It’s a routine as old as Apple product launches — disappointment at Apple product launches. In fact, there’s often outrage at Apple product launches, although this is usually the realm of rabid techies.
Apple-based outrage — or iOutrage, as it should be more commonly known — isn’t typically seen among the ranks of the patriarchy-smashers. This is for good reason, I thought; unless Tim Cook dons a leather jacket and starts repeating old Andrew Dice Clay routines, there’s not exactly a plausible feminist critique to be had of the MacBook Air.
I must confess to a total oversight on my part, however. How could I have dismissed blatant opportunism and self-centeredness as motives for such a critique?
According to the New York Post, feminists are beyond angry that the screens on the new iPhones are larger. The backlash includes everyone from a member of the U.K. Parliament to a prominent sociology professor and New York Times writer.
The new iPhones released this week were from the XS line, where the screen ranges in size from 5.8 inches to 6.5 inches. The iPhone SE — which retained some of the features of newer iPhones while retaining the 4-inch screen and smaller form factor of older models — was discontinued.
And thus did Cook and his retinue all become minor-key Norm Macdonalds.
“In so much design and technology development the default standard is always that which suits a man,” Jess Phillips, a Labour MP, told The Telegraph. “Companies have got to get better at recognizing that their idea of normal should account for all their customers.”
That may have been the worst comment inasmuch as you could reasonably interpret it as featuring the implied threat of some sort of government officialdom coming down on Apple for its product decisions (“Companies have to get better”). It was hardly the only remark from a prominent feminist on the new iPhones that was woefully divorced from reality, however.
Take prominent sociologist and Times writer Zeynep Tufekci:
"We want to reach as many customers as we can with this incredible technology," Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller said, without irony, while Apple phased out the *only* phone I can hold without risking dropping. Stuck with Apple for security reasons. ? https://t.co/jVOPiSjrDr
— zeynep tufekci (@zeynep) September 13, 2018
“‘We want to reach as many customers as we can with this incredible technology,’ Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller said, without irony, while Apple phased out the *only* phone I can hold without risking dropping. Stuck with Apple for security reasons,” Tufekci wrote.
Schiller’s remark actually was made regarding the iPhone XR, which comes at a lower price, so that’s an interesting point to make from a sociology professor who probably uses the word “contextualization” more than a few times a week. (I’m guessing from prior experience here; I apologize to Tufekci if she’s extirpated that word from the standard linguistic toolkit of the sociology prof.)
I find it interesting, however, that she — “without irony” — notes that Apple has failed “to reach as many customers as we can” by phasing out “the *only* phone I can hold without risking dropping.” Solecism, meet solipsism.
Oh yeah, and they don’t have a child care center too, which says everything about consumers preferring larger screens, because of course it does:
"Welcome to the big screens" says Apple and women like me with small hands who need the most secure phone for safety reasons are stuck with something they can't hold and constantly risk dropping. Company that designs $5 billion headquarters without a childcare center for the win. pic.twitter.com/Owzy51RsrH
— zeynep tufekci (@zeynep) September 13, 2018
Caroline Criado Perez, a noted U.K. journalist and feminist, took it a step further when she said that Apple will literally be injuring her with this decision.
According to The Telegraph, Perez, “the feminist campaigner behind the Millicent Fawcett statue in Parliament Square and the Jane Austen ten pound note, said she developed repetitive strain injury from using a phone which was too big for her hand.
“She told The Telegraph: ‘I genuinely have RSI from having an iPhone 6, and it went as soon as I switched to an iPhone SE.
“‘It genuinely does affect women’s hand health, women do buy more iPhones than men, it just baffles me that Apple doesn’t design with our bodies in mind.
“‘We should be furious about this, we are paying just as much money for it as men for a product that doesn’t work as well for us.'”
Here’s why they shouldn’t be furious, however: The iPhone SE was always an average seller at best, accounting for 9.8 percent of sales in 2016. That declined by well over 50 percent in 2017. It was a niche product for individuals who didn’t want a larger phone.
That niche is clearly no longer a profitable one, indicating this isn’t something that “genuinely does affect women’s hand health” but the hand health of a very small minority of users — and that would be true even assuming every SE buyer was purchasing it for health reasons, which is almost certainly a false assumption.
If women were a majority of iPhone buyers and this was a major health issue, Apple (and other manufacturers) wouldn’t be moving to bigger screens and bigger phones exclusively. That’s how markets work — something that I freely admit escapes most sociology professors I’ve met but that should probably be of more than a passing interest to government officials and journalists.
Will these individuals realize they’re extrapolating their individual experiences and projecting them onto women as a whole, girding their personal outrage in the armor of a wider social movement all for the added benefit of press attention? Is the pope capitalist? My guess as to their explanation: Female consumers — and by extension, other feminists — have ignored this blatant affront to the distaff gender. If only their self-hatred hadn’t apparently blinded them, they all would have bought the iPhone SE in solidarity.
Alas, the patriarchy runs strong. Welcome to the big screens indeed, misogynists.
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