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Technophobia and women

I’ve been watching the lastest “woman marketing” spree by Dell with interest. It’s hit feminist websites and mailing lists, and the response has been exactly what you would expect. The dumbing down of technology, with the special addition of making sure the wee lady-brains can understand that it’s useful for tracking exercize and dieting, has caused an uproar. But then, applying critical thought to most marketing schemes will always cause an uproar.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not giving Dell a pass on this one. I’m just saying that marketing, as a rule, has to play to the basest, most stereotypical parts of humanity. Tried and true crap like men like trucks and women like flowers. I get that this is their most reliable way to the dollars in your pocket. But when I saw someone trying to play this off on those grounds, that there are women out there that despise technology, so this is a valid and profitable stereotype, it just makes me crazy.

My mother was one of those technophobic women. The first time she brought home a computer, I had to set up the ancient Mac even though I’d never seen one before because she was intimidated by the instructions and color-coded cables (”Plug the purple prong into the purple hole, Mom”). She’s always been a fan of paper and pencil, carrying one of those old checkbook-style calendars around with her until well after my Dad bought her a Palm in 2004 or so. She resisted computers, even that tiny device, like it was going to eat her alive.

I’ve always tried to show her how to do the things she needs to do, or point her to resources so she can figure it out for herself. Showing someone how to fish has been my rule of thumb since my first 2400baud modem install into a 386. Sure, I cut my hand onthe sharp edges, but I got great advice during the installation. “Push really hard. You’re not going to break it.”

You’re not going to break it.

That’s the advice I’ve been giving her over the years. It’s almost impossible for her to mess something up to the point where it’s not recoverable, so she may as well play. And I think I finally have her converted. Not only does she send email like crazy (and use Snopes), but she’s latched on to that Palm like it’s a lifeline and ditched her paper calendar. She’s even thinking about getting a smart phone to reduce the weight in her purse.

You’re not going to break it. This is the advice we technologically inclined women need to give to our sisters. Maybe they can get over that technophobia. And maybe they’ll branch out from there.

Originally published at my blog. You can comment here or there.

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