Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Is the iPhone Misogynistic?

The L.A. Times reports that Erica Watson-Currie has trouble with using her iPhone because of her long fingernails.  And she's not the only one.
She and other women who have long nails - as well as people of all genders with chunky fingers - have real trouble typing on the iPhone.
"Why does Apple persist in this misogyny?" Watson-Currie asks, apparently unaware that some men too have long nails.  Of course, long nails interfere with a great number of productive activities, iPhone use being only one of them.  And that leads me to my claim, which is that interference with productivity is exactly the point of having long nails.  Veblen talks directly about clothing and shoes that purposefully cripple women of high standing, signaling that their families are so well off that those women need not engage in productive activity.  Long nails seem to serve exactly the same purpose.

Complaining that devices do not cater to the needs of women with long nails does make sense from the individual nail-owner's perspective, because a nail-compatible iPhone would erode the signaling value of nails.  For the woman who would prefer to signal but can't because, for some reason or other she is of inferior quality, such a device would provide a short-term boost.  But, once everyone figured out that nails no longer guarantee a crippling inability to engage in productive tasks, women and other signalers would be forced to find another way to conspicuously cripple themselves.  So maybe, Apple isn't so misogynistic after all - maybe they're saving the world from an inferior equilibrium in which products must cater to those with long nails (which is costly), and in which women must adopt another form of self-crippling fashion statement.

As a side note, the chunky fingers quote reminded me of the scene in "King Size Homer" in which Homer, having purposefully gained a lot of weight, attempts unsuccessfully to dial the phone.  "The fingers you have used to dial...are too fat.  To obtain a special dialing wand, please mash the keypad now."

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

this has been my (and others') long-time claim: long nails (and heels, tight skirts, makeup, etc.) are inherently misogynistic because of their crippling effects on women. the woman who claims that the iPhone is misogynistic when she is the one defending long nails is, clearly, retarded. the fat fingers issue is a different one entirely - maybe Apple will be single-handedly responsible for reversing the nation's obesity trend?

Austin Chu said...

I blogged about the same thing on savvywallet.com. I think it's kinda bogus that women are complaining. In my opinion, long nails are good for two things: scratching backs and taking off stickers.

Anonymous said...

... a potential Chernobyl into a mere three mile island ...

Anonymous said...

"Good night Springton... there will be no encore."