Did IBM Just Ask Women to Hack the Blow Dryer?
Recently, IBM stated that if women wanted to get involved in technology, they should #HackAHairDryer. This is not only one of the worst PR efforts in recent history; it is blatantly tacky and stereotypical because it is stating that the gender gap in the tech world can only be closed if women are ‘lured into it with soothingly familiar objects.’
Blatantly Gender Biased Campaign
This gender biased campaign by IBM forms part of a larger trend of “Women in STEM” initiatives in that it makes use of references to makeup or physical beauty in an environment where women often end up being reduced to their appearance instead of their achievements or skill sets. It also reinforces the idea that men are a more diverse set of subgroups, while women are just a ‘female demographic.’ As a result, it is no surprise in the least to see that the hashtag in question received a tremendous amount of criticism along the way. It has caused an immense amount of women to discuss their professional scientific achievements on social media as well.
IBM Quick to Backpedal
After the amount of backlash that IBM received as a result of its pathetic attempt to create and promote the campaign in question, the company admitted that it had “missed the mark for some” (no kidding, IBM). Whenever a horrendously gendered campaign (such as this) comes up, it sets a total dichotomy between the world of technology-based work and femininity. In other words, women are not supposed to be active participants in the world of engineering or scientific studies; they are supposed to be ‘off somewhere being feminine’ instead.
Justified Rebellion against Gender Biased Campaigns
A lot of the social media chatter regarding the ill-thought out ‘hairdryer hacking campaign’ is considered to be justified rebellion against what can only be classified as enforced femininity – in other words, women cannot be ‘serious scientists.’ Feminist author and molecular biologist Julia Serano has written extensively on the topic of “empowering femininity” – relieving pressure on women to possess specific interests without actually mocking the interests in question.
No Such Thing as ‘Women’s Technology’
Companies that decide to make a feeble attempt at trying to feminize STEM should expect to receive the level of backlash that IBM has had to deal with. This may in turn get them to realize that there is no such thing as ‘women’s technology’ or ‘men’s technology.’ Instead, they should remember that the various fields of technology are there for everyone to work in, regardless of their gender. No woman should have to endure any form of mockery if she decides to become involved in technology or engineering.
Instead of women being stereotyped, it may be time for other companies and/or individuals to turn the tables and start mocking the companies who seem to think that it’s OK to be biased towards women who want to enter fields that used to be considered as ‘men’s work.’ It may be the only way to get them to realize that all types of work are for everyone, regardless of gender.