Have you all heard about these new Bic “For Her” pens? THANK GOODNESS. When I first saw them I was like, “Finally a pen for me!” You know? All day long, I was just fumbling about using any old pen I could find with my tiny, ineffectual ladyhands. One time I stole a pen from a bank in the hopes that it would do my biding but alas, I am unable to use any instrument that isn’t dipped in pink and slapped with the gender binary. WHEW, guys. WHEW.
While this product is a Godsend for me, my friend doesn’t identify as strictly a man or a woman. I wonder if Bic has plans to put out pens “For Ze,” “For Hir” or “For Genderqueer.” What would trans pens look like anyway? I’m just spit-balling here but I think there could be a real market for pens specifically designed for people outside the two societally-condoned genders. Maybe they’d have like, an extra squishy grip or something because everyone knows trans people have very stiff fingers. (Right? I mean, that’s totally a thing.)
Times like these I see amazing potential on the internet for education and compassionate transforming of wrong-headed views, for the dissolving of privilege and for banding together to give the minority a voice. Clever people use dead-on humor to get messages across to a big company: We see what you’re doing. We are smarter than this. We deserve better.
Sure, some products have long-held, societal gender implications: clothing, hair barrettes, make up, shoes. This kind of thing seems like it can’t be helped, is necessary to serve the larger population or, at least, shows that there’s a long road and a lot of widespread education needed before those walls can be broken down. On the other hand, there are those who already actively swim against the current in this regard, like this dad who wears skirts because his 5-year-old son prefers to wear dresses. (Truthfully, I wish dudes could wear skirts. They are hella comfy and cooler on hot days. It’s a bummer you feel you can’t.)
What really gets to me about these pens though is the larger question they pose: Why inject gender into something that doesn’t even NEED gender?
In this case, it was probably to sell more pens to little girls shopping for school supplies. Problem is: there’s nothing inherently male or female about pens and there doesn’t need to be. These claim to have a softer grip and they’re pink and purple. That’s it. There was no need to make pens for women. Women can use regular pens just fine, and men can use these “For Her” pens if they so please. (Unless by even touching one, a man will somehow just immediately sprout breasts and start menstruating, which if so maybe these are actually pens for trans people because it would save them a hell of a lot of pain, surgery and money on hormone therapy.)
Listen, it’s tough being a lady. It seems like every product on the market is “for men.” Even if it’s not labeled “for men,” I can pretty much figure it is because it’s not bright pink and designated “for women.” Molly Oswaks at Gizmodo regularly points out the oddity of tech products “for women” which are really just tech products for everyone with some fuschia painted on. The products operate the same and have the same functions. Why is it necessary to give them a gender?
I also feel really badly for men or male-identified people who like pink. You are out of luck, bros.
Even Midol is hilarious to me. It’s a painkiller. I take it sometimes for headaches. Have you ever offered a guy who has a headache Midol? They act like you’re trying to feed them rat poison. But Midol is perfectly fine as a pain reliever for men. (PS: Really! You can take Midol, dudes! I promise your penis won’t disappear. Just that nasty headache.)
Assuming women need “For Her” products says what? That women only want things in two light, airy colors? That women need extra help with something as simple as writing? I just don’t get building gender specifics into a product where it isn’t necessary.
More than a year ago, when I interviewed a transman named Roman about his transition, he told me, “I try to go days without thinking about gender — mine or anyone else’s — and it’s impossible.”
This unthinking bullsh-t is why.