On Behalf Of All Wimmin: An Open Letter To Steve Jobs About The iPad

January 29, 2010, 1:51 pm

Dear Steve Jobs,

For months I have been looking forward to the release of Apple’s new tablet computer, as I look forward to every new product released by your company. I have put off buying a Kindle, even though all of my friends have them; or even speaking to my sister about her beloved Sony Reader, for fear that I will become so envious that I will have to go into therapy about why she gets everything nice even though she is the youngest. So imagine my dismay when I heard that you were naming this new product the iPad.

Now, this ill-chosen, sexist name did not immediately make me think of a menstrual pad, but since other women have begun to make this obvious connection between a personal computer and a personal hygiene device, I have not been able to get over how crushed and mortified I am. I don’t know if you have ever tried to write something on a menstrual pad, but believe me, it is not easy: the pen sticks constantly, little bits of fluff stick to the point, and there is really no room for more than a paragraph anyway. And because I loathe my body completely, well, anything that makes me think of vaginas or menstruation disturbs the creative process. I can’t even imagine taking the iPad into a faculty or department meeting. There I would be, trying to work on curriculum or responding to the latest dictat about the budget, and thinking vagina, vagina, vagina. How can I work in an environment where I am being sexually harassed by my own computer?

What is worse is that I have now begun to imagine all your products, formerly beautiful to me, as the gross, sexualized items you have secretly intended them to be all along. It’s so upsetting I can’t tell you.

For example, there is the iPod, which makes me think of seed pods, which makes me think of testicles. Ee-yew.

Or the iBook, which makes me think of the Book, which makes me think of Leviticus, which inevitably leads to thoughts of bestiality. Double ee-yew!

You see the problem, I am sure. As a committed and long term feminist, I have learned many things about the condition of women from the kinds of critique that are being aimed at this new product of yours: I have learned about patriarchy, the ownership of my own body, and the work that gender does to distribute power in society. This latest insight — that a personal computer could fix in my mind, indelibly, visions of menstrual pads and vaginal walls at their most unattractive has been more distressing than I can say. On the other hand, hearing from my sisters everywhere on this matter has also been a critical step in what it might mean to move to the next level of consciousness as a feminist. I intend to spend the rest of the day writing manufacturers of bed pads, pads of paper, paddles, paddleboards, paddle wheels, padlocks and pad thai noodles, demanding that they immediately remove their products from the market and rename them, or face a feminist boycott of unprecedented proportions.

Sure, I have other things to do. But feminism is a commitment that goes beyond the self to our responsibility for a collective sisterhood. Since the battles for equal pay and women’s right to the integrity of her own body are already won it is time to address the oppressive patriarchal impulse behind the naming of consumer items that is holding women back and shaming them in the workplace.

Thank you for your attention,

The Tenured Radical

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