Ben Brooks on the phone/tablet/laptop wars.

/Ben Brooks on the phone/tablet/laptop wars.

When I read things like this I’m reminded how… invisibly gendered a lot of tech punditry is.

Brooks’ argument is that he prefers his phone over his tablet because he can’t fit his tablet in his pocket and it’s awkward for him to carry around. Yes, he’s speaking specifically about his own use-case, but it’s also clear he’s universalising it as well (ref. lines like, “None of these issues are solved by the iPad mini either, because the mini is still too large for 90% of pockets out there”).

Except, here’s the thing: for something like 50% of the population, both a phone and a tablet are too big to fit into their pockets. Because those 50% are women and, um hello? Have you seen a pocket in an article of women’s clothing lately? This is why women carry handbags, and if you have a handbag, the “carrying cost” of phones and tablets starts to equal out… but not the carrying cost of a laptop; contrary, again, to Brooks’ assumption.

Most laptops are both significantly heavier and larger than most tablets. Obviously, every woman’s handbag is different, but of the women I know, they are much more likely to carry a tablet–particularly a small one like the iPad mini–in their handbag than a full laptop (actually, I don’t know anyone who routinely carries a full laptop around with them in their handbag, but I guess some people must).

Even if the heavily male-dominated tech punditry doesn’t get this, I think Apple does, which is why devices like the iPad mini exist in the first place. Also see: every ereader ever, and also the two sizes of the Apple Watch, the smaller of which is very obviously designed to address women’s concerns that wearables “aren’t for us” with our smaller-on-average wrist and hand sizes.

Personally, my tech kit includes an iPhone 6, an iPad 4 with keyboard, a 15″ Macbook Pro, and a desktop. For work, I take the iPhone and iPad, both of which fit in my handbag. When travelling, I either take the phone and the tablet, or the phone and the laptop, depending on where I’m going and what I’m planning on doing when I get there. The laptop, of course, requires a second bag to lug around–no, I don’t replace my purse with the laptop bag–so I’ll only bring it if I have to do work I can’t accomplish on my tablet/phone, or have a deep abiding urge to play videogames of some description. The default choice is my tablet, because it does most of what I need to do and it fits in my handbag (which I’d be carrying anyway) and it doesn’t weigh like ten thousand pounds.

In contrast, my husband is more likely to bring his laptop (a Macbook Air) than his tablet, for reasons very similar to what Brooks describes (i.e. if he has to bring a bag, he may as well stick the bigger device inside it).

Point being, tech choices are not just really, really super-personal, but they’re also really, really super gendered, too.

But a lot of male tech writers seem to forget this.

Funny, that.1

  1. And, just to get this out of the way: to anyone who is tempted to make smug-ass comments about “First World Problems”? Fuck you. Yes, I have like ten million Apple devices which you may consider to be “too many” according to whatever arbitrary standard you use to help yourself sleep at night. However, the reason I have so many freakin’ devices is because I have two white collar professional jobs–one which has no office and no standard hours, and the other of which is, in fact, in the tech industry–and an expectation that I be, if not always “on” for work, then at least available for work anywhere, any time. In other words, it’s basically not an option for me–and for most other modern white collar workers–to be caught out without access to at least basic internet, email, file sharing, and word processing functionality. So of course we agonise over the tools we use to, yanno. Not get fired. And why yes, this is a sore point, thanks for asking. Carry on. ^
2014-09-22T08:45:08+00:006th November, 2014|