All we want for the holidays…

December tis the season to be consuming. We all love gifts but, more than that, companies love selling them to us. There is likely a gift guide for everyone, their families, and even their pets of choice out there. Enter HUB magazine’s “Holiday Gift Guide” edition.

Cover for HUB's Dec 2005 EditionWhy, you may ask, do I have a HUB on me? Do I subscribe to their magazine? Well, no. I was at an electronic’s store with my cousin, picking up some stuff to mod my GC with, and the cover caught my eye. One look at it should tell you why. At first it was just that I wanted to explore the image itself: What was the significance of putting a woman on the magazine’s cover? What about the use of glasses, a white collared shirt, and bound hair to make her a non-sexual nerd? How does this representation compare to the oversexualization of geek women that is becoming a part of the status quo?

When I began examining the text surrounding her (it was definitely a good idea to have the “Stocking stuffers” text on the top and far from her breasts), however, I saw “Gifts for her” and my heart began to sink. Please, I thought to myself, please don’t be another fru-fru, tech-lite, Nintendogs-touting POS. If wishes were horses I’d own a very sucessful stable.

But, before I go into the breakdown of the list itself, let’s take a look at the other gift guides offered: Flash drive MP3 players, Portable PCs, Gifts for kids, and a Console gaming gift guide. No, “gifts for him” or “gifts for teenagers” or whatever. Just kids, women, and guides for everyone else (read: teenage boys and adult men). I’d also like to point out that running gifts for “her” with gifts for “kids” sets the stage for the infantalization of women by putting them on the same level as children in the tech arena. In that light, the little girl depicted on the “Gifts for kids” page isn’t as cool as it might be otherwise.

Now that the introduction is out of the way, ket’s delve into the 7 “great gift ideas for the girl geeks on your holiday shopping list.” The list is written and compiled by Erin Bell, proving that internalized sexism is alive and kicking.

Kodak EasyShare Picture Viewer

If the card sleeve of your giftee’s wallet is in danger of breaking loose because it’s crammed full of photos of assorted family, friends and pets, the Picture Viewer can provide a digital solution for storing and showing – and these pictures won’t get dog-eared. Simply import pictures to the device via USB (it has 32MB of internal memory), or insert an SD or MMC card and use the navigational buttons to cycle through images on the Picture Viewer’s 64 mm (2.5 inch) colour screen. The credit card-sized device comes with a tan leather carrying case.

What immediately strikes me is the “easy” part in this. It assumes that the woman you’re buying for either wouldn’t want or wouldn’t be able to handle a more complex model, but isn’t the point of being a “geek” (as the introduction text implies these women are) not being scared of more technical pieces? Especially since any camera that has the word “easy” in it is definitely sacrificing quality for ease of use. Not bad for casual users, but I’d take professional over easy any day.

Targust Kaleidoscope Mouse

In addition to being a functional USB optical mouse, the clear plastic portion of the Kaleidoscope lights up in a cycle of seven rotating colours as long as the computer it’s attached to is powered on. The Kaleidoscope also comes in a smaller version with a retractable uSB cable for notebooks, which retails for $29.99.

A mouse that “lights up in a cycle of seven rotating colours” sounds cute, but not exactly on the top of the list of geeky toys. I must say I’m suspicious of it, especially since it buys into the idea that all women love pretty/bright colours to the exclusion of usability and form. Only tangentially related, but why is it that only mini-mice for laptops have retractable cables? There are times when having one in a large mouse would be completely useful.

Belkin iPod cases

As part of its extensive line-up of iPod accessories, Belkin offers a range of leather cases to fit iPods of all shapes and sizes. Standouts include the Sports Leather Case for iPod Mini, which comes with an armband, hand band and removable blet clip; the Caribiner Case for iPod nano in white, pink, blue or black; and the Classic Leather Case for iPod shuffle which includes a ring for attaching a lanyard, and comes in two different three-packs – the more reserved red, white and black, or a funkier set of pink, orange, and green.

This one buys into the stereotype that women, as inherent shopaholics, are in love with anything that might be seen as an “acessory”. Also, and this isn’t to knock the iPod or anything, but it is often seen as a “woman friendly” device. I do, however, have to give points for including a “sports” case as one of the highlighted picks, and not hyping up the stereotypically girly pink in the colours.

