I am woman, hear me write

By Kaley Fowler

Ballpoint pens can cause quite an uproar—especially when they suddenly become gender specific.

Bic apparently lacked foresight when it released its “For Her” line of pens specifically “designed to fit a women’s hand” in August.

The pens, which feature “a diamond engraved barrel for an elegant and unique feminine style,” are marketed exclusively to women, catering to the stereotype that females are biologically inclined to love pink, sparkles and self-indulgence.

While there is nothing wrong with enjoying these things, it is outrageous that a pen company has marketed such a blatantly sexist product.

Although there are still many societal disparities between men and women, women have made significant strides toward closing the gap, and misogynistic marketing tactics detract from this progress. This sentiment prompted hundreds of sarcastic and scathing reviews on Amazon.com’s Bic “For Her” product page.

“So long I have struggled with barely the strength (let alone the brains) to lift those horrible manly pens and here, at last, are some designed with us ladies in mind,” one reviewer posted. “I shall finally be able to write my shopping lists and recipes without damaging my perfectly manicured nails.”

Comment after comment blasted the pens and sarcastically posed the question of whether a man’s supervision is required to use them and claimed that the average woman doesn’t have time to write because she is too busy cooking and cleaning.

Several intrepid men also wrote defamatory reviews on behalf of the women in their lives.

“My girlfriend continually drops my manly pens when she’s writing out shopping lists, which frustratingly leaves her less time to dress in pink, dream of puppies [and] then lick the kitchen floor clean,” posted one commenter.

Though the pens were relentlessly attacked for weeks, the manufacturer did not address reviewers’ concerns. Rather, Bic executives turned to Ellen DeGeneres to sponsor the product.

Asking a women’s rights activist to endorse a gender-specific product was, to say the least, a mistake. As one would expect, DeGeneres turned the offer down, but she also mocked the brand during an October taping of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”

“The worst part is they don’t come with any instructions, so how do they expect us to learn how to write with them?” DeGeneres asked. “I had a man read the back of the package to me, and it said it’s designed to fit a woman’s hand … [which] means when we’re taking down dictation from our bosses, we’ll be comfortable and [we] will forget we’re not being paid as much.”

She also asserted that “they’re just like regular pens except they’re pink, so they cost twice as much,” which isn’t a stretch from the way women’s products are typically priced.

According to a January 2010 Consumer Reports study, everyday products marketed to women, such as shaving cream, antiperspirant and pain relievers, cost an average 50 percent more than the same products aimed at men. Markups for labeling singles women out

and reinforces the stereotypes surrounding femininity.

While Bic is the latest company to shamelessly refocus marketing to women, it’s not the only one. Items traditionally thought to be more masculine, such as tool kits, guns and even beer now have pink hues and flowery labels to attract female shoppers.

Pandering to the “girls only” mentality may be an easy way for advertisers to make a quick buck, but it comes at the expense of a decades-long fight for gender equality. Gender-specific products instill in girls’ minds dangerously that they should behave and be treated differently because of their gender.

The pen is, in fact, mightier than the sword, and Bic should keep that in mind.

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