So, we ladyfolk finally got our own viral internet giggle yesterday when Apple really did name its new tablet computer the iPad. “iTampon” quickly became a hot trending topic on Twitter.
Even as the “Mac’s-i-Pad” period jokes continue, a little bit of a backlash has begun (“really from all the noise we should just call it the i-bitch,”) and people are also asking will period jokes will hurt the iPad?
I think the iPad name is a major mis-step for Apple, but not just because it’s embarrassingly funny. For me the iPad naming fiasco pulls back the curtain on Apple Computer’s branding and marketing and reveals it as another Silicon Valley boy’s club.
I say this as a devoted Apple user. I got my first computer as a college freshman back in 1986, a “Macintosh 512K enhanced.” I was in one of the first college cohorts in which just about everybody had a personal computer. And yes, there was a day when you could put “512K” and “enhanced” together and it made sense. (Take that, Fanboys, I’ve been using a Mac since some of you were in diapers, or, egads, before you were born.) Over those 23 years I have personally bought at least a half dozen desktop Macs, four laptops, two iPhones, and more generations of iPods than I can keep track of. I run my whole Mojo Mom media empire, from book authorship, to blogging and podcasting, on a Mac.
And all the while Apple’s branding made me feel like I was part of something, “I’m a Mac,” after all. And with their intuitive, elegant design, as Apple brought new products to life that I hadn’t even known that I needed, but now can’t imagine living without, I felt like Apple knew me, too. But now with their naming choice of the iPad and all it’s testosterone-fueled cluelessness, it became immediately more noticeable how overwhelmingly male Apple computer is. Can you name one woman associated with Apple, as an employee or its image? Watch Apple’s own near-orgasmically-fawning video promoting their new gadget. It’s eight minutes of male developers talking about how awesome the iPad is.
So then we get thinking about the iPad and wonder, “Were there any women involved in its design process? Its naming or marketing?” And reporting comes out, such as Business Week (via Jezebel) saying that “women account for 40 percent of gadget spending…” and the inconvenient fact that Apple doesn’t have any women in its top corporate positions.
I have spent a lot of time in the tech world socially (my husband is a computer guy) and professionally, when I was a freelancer writing the parenting and technology blog for CNET in 2007 and 2008. I appreciated that opportunity and I thought I did bring a different perspective to the conversation. Unfortunately, my opinion was not always appreciated. I received a lot of nasty, hurtful comments. I had not how realized how radical it would be to bring a mom’s-eye view perspective to the tech world. Many libertarian, male commenters seemed to instantly view me as the enemy, someone who represented the “nanny state” that clashed with their worldview. I should have realized what a culture clash I was walking into. It’s a shame that a wider diversity of opinions are not represented and respected on tech websites, as I did report on some interesting stories that other journalists may have overlooked, some of which made it to the main front page of CNET. (I should say CNET was great to work with. And I know there were people who liked what I wrote, but they tended to email me directly rather than leave a public comment.)
So, just as we women have an uncomfortable relation with public displays of pads, perhaps all the brouhaha also has a connection with how women feel overlooked and excluded from the world of high tech. I had been pretty happy with the illusion that Apple knew me. But now, while they can still win me over with their products, my decades-long relationship with the Apple mystique has evaporated in a flash–surely not what the Apple marketing department was hoping to accomplish with their sexy new product release.
Right now I am consumed by the whirlwind that always accompanies the final stages of editing of a new book. I can’t wait to share the new anthology Courageous Parenting with you, but the one temporary downside is that during this final push I don’t have a lot of time for blogging. But I did want to share a few end-of-decade thoughts about what I learned in the 2000s.
It’s interesting to see my personal journey as a mother develop together with my professional development. When I became a new Mom in late 1999 I looked at the world through a thoroughly individualistic perspective. I really thought that I needed to show how I could “do it all” myself. Even as I learned to embrace the participation of family and friends, I still thought that motherhood was mostly about me and my personal life choices as one woman. I felt that I chose to leave my teaching career, and without even realizing it, I was constructing a life story that put me firmly in the driver’s seat. This was actually a pretty functional way of thinking that worked for me in the short term, but as I lived through all of the challenges of motherhood, and thought about what other women faced, I realized that I was missing the big picture.