Hasboro iDog

This robotic puppy’s favourite food is music, and it can be “fed” tunes by plugging in an MP3 or CD player, or simply setting it in front of any sound source. The iDog’s forehead will light up in an array of pleasing rainbow-coloured patterns based on what genre of music it’s listening to – yellow for hip hop and red for rock, for example. Pet its head and touch its nose to interact with it further, and a personality will start to develop as it barks, growls, plays little musical ditties and lights up in various patterns to communicate its mood. When a sound source is plugged into the iDog, it functions as a speaker – and not a bad one at that, given its price. If you’re giving it as a gift, just make sure to have two AA batteries and a Phillips screwdriver (for installing them) on hand to avoid Christmas morning disappointment.

Do I even need to comment on this one? I think this line says it all: The iDog’s forehead will light up in an array of pleasing rainbow-coloured patterns…

Targus “Jackie” and “Katherine” laptop totes

Resembling oversized purses, the “Jackie” and “Katherine” laptop totes from Targus offer ladies a more elegant and higher-end alternative to the traditional laptop backpacks and shoulder bags. The top-loading bags have long straps designed to be ablet o fit overa winter coat, and stainless steal “feet” to prevent the bottom of the bag from scuffing. The “Jackie” comes in black or red leather, while the “Katherine” comes in black and white tweed pattern. For the budget conscious, there’s also the black nylon “Jayne” model for $59.99.

This suggestion cashes in again on the accessory stereotype, this time outright linking it to women with the cases being described as “oversized purses” that “offer ladies a more elegant” laptop bag. I wonder if they have “not a man-purse!” laptop bags for men that have names like “Butch” and “Spike”.

Nintendo DS Nintendogs Bundle

Nintendo is releasing a few hardware bundles in time for the holidays, one of which pairs the new teal or pink coloured Nintendo DS portable dual-screen system with a special “Best Friends” version of the popular dog owning simulation Nintendogs. Nintendogs “Best Friends” features the six most popular breeds – Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, German Shepherd, Beagle, Yorkshire Terrier, and Miniature Dachshund. Like the previous three versions of the game, additional breeds (like Pug, Husky and Shiba Inu) can be unlocked.

No “for her” list would be complete without a reference to Nintendogs. Because women (and only women) love the cute widdle dawgies and therefore must own Nintendogs under threat of expulsion from the cult of femininity. It’s lists like these that make me wary to buy the blue DS because of its affiliation with Nintendogs. Sigh.

Philippe Starck digital watch by Fossil

For a digital watch with some flair, check out the Philippe Starck watch from Fossil, which comes in pink or orange with digital display, two alarms, chronography and countdown timers, and a unique rubber strap.

The watch, pictured on the page, is neon orange with a huge display in captial block letters. Picked, I presume, for its cutsey, easy to read design.

If taken on their own, none of these suggestions are heinous. None are items that I’d be interested in, but some women might. However, the harm comes from them being the only suggestions on a list that’s supposedly for “geek” girls. Add that to the fact that most other geek-oriented “for her” lists out there spew the same kind of BS and it is tantamount to gender segregation. Boys get all the “hardcore” geek toys, while girls need to stick to the fluffy, the colourful, the feminine. The truth is, it’s not as easy as saying Nintendogs is for girls (not true) and leaving it at that, because stereotypes like that fall short of reality.

No one’s saying girls can’t like fru-fru things, but we shouldn’t be relegated to them. And, on the same note, men shouldn’t be shamed into avoiding the “feminine” tech toys, either. What geeks, and non-geeks, like has nothing to do with what’s between our legs and everything to do with our individual personalities. So, please, if you’re going to write a “for her” list, don’t rely on stereotypes to compile your list; go out there and find what real girl geeks are into.

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2 Responses to All we want for the holidays…

  1. Lake Desire says:

    At first I thought maybe the Jayne laptop bag was a reference to the Firefly character, because it’s the more “manly” black nylon, but I doubt paired with those “girly” bags they’d expect the delicate geek women to get such a reference.

    I wonder why they choose the cute-yet-nonsexual cover model? To go with the infantile theme, perhaps. Adorable, but not arousing, just like the kid’s list.

  2. tekanji says:

    I wonder why they choose the cute-yet-nonsexual cover model? To go with the infantile theme, perhaps. Adorable, but not arousing, just like the kid’s list.

    Ooh, now that’s a thought. I totally see it.

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