily basis to manage common tasks or for use in unexpected situations or emergencies. In a broader sense, it is a lifestyle, discipline, or philosophy of preparedness.

I spent ages scrolling through that site, drooling over the beautifully designed, thoughtfully articulated sets of objects. Quickly, though, I realized that the site catered exclusively to men. Women, in the eyes of this site at least, are evidently not part of this philosophy of preparedness.

By contrast: on one farm job, I quickly became The One With The Knife. I was proud of being entrusted with the boss’s knife (the only good one on the premises). Since then, I tend to take blades pretty seriously. Some of my favorite possessions are the knives I’ve bought myself, my knife block, my sharpener. As much as that can sound like a macho statement, my appreciation for a good blade stems from my inherent need for mechanical advantage. I helped slaughter a sheep once. That animal weighed more than I do. To carry a quarter of the animal staggered me.

Right now, I’m preparing to be an au pair to two small children in France. I do not need to throw hay or saw through sheep vertebrae; in general, my life for the next year is probably not going to require much brute strength. However, that does not diminish my appreciation for high-quality, durable items. Between the allure of the easily-fingerprint-covered screen and the fragility of the delicate iPhone body, who could resist?

Long skeptical, I have now succumbed. The combination of free messaging capability between me and my near-future-employers, access to wifi on-the-go, and the excellent little camera tucked inside the phone finally convinced me.

(The camera was really the deciding factor–knowing I needed to buy a new phone body no matter what, I realized I could spend more on the phone and have a decent pocket camera in the same device, or spend less on the phone and have to carry not only two devices but charging cords or extra batteries for each. This isn’t a revelatory point to make about the iPhone, but it was one I didn’t take seriously for a long time, believing A Phone is for Phone Calls Only.)

Of course, I am still skeptical. I have yet to take the phone out of my sock drawer for any serious excursions, but I have outfitted it with a reassuringly stolid black second skin (Otterbox Commuter case).

My favorite feature of the iPhone so far, however, is that it doesn’t care about my gender. Thank heavens there is no “women’s iphone,” one that costs four times as much, only comes in pink, and is sure to fall apart in 30 days. There is no women’s department in the Apps store in which I am supposed to be tantalized by smelly candles and gooey potions I can use to moisturize the hand not engaged with the touchscreen.

To be absolutely clear, I’m not against “feminine details,” I just think it’s absurd when “femininity” is set at odds with functionality. If anything, women could really benefit from being the gender assigned more durable, streamlined products. The cheaply-made wheels on my dad’s rolling luggage broke in London just as we were lost and walking for blocks and blocks; he ended up carrying the whole thing, but I’m not sure my mother or I would have fared as well. But frankly, it shouldn’t be a question of who gets the better stuff.

In the case of the iPhone, everyone’s choices are black or white. The thing itself is equally lovely and silly and addictive no matter whose hands slide to unlock.

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