You have probably seen the comedic reviews and general outrage towards the Bic For Her pens released in 2012. These pink pens designed to “fit comfortably in a woman’s hand” allow us to explore the gender biases related to this common household product. Although Bic For Her no longer appears on most shop shelves, the conversation that these pens started is still important today.
A lot of the outrage around Bic For Her was related to the ‘new technology’ that supposedly made these pens a better physical fit for women’s hands. This move by Bic brought to the fore a long-standing feminist argument: that the male body is ‘normal’ and the female body is ‘other’. Many other contributions in this encyclopedia show how men’s experiences are taken to be the standard, in medicine for example. However, Bic tying biological attributes to gendered preferences (small women’s hands and a love for pink) was massively outdated for the modern consumer.
The Bic is not the first pen to be gendered in this way. The fountain pen is also widely marketed as a pen for men, specifically successful businessmen. Fountain pens marketed for women are often smaller, less complex and, of course, you guessed it – pink. This is perhaps a remnant of a time when women were not supposed to have access to pens at all, a time of female illiteracy and male only literature. Especially those vintage fountain pen enthusiasts will find models created only with the male hand in mind.
What the gendering of the pen displays is a larger conversation about the gender neutrality of objects. Whilst the modern day consumer seems to be more keen on gender-neutral products, the presence of gender in advertising and consumerism is so significant it may never be done away with. I for one think it’s time we drew the line under the unnecessary gendering of pens.