When the original “Opt-Out Revolution” narrative first came along, saying that educated mothers were choosing to leave the workforce, it made sense to me, if I looked at my life as a rugged individualist. My teaching career just “didn’t work” any more so I chose to leave. My personal situation was complicated by a cross-country move, that made it seem even more natural that I didn’t return to my job, and I was fortunate that my family could afford to live on my husband’s salary.
But even as I started to write Mojo Mom all on my own way back in 2003, not really knowing any other writers, and without the benefit of blogging, which had not exploded yet, I started to see that motherhood wasn’t just all about me as one person.
I started to think about what it meant that work “didn’t work” for me as a mother of a young child. How much of this was my individual choice, versus larger social structures that ranged from my family, to employers’ attitudes and policies, to public policy, most notably the fact that American women don’t even have paid maternity leave?
My husband’s job was all-encompassing at the time, which did not leave a lot of room for me to work any kind of traditional schedule. And the idea of truly-flexible, valuable part time jobs didn’t seem plausible. I craved a new professional, creative outlet, and I had a renewed interest in writing, so I reinvented myself as an author.
I was fortunate to be able to do so, but even though this worked for me, the dangers and fallacies of the Opt-Out storyline started to come to into focus for me. First of all, most women and mothers need to work for basic financial reasons. So the idea that motherhood = not employed is a worrisome one, because the workforce truly needs to figure out how to retain us and stop punishing us for being parents–specifically, mothers, because fathers are more respected in the workforce and are often assumed to have a wife who can do the majority of the caregiving. As Opting Out? author and sociologist Pamela Stone has pointed out, too often, parenthood means that fathers step on the accelerator of their careers and mothers step on the brakes. For women of Gen X and Y this can create a major fork in the road that has lifelong consequences.
Also, taking an off-ramp from paid work can leave women in career limbo and financial jeopardy. I hope that in the 2010s we’ll find better solutions for building more on-ramps. Life is long, and women in particular should expect to have several careers interwoven with seasons of caregiving.
So as these challenges accumulated it became incredibly clear to me that no one is truly a “rugged individualist,” and we are all in this together. As I was completing the first edition of Mojo Mom I started to think, “What we need is a social movement. Damn, am I going to have to try to start one?” Fortunately for all of us, MomsRising.org burst onto the scene. I could instantly see that founders Joan Blades and Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner were well positioned to launch an activist revolution, and I’ve done my best to support their work because it is spot-on, working to end job discrimination against mothers, to get health care coverage for all children, and other key advocacy goals.
Joan and Kristin also started their work together by writing a book, The Motherhood Manifesto, which I highly recommend.
So from being one aspiring writer, working in near-secret on my own, to getting the updated 2009 edition of Mojo Mom published, working with other writers, and participating in MomsRising’s grassroots movement with a million members, I have come a long way in the 2000s.
And as my appreciation of cooperation of mothers has grown, my next book is, voila, an anthology, with chapters written by fourteen talented experts! I had spent years getting to know other writers, reading their books, appreciating their work, and doing Mojo Mom Podcast interviews–now the circle of experts who I have come to think of as a special group in my mind are really collaborating on the new book, Courageous Parenting, which will be a comprehensive guide exploring how to end overparenting, and carve out a new, healthier path to independence for our kids and ourselves.
The power of collaboration is truly amazing. I have spent several years cultivating these connections, but once I had the idea for the anthology and recruited my contributors, we decided to launch the book in a fast and timely matter. The anthology will be current as of January 2010 and will launch in early spring. To me this is the best combination that takes advantage of the immediacy of blogging while preserving the substance of book writing.
As my blog readers you’ve been an important part of my entire journey as well. Books take a long time to writer, and my life as a writer improved greatly after blogging enabled me to connect with my readers. So to say thanks to you, I will be offering a free digital download of the new anthology “Courageous Parenting” to anyone who signs up on MojoMom.com before the book is published.
I hope you will sign up now, so that I can send you a free complete electronic copy of the new book when it’s released this spring.