Lady backpacks and manly beer: The folly of gendered products

phys.org | 10/7/2019 | Staff
newusr01newusr01 (Posted by) Level 3
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As women started counting steps and walking to work wearing running shoes and fitness trackers, there was one work-related item that had to change: the briefcase. It's not suited to walking fast and gets in the way of drinking coffee en route to the office. Enter the working women's backpack. It's a trend.

The Atlantic announced that this is the year professional women started wearing backpacks, even though some of us swear it's been going on for a while. The sale of women's backpacks is up by more than 20 percent in the past year, but the sale of men's backpacks has flat-lined.

Atlantic - Story - Rise - Lady - Backpack

The Atlantic headlined their story "The Rise of the Lady Backpack." Of course they did, because women can't just use backpacks. We have to use "lady backpacks."

What's with the gendering? "Gendering" occurs when we ascribe stereotypical ideas of gender to an object or activity. Cupcakes, salads and white wine are feminine. Beer and steaks are masculine. But it's not just food. It's everywhere.

Lists - Products - Pink - Pens - Q-tips

There are lists of needlessly gendered products ranging from girly pink pens to manly blue Q-tips. Such products reinforce the idea that gender is significant in areas where it's not, they reinforce the gender binary, and they leave out people who don't fit in either the male or the female category.

A friend explained that lady backpacks are built for the female frame. They're smaller. "But what about small men?" I asked. Well, replied the friend, they can buy a lady backpack too.

Ladies - People - Backpacks - Sizes - People

But they're not ladies! They are small people. Wouldn't it be easier if backpacks came in sizes to match differently sized people?

Another friend recently raised the issue of step-through bike frames. He wanted one because he'd had knee surgery and couldn't swing his leg up over a traditional cross bar. The bike shop told him he...
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