4 Jun 2008

Political, moi?

So, I am in the market to buy a new laptop. I am a writer, I spend my days writing - so much so that sometimes I get funny little ticks in my thumb or dream of the cool clicks of a keyboard which makes me wake up, heart racing, and rush to my computer only to realise I'm still in a dream. So when I need a new laptop, it's like needing a new lung. Or so I thought. ..

Long past are the glory days of yore when a gal could purchase a laptop of her choice with nothing to get in her way except perhaps an oppressive husband or father trying to stop her expressing herself through Word. No, little did I realise I'd be clobbered full frontal in the face by the overt masculinity of the entire electricals market.

Imagine the scene: PC World on Kensington High Street. Insert 'me', Posie Rider, taking a quick break from shopping at the Whole Food Market laden with veg. Now insert a civilisation's worth of chauvinism, clubs, loin cloths and all. Looks pretty bad, I know! You don't need to imagine some of the advise I was given by Paul, our friendly minimum-wage sexist. In any other age Paul would have been cracking a whip over a band of lady-slaves, ignoring their noble pleas for mercy. Not any more, now he works at the Kensington High Street PC World. Cue Paul:

"Hello Madam" (Madam? WTF?? Oh, hello Sire! Knight! Master!)
"Oh you're after a laptop are you, one for the home?" (So, not the office eh Paul? Why would I need one in a place a lady NEVER GOES.)
"You'll want something lightweight" (So my tiny feminine wrists don't snap when I pick it up, so grasping it doesn't damage my lily white hands, so my ethereal fingers can even press the keys)

Disgusted by Paul's merchant whoring I looked around the shop unaided, which caused a great stir among the attendants who were clearly dumbfounded at the sight of a Woman making an 'electrics' decision alone. And it didn't take me long to notice the clear gendering of the products on offer, including the horror: Laptops for Girls! Draped in pink fluff and glitter, dotted with twinkly little lights and fitted with helpful sockets (into which you can plug you GHD Straighteners, I shit you not!) the 'lightweight lady laptop', endorsed by Sex and the City of all things boasts minuscule memory, a laboriously slow Processor and the ability to multitask without significant Hard Drive support to make any of the tasks particularly challenging or purposeful. I've spoken to Women, and sometimes they feel like nothing more than a socket for a range of plug-in electricals, be they hair straigteners, electrolysis 'sensors' or men. So what are you saying about the female mind, PC World? Is this supposed to be a f*cking metaphor because if it is it sucks and isn't a proper metaphor anyway. Go to the Dictionary (online if that's the only one you have. Google it if it's not in your favourites, you Philistine) and look up 'synonym for embodiment', if you dare!

The Laptops for Boys were nearly no better: kitted out like props in some dsytopian science fiction/porn fantasy, all blue flashing lights and chrome edging and unwieldy keys like a bloody brick with a cock strapped to it on top of a motorbike inside a car. I clearly could not buy one of these behemoths. VAIO or "VAgina? I don't think sO!" And no thanks James Bond, I don't want you to come all over my laptop, OR on my face, or to come anywhere near me with your torso. I want you to step away from the laptop so that I can use it to write!

So I left PC World laptop-less and appalled, feeling not unlike poor Jane Austen scrawling her drippy little novels in secret whilst the family were sitting about in the drawing room, pretending they were letters to her girlfriends or whatever.

And I couldn't help but wonder, in the modern globalised world are commodities the last refuge of gender politics? One day maybe we'll have equal pay, support for mothers so that they can stay in employment, criminal justice system that doesn't treat rape victims as criminals; maybe social relations will be enlightened and desexualised and men and women will be able to look at one another as creatures of equal dignity and capacity. Maybe all these things will happen.

But I still won't be able to buy a f*cking laptop!

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