We’ve come a long way from the days when women were relegated to the home and when Supreme Court decisions turned on the “obvious” observation that “woman’s physical structure and the performance of maternal functions place her at a disadvantage in the struggle for subsistence.” But sexism is no vestige of a era long past. As Justyn Hintze recently discovered, gender bias lurks even in the technology you are holding in your hands right now.
The brush with Apple Computer’s subtle sexism came when Hintze tried to engrave the following song lyric by Alix Olson on her new iPad:
I’ll give myself a lube job,shake my broomstick til my clit throbs
This might not be your choice of iPad motto, but if Hintze wants that on her tablet, why quibble? It is called an iPad, after all, not a wePad or a prudishcommunitystandardsPad.
But when Hintze tried to type in those lyrics, Apple balked. An error message notified her: “this message may contain inappropriate language.” Same trouble with “vagina.” Apparently iPads are female-genital-free zones.
Male genitals, apparently, are another matter entirely. Funny thing is, when Hintze experimented with “dick” and “penis” in her provisional iPad motto, Apple was more than willing to accommodate her.
Apple is not the only organization apparently running scared from the “V” word. In 2012, two female members of Michigan’s House of Representatives were censured for using “the words ‘vagina’ and ‘vasectomy’ in debating an abortion bill” and were punished by having “their privilege to speak withdrawn for a day”:
State Rep. Lisa Brown triggered the silencing when she ended a speech with the words, “Finally, Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no’.”
The Legislature is considering legislation that would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, unless a pregnant woman’s life is in danger.
State Rep. Barb Byrum was silenced after she tried to introduce an amendment requiring men to prove that their life is in danger before being allowed to receive a vasectomy.”
House Speaker James Bolger declared in a statement that Brown and Byrum could not speak on a school employees retirement bill.
Bolger added that they “will not be recognized to speak on the House floor today after being gaveled down for their comments and actions yesterday that failed to maintain the decorum of the House of Representatives.”
As a press conference where she could speak, Rep. Brown declared: “I am outraged that this legislative body not only wants to dictate what women do, but what we can say.”
What undergirds the strange tendency to censor words referring to women’s genitals? Maybe it’s a fear of female sexuality (how many of Apple’s coders are women, I wonder?) or a remnant of the idea that women’s sexual lives should remain under wraps, or kept safely out of public view. Whatever the reason, there is something of a sexist double standard at play in the zeitgeist, or at least in Cupertino.
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