Think pink (not)

Honda Fit She's

 

In Japan, Honda has introduced its “first car exclusively for women.” “Honda Fit She’s” (sic) have pink instruments on their dashboards, hot pink stitching on their seats and steering wheels, and are painted in colors “inspired by popular eyeshadow shades.” They have windshields and “plasma cluster” air conditioning systems designed to prevent wrinkles.

I know, I know, it sounds like satire from The Onion, but it’s true, and being widely mocked on blogs throughout the world.

“Fit She’s” really aren’t the “first cars exclusively for women.” In 1955 and 1956, Chrysler Corporation sold “Dodge La Femmes.” These pink-on-pink tail-finned bombs came with color-coordinated purses and accessories that matched their paint jobs, plus special compartments containing raincoats, rain bonnets and umbrellas made to match their seat covers. Could I make this up? No, I could not!

Brochures claimed La Femme was made “By Special Appointment to Her Majesty … the American Woman.” Ugh, gag me with a gear shift.

The Dodge La Femme was a flop, maybe because even in 1955, “Her Majesty” could see what an enormous crock of condescending crap that was.

Look, I’ve gone car shopping with a lot of women friends, and they all seem interested in things such as reliability, comfort, gas mileage, warranty options … you know, things most men are interested in, too.

I have yet to hear any woman say, “Oh, I would buy that car … if only it came in pink!” (Although a car dealer in Canonsburg once tried to sell me a Dodge Neon in pastel purple, and I passed on it, because it looked kind of like a giant plastic Easter egg.)

I understand Japan has high demand for “cute” products, and gender roles in Japan seem to be sharply defined (yet Japanese society sometimes seems much more open to people who transgress gender).

But it wouldn’t be unthinkable for American or European car companies to pull this kind of crap. For instance, you can easily find “pink power tools for women” and “pink handguns for women.”

(Have you ever compared “men’s” disposable razors with “women’s” disposable razors? Someone wanna tell me what’s different besides pink handles?)

This whole idea that you can just paint products “pink” and call them “for women” really was passe in the 1950s, and that marketing departments are still peddling pink things as “women’s versions” tells me most marketing departments are brain-dead and have no real interest in trying to reach women.

(And speaking as someone who deals closely with marketing departments, I am not at all surprised.)

If there’s any good news, it’s that companies like Honda who still try to appeal to women by painting products pink generally get the ridicule they so richly deserve.

On the other hand, who cares? Pink’s just a color, right?

Yes and no, because our whole outdated “pink is for girls, blue is for boys” mentality helps steer young women into traditional gender roles. Our culture tells girls they can’t do “boy” stuff, like work with tools or technology, unless, maybe, they know it’s OK because it’s painted pink and covered in delicate fabrics to protect their pretty hands. (And please don’t get me started on what happens to boys who express an interest in pretty and delicate things. That’s another rant for another time.)

Is it any wonder why women hold only one out of seven engineering jobs—jobs that typically pay higher wages than low-tech jobs?  Or why the percentage of women in science and technology careers has been going down, not up, since 2000?

There’s no harm in liking pink or any other color, and no harm in liking pretty things. There is harm in only giving women societal “permission” to like something when we make those things pink and pretty.

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