We haven’t come quite that long a way, baby. With the news that Dell has created a laptop especially for women called the “Della,” which comes in adorable “designer” colors and is touted as being just perfect to keep track of diet tips and recipes, not to mention the nationwide release of Mars’ sparkling, pink-wrapped “just for women” candy bar Fling, it’s pretty clear that we’re looking at a resurgence of gender-neutral products repackaged and remarketed to appeal to our more feminine sides. Not even board games are safe: as evidenced by this photograph seen here, even that beloved classic Scrabble is now available with a pastel colored, flower trimmed playing board and ‘FASHION’ used as a sample word. Scrabble isn’t the only game getting the powder puff treatment: Monopoly, Life, even Ouija boards are all being sold in packages that look like they should contain sanitary napkins.
I’m pretty certain women are supposed to be flattered that someone is thinking of our needs and making versions of Scrabble, though it’s still the same game played with the same rules, just for us. Yet, I keep going back to that picture, which makes Scrabble look like something that should be available in an Avon catalog, and I find myself vaguely offended. I also wonder if perhaps it smells like Love’s Baby Soft or something from Yankee Candle Company. Have sales of Scrabble in its standard, drab brown and beige issue tended to be skewed towards men? I’ve bought at least two copies of the game in my lifetime, plus Scrabble Junior for my daughter when she was younger. Who are these women that wouldn’t have normally been interested in the game until it could be found amongst the dress-up clothes and Hannah Montana dolls at the local Target? The idealist in me believes not nearly as many of them exist as insulated, undoubtedly male marketing designers think, while the cynic in me believes that they do exist, but are going to be in for a great deal of disappointment when they discover that there isn’t anything inherently “girly” about the game itself, unless you restrict yourself to making only girly-related words, such as “boys,” “makeup,” “kittens,” “kissing” and “glitter.”
Where is the actual, legitimate demand for feminized, rather patronizing products such as this? Are there women seeing ads for Fling bars (or rather, “fingers,” as they keep insisting on calling them, giving their marketing campaign a disturbing masturbatory angle) and thinking to themselves “Finally, a candy bar for me! No more of those macho Twix bars, I can’t take those!” In 2009, when over 80% of households in America have at least one computer, are there still women who have been holding off on buying one for themselves until they could get one that came in cute colors and touted its usefulness in keeping track of dieting and weight loss first before anything else? If this is the case, and forgive me as this makes me a terrible feminist, but who fucking cares about these dipshits? Anyone who’s up to this point refused to buy Scrabble because they don’t like the color it comes in isn’t going to be capable of coming up with a word more challenging than “cat” in a game anyway, so what’s the use in trying to market to them?
Of course, there probably aren’t that many women who really operate like that, with the possible exception of Paris Hilton. Women can like the color pink without insisting that every last item be made available in it, just as women can dislike the color pink without handing over their female card. It’d be really awesome if it became no longer necessary for there to be a “for women” version of everything from computers right down to snacks, because much of the campaigning of it seems subtly to downright overtly insulting. Dell’s ads for the “Della” laptop (I guess we should be glad they didn’t call it the “Dellette”), before women rallied and complained about it, not just continuously pushed the fact that it’s cute, but that it’s easy to use. You know, as opposed to an HP or a Gateway, the kind that men use, they’re just so complicated, am I right, ladies? The Fling campaign hinges on the stereotype that while men eat chocolate to ease their hunger, for women it’s a surrogate for sex, something that’s done to be bold and daring, without telling your boyfriend about it. The message is clear, still, still, after all this time, advertising is still based upon the idea that XY=technically savvy, eats for sustenance, XX=scared of anything mechanical, eats for emotional fulfillment. It’s all a little tired and aggravating, really.
That girls under the age of 12 are up to their eyeballs in pink is an inevitability, just as action figures and Legos are still sold as “boys’ toys.” That grown women are finding themselves inundated with enough pink, glitter and fake fur to keep a drag queen troupe in costumes for the next fifty years is just asinine, especially considering this supposed demand for it really doesn’t exist. To the creators of the special “designer’s edition” of Scrabble I say: blow me, fifty one points on a triple word score.