Okay, so Bic has been taking a lot of flack for selling this pen "for her." (As it says on its web site, it is "a ball pen essentially for women," although that seems to invite a caveat, such as, "although there may be certain men to whom it appeals and we don't judge.")
It appears that the Bic For Her's "for her"-osity is primarily related to (1) being pink, and (2) being slightly narrower, to fit your itty bitty lady fingers. (Not ladyfingers, which is a different thing entirely and perhaps can be slighted for inappropriate appeal to cannibalism, but not to gendered retail.)
On the other hand, I am a lady, after all. My mother is a lady! My sister is a lady! Some of my best friends are ladies, and we buy things, and I'm beginning to think that maybe we've just been oppressed by purchasing "For Him" products rather than demanding that we be given access to special "For Her" products that cater to the exact version of us that marketers see when they look into their bright pink crystal balls.
I am making a wish list.
1. Post-Its For Her. (Proposed name: "Giggle Papers.") Pink, obvs. But more to the point, these Post-Its would be shaped like lipstick, so that I could slide them into the ornate lipstick cases that I am always carrying around. And then when I am daintily slipping into the girls' room to freshen my mouth, I can write myself a note at the same time. It will probably say, "Get hobbies."
2. Smartphone For Her. (Proposed name: "The Droid XX." Get it? That idea is free.) Okay, yes. There are apps For Her. (I won't tell you about them. They are found under "Lifestyle" or maybe "Health," and they have something to do with tracking unmentionable things going on in girl bodies, possibly having something to do with [REDACTED AND MOVING ON].) But really, why not phones For Her? Specifically, if this is for the way ladies communicate, I envision a phone with a special compartment for my slam book. Great at (slumber) parties!
3. Spoons For Her. (Proposed name: "Li'l Spoonies.") Molded to perfectly clean out the inside of a probiotic yogurt container.
4. Scissors For Her. (Proposed name: "The Mani-Cure.") Designed with special padding to avoid possible damage to fingernail polish while clipping coupons.
5. Toothbrush For Her. (Proposed name: "Mme. Shinymouth.") This special brush is made to be waved around near your mouth rather than actually applied to your teeth where it might disturb your lipstick. It also has a gently curved handle so that if you happen to be photographed, you will look as elegant as Kate Middleton would be if she were unexpectedly photographed while brushing her teeth. You deserve to feel like royalty, darling.
6. Garden Hose For Her. (Proposed name: "Flower Shower.") This delicate, hand-held pink sprinkler is constructed with a built-in umbrella so you can walk around the yard dousing your plants in water without getting your dress damp. It also has a built-in LCD screen that can bring up your horoscope. (Requires WiFi.)
7. Hammer For Her. (Proposed name: "Girl Pow!-er.") Made of lucite with pink rhinestones, has an empty handle in which you can conceal a rolled-up slip of paper with the name and telephone number of a hunky neighbor available to help you put up your pictures.
8. Paper Bag For Her. (Proposed name: "Let's Do Lunch! Bags.") These pink paper bags come with a moist towelette, a card listing the calorie counts for popular lunchtime foods, and a packet of sugar-free iced tea mix.
9. Light Bulbs For Her. (Proposed name: "Watt-A-Beauty!") These cast a soft pink glow and are engineered to hide unsightly blemishes. If they break, rather than creating a lot of dangerous glass, they disintegrate into cotton candy that you and your galpals can enjoy during a breakup sob session!
10. Clock For Her. (Proposed name: "The Tick-Tock!") Tracks your decreasing fertility and the drop in your market value so you know when it's time to settle.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Some other news. A company know for making razors for women is also making pens for her. The Bic pens advertise a thin barrel to fit a woman's hand. They come in pastel shades. Not to put too fine a point on it, but NPR's Neda Ulaby found some skepticism.
NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: The first place to go is Amazon UK. The page where you can buy the pen is being visited by thousands of Americans, including Gwen Sharp, and they're completely cracking up over the comments.
GWEN SHARP: Pray thee, sir, what is this pen of which you speak, you know, and what is this magical product?
ULABY: Sharp is a sociologist, and she says women are willing to buy pink razors or female deodorant.
SHARP: But a pen sort of crosses a line that people see as particularly stupid.
ULABY: And people have gone to town pointing that out on Facebook, Jezebel, the Huffington Post. Now, products have been gendered for as long as there have been marketers.
(SOUNDBITE OF AD)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Just for Men gel penetrates tough gray and puts it away.
ULABY: But Sharp says that things might be getting extreme.
SHARP: Well, Diet Coke has been feminized. That's the drink for women, so Coke's going to put out the Coke Zero, right? And Dr. Pepper put out the Pepper 10.
(SOUNDBITE OF AD)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Just 10 manly calories. It's what guys want.
ULABY: Branding diet soda or shampoo as gender specific might mean something more than just marketers hoping we'll buy two of everything for our bathrooms and refrigerators. Sharp says gender expectations are changing. Think about all those new stay-at-home dads. She says it's worth paying careful attention to messages telling us that men and women are so different, we need completely different pens.
SHARP: The reproduction of those messages are a part of what sociologists call gender policing, right? Reminding us what the rules are.
ULABY: Now, pen people are a special breed. Linda Holmes writes NPR's pop culture blog, Monkey See, and she says that some people have intense pen preferences. If you're the person coming up with a new marketing strategy...
LINDA HOLMES: You have to find a way to dislodge their pen loyalty, their ink religion, and get them to convert to a different one, and one way to do that is to sort of say, well, you've been writing with regular pens. If you wrote with a lady pen, maybe it would feel much better. You've been writing with non-specific pens.
ULABY: As much as Linda Holmes mocks extreme gender marketing, she admits it's resulted in one good thing, that Diet Coke for dudes.
HOLMES: If it is true that I am supposed to drink the lady-like Diet Coke, then I'm afraid that I'm a traitor, because I do prefer the Coke Zero.
ULABY: If you're wondering whether you might prefer a pen just for women, you're not alone. All that attention pushed Bic for Her with black ink up to one of the best-selling office products on Amazon UK. Neda Ulaby, NPR News.
INSKEEP: Underlining the news, this is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.