Dear Della, Sexism Doesn't Sell Laptops

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notebook_diva1If a Web site were to be designed by a PC manufacturer to market its laptops and netbooks to men, what would it look like? Would the tips section be full of pointers on how to stream porn? Or how to check sports scores more efficiently on a shrunken screen? Doubtful, because men already know how to use a laptop, right? It also would perpetuate a stereotype that all men partake in those activities at their computers. And of course, we all know that not all men spend their time at the computer scouring the Interwebs for dirty pictures of Miss California. Tell me then. Why has America's top PC manufacturer, Dell, created a site for women about their computer use? The Austin, Texas company launched Della, a site to market its newest and uber-stylish laptops to women. The page, which reminds me of a birth control ad in a magazine, is blanketed with images of very attractive women using Dell-branded notebooks like the XPS 13 and the Inspiron Mini 10. The Tech Tips page, with its patronizing "Seven Unexpected Ways a Netbook Can Change Your Life," is full of stereotypes of how women’s lives can be changed with a mini-notebook. (I'd be the first to admit netbooks have life-changing qualities, but really? Really?!) “Track your exercise and food intake at free online sites like Fitday,” is Tip Number One, like any self-respecting women's magazine would recommend. Number two: Find recipes online (just because we have laptops doesn't mean we don't still belong in the kitchen). Dell, is this all you think us women do with our laptops? Or do you think women are that slow at the technology uptake that we don’t know that a netbook is capable of these activities? The word "choice" itself is downright demeaning. Not only are netbooks described as "cute," but on Dell.com, the Dell Inspiron Mini 12 is described with terms including "productive." On the Della portal the Mini 12 allows you to "stay connected to your favorite entertainment including email, shopping and more." Again, do you think all us women do is pull out the plastic? I commend companies, especially Dell with its new Adamo and its Design Studio, for making products that are more aesthetically pleasing and thus more appealing to women. It's a huge step beyond painting a laptop pink and saying it's now for the fairer sex. However, creating a Web site that tells women these products are for our shopping habits and cooking for our men puts us in an even worse place than those pink-covered laptops were in to begin with: as unsophisticated, separate and non-equal tech users compared with men. This site presumes that women have different computing "needs," as if we don't know how to use a "real" laptop. The stereotypes reinforced in this campaign are appalling. Guess what, Dell? Women ARE tech-savvy and shouldn’t be placed in a separate box when it comes to technology. We want options just like men, and notebooks that pack power, functionality and, YES, style. We don't need a Petitcoat 5 or a separate site telling us women, and us women alone, how to make the best "use" of a laptop. I don't see Dell creating a site marketing its laptops or netbooks to men any time soon, so it is my hope that we can say Ciao to Della, very soon. Whether she’s roaming the streets of Taiwan or burning up the phone lines, LAPTOP News Editor Joanna Stern is responsible for getting the scoop on the latest must-have mobile gadgets.  Her Notebook Diva column appears on Tuesdays.