Plasmas, pink and pin-up politics

It's been a fascinating few weeks for female tech enthusiasts.

It's been a fascinating few weeks for female tech enthusiasts.

Firstly, there was the furore generated with the release of the "IT Screen Goddess" calendar, a publication whose cover features a blonde woman clad only in a few rose petals, in a homage to American Beauty. Many forum dwellers on the Sydney Morning Herald site cried objectification, accusing the women involved of pandering to lowest common denominator tastes by not wearing a whole lot of clothing.

I found it interesting to note the opinion of dale spender, author of much feminist literature and one who, e. e. cummings-style, sees no good reason for capital letters in her moniker. She wrote:

It's really these women having the upper hand. Sending up the stereotype of IT and of eye candy.

Objectifying is something done to you.

Taking charge is manipulating that image and subverting it, that's what they are doing.

It shames me to admit it, but I can't decide how I feel about the calendar. From a purely aesthetic point of view, the art direction and cinematic homages look brilliant. But as to the issue of what message it sends about females in IT, I'm not sure. "Techy females aren't geeky; they have hot bodies! Check it out!" doesn't seem to encapsulate the subversive vibe of the creator's vision.

Then there was the survey conducted by female-focused US cable channel, the Oxygen network, which came to the conclusion that chicks dig plasma screens more than diamond necklaces. Apart from a slew of "Plasmas are a girl's best friend" headlines, the finding generated a lot of online debate over the notion that this is revelatory news.

Women like tech? Get out of town! But here's something I'd like to know: how many women appreciate the tack-o-rama fuschia-hued mobile phones that come equipped with menstrual calendars, healthy weight calculators and itty bitty mirrors to powder your pretty little nose?

It irks me that manufacturers think the way to a woman's heart is through a deluge of pink. It frustrates me that male-targeted tech toys and services are the default. (Look at Vodafone Live's What's Hot page and read about the sport offerings for when "your girlfriend has dragged you to Swan Lake" and you'll see what I mean.) And yet I recognise that whether biologically or through social conditioning, males and females will find different features and designs appealing.

It's a complex issue, and one I can't seem to reconcile in my own head. So for now I'm going to defer to the wisdom of a Slashdotter called ElleyKitten, who left this comment on the plasma-over-diamonds story: "I want a Xbox 360 for my birthday. I can't frag people with a sparkly necklace."