Women: by default less knowledgeable

// 20 January 2012

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This is a guest post by Elin and Hennie Weiss

No this is not [from Lady Pain (Marta Manso)'s Flickr photostream, used under Creative Commons license]

A recent article in Swedish Metro caught our attention for all the wrong reasons when it insinuated an assumed male norm of technical knowledge and intelligence. The article discussed the gendered differences in phone choice, one that concerned the gendered divide in use of the Android and Iphone.

Apparently, men and boys are more frequent users of the Android phone while women and girls prefer using the Iphone. 54% of men use the Android, whereas only 34% of men favour the Iphone. Women’s mobile phone preference was the Iphone with 44% fancying the Iphone while only 38% favoured the Android. So far so good.

The article, in its discussion regarding the gendered differences in phone preference, (which are not even that great when considering the statistics) assumed that the Android was the better choice of phone. The only explanations given to account for the assumed superiority of the Android was that Apple did not “deliver” when launching their latest mobile phone. The recent passing of technology mogul Steve Jobs was also attributed to the Android surpassing the Iphone in popularity. The article also stated that men, assumed to be more technology interested and technology driven, change their consumer behaviours before women do due to what appeared to be their presumed technologically intellectual head start. The underlying message was that women are not technologically intelligent, that they focus more on status objects than they do quality, and that the interests and knowledge of men is superior to that of women.

We are happy to declare that the article did mention that as soon as women realize their overconfidence in the Iphone and the “Iphone culture” they will catch on (to what the men already know) and change their mobile phone preference from the Iphone to the Android.

What the article mentioned, but did not attempt to explain however, was the fact that Iphone users use their phone more than the Android owners do. Perhaps it is the women who are pickier and more knowledgeable when it concerns their choice of phones, choosing the phone which better answers their needs and preferences. Why does it have to be the wrong choice to own an Iphone because it now apparently is a gendered question? How come this article made the news to begin with?

Instead, consider this, perhaps women’s greater use of the Iphone demonstrate women’s confidence and liking of the Apple products or the late Steve Jobs. Perhaps women spend more money on expensive technology such as the Iphone in order to make it last or to invest in good technology. Whatever the choice, why is one better than the other and why is it automatically women’s choices that are described as less knowledgeable or less modern and forward?

A second article, published in a different newspaper, stated however that the Android phone is more disruptive in terms of the signals needed to support the phone and its different apps, making the shared lines slower and less sufficient. Whatever phone is actually better does not really matter. What matters is that a large newspaper is concerned with promoting stereotypes of men as technologically smart and “right” and women as shallow and not as knowledgeable, without any real supporting facts.

Thereby, the focus of this piece does not lie in the fact that women and men prefer different types of mobile phones. Instead, we want to convey the notion that men are often described and assumed as the knowledgeable norm while women are the ones that differ. Whether it concerns phones, to driving a car, to mowing the lawn, women’s knowledge is assumed inferior when compared to men’s in terms of different gadgets.

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Image ‘No, this is not‘ from Lady Pain (Marta Manso)’s Flickr photostream; used under Creative Commons license

Comments From You

gadgetgal // Posted 20 January 2012 at 7:28 pm

I’m a techie fiend AND an Android user, so although I don’t like that they simply broke down phone users into genders to try and prove which one is more or less technologically knowledeable (which is meaningless when other factors are brought to bear, as you stated), I can see why readers of the article would make the assumption that more techie people use Droids rather than iPhones – if I read the UK Metro Technology section I would expect the assumption to be the same, whereas if I read the UK Metro Lifestyle section I would expect the assumption to be the iPhone. It’s differing uses of techonology, and the article will be biased in favour of the writer and audience, I guess.

I think the problem is how they’re bringing gender into it – they’re trying to say women are not as clever technologically. That’s obviously not the case – there have always been problems in trying to get women into technology with the sexism in the field being so rampant, I’m thinking maybe this is a symptom of that, rather than women just “not being aware” that the Droid is more for tech people. As a Linux user I can tell you we are generally not welcome in the mostly male-dominated forums, it’s no wonder most of the women I know head more towards Windows/Apple/user-friendly gear. What’s the point in buying something you have to join a community to learn how to mess with if the community makes you feel as though you shouldn’t be there in the first place?

Dramatika // Posted 20 January 2012 at 8:00 pm

I owned an Android and Iphone, there are several advantages and disadvantages to both. Interestingly, by brother recently switched to Iphone as an easier one to use, although Android is much more flexible in terms of apps to install and run. I have a male colleque who also admitted defeat after playing with his wife’s phone. Another score for Apple! Android is great as a system, but hardware implementation in various models is far from perfect. Maybe people just prefer smth a little bit more easier to use, regardless of their gender. I probably switch back to Android as soon as there are better models.

Justine Ossum // Posted 20 January 2012 at 11:13 pm

I may be parsing this incorrectly, but they’re saying that when Steve Jobs died, men dumped their iPhones and got Android devices instead?

Android is certainly seen in some quarters as the ‘nerdier’ choice (presumably because you can root your handset and do all sorts of techy things to and with it, but to be so explicit about gender and preference?

Maybe we should be relieved that they didn’t trot out that article from last year that stated women use their smart phones to photograph their babies.

Laurel // Posted 21 January 2012 at 5:25 pm

nothing to do with techie and gadget mags/sites/shows being largely aimed at blokes then if that were the case? lol

Cycleboy // Posted 24 January 2012 at 6:21 pm

Many years ago I attended a public meeting. I forget the main subject, but it was to do with women and feminism. A woman stood up and related an experience while on a training course for some advanced film/video editing equipment. “The blokes,” she told us, “started fiddling immediately. We women were more interested in how to get the equipment to do things we wanted, whereas the blokes just wanted to know what it could do. It was akin to technological masturbation.”

Although over 25 years ago, this has always stuck in my mind. The woman was clearly convinced that there was a difference (innate or otherwise) between the way the sexes viewed technology. For myself, I could not see why both approaches needed to be mutually exclusive. After all, it’s often when people start fiddling at the margins of what a thing can do that inspiration is fired and new ideas are born.

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