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02. 14. 2009

What would you like this Valentines Day? A little gender stereotyping, perhaps?


Earlier this week, I received an email from well-known online gadget retailer Firebox. It wasn't a press release aimed at journalists, just something for email subscribers, a lot of whom, I'm guessing, are just the general public. The email gave suggested gifts for women and gifts for men in two separate lists. And I was a little depressed by what I read.

The email suggested that women might like a chocolate pizza, an aphrodisiac candle, or a sterling silver Love Heart.

It was suggested that the man in your life, meanwhile, would enjoy a remote-controlled helicopter or a fabulous iPod alarm clock with retro styling.

Ugh, I thought. Not again.

Because Firebox are not the first nor the only gadget retailer to send out emails suggesting that women like chocolate and men like gadgets (they are probably not the last, either - yawn). They are certainly not the only website to have a "boys' toys" section or to play up the gender division when it comes to marketing.

But after getting this email, I decided to email their PR team to (politely) ask them about the thinking behind it.

They told me: "Every year we have a huge list of Valentine’s day gifts for girls and boys but every year the products that receive coverage are the ones that are red/ pink/ heart shaped or immediately romantically linked. We are therefore adhering to the media’s agenda when writing our Valentine’s day press release."

Which sounds like an excuse at first reading, but it actually a pretty valid reason - I know I often see gift suggestion guides in magazines and newspapers at this time of year which are very pink and girly. Whether this is what consumers want is another question for another day, but this is what they get.

I know from my own interactions with magazine freelance editors that there's a lot of tech-o-phobia out there (that I was able to break into magazine writing by pitching tech-related topics that staff writers didn't know enough about is proof of that).

But what about the rest of the year. Firebox must acknowledge that many women like technology just as much as men do?

Their PR tells me: "When Firebox was founded over ten years ago, our customer base was purely
male but it has since moved towards a 55/ 45% male/ female split. This
certainly proves a growing trend towards girls who like gadgets and are
interested in technology and it is something that we are very aware of at

She also promises me that future press releases targeted at journalists will take into account that there are a lot of women tech types reading, and be tailored accordingly. Here's to an end to gender stereotyping in gadget retailing and coverage within the next decade, eh ladies?

Posted by Diane    Category: culture
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