What a Girl Wants: An Android Phone for Women?

HTC's rumored Bliss is another in a long line of stupidly gendered products

Like many adult daughters, I have good intentions but poor follow-through. This year, two weeks prior to Mother’s Day, I started looking for a gift. Flowers weren’t an option. There was a brief period—after his obsession with magic but before his interest in cockatiels—when my hobbyist father got very Orchid Thief about things and started ordering orchids through the mail. If my mother liked flowers before, she lost interest once her husband started trailing potting soil through the house like a Jewish Pig Pen.

I thought about getting her a book, but the sight of the trademark rectangular package probably disappoints by now. The library in her house should have a plaque outside: “25 Years’ Worth of Uninventive Gifts From My Daughter.”

So I went online and typed “Mother’s Day gifts” into Google, since the digital age means I no longer think for myself. Gifts.com brought up several suggestions, but they seemed silly. A family-tree picture frame? A personalized cutting board? A chafing dish?

Out of curiosity, I switched my search to “Father’s Day gifts” and found drink mixers, golf clubs, custom cell-phone skins and—I kid you not—a membership to the Pickle of the Month Club.

The two sections on the site were radically different. The moms get a “pampering” section; the dads do not. That’s not fair. My dad is always willing to scratch my mom’s back, but the only way he’s getting a massage is if he accidentally bumps into someone in an elevator.

And why should dads get the gadgets? In my house, I’m the one dreaming of a Lego stop-animation video camera while my partner is hurrying off to Williams-Sonoma for a bread knife.

Ultimately, I didn’t get my mother a gift. Instead, I got obsessed with the idea that when it comes to consumer habits and marketing, companies still—still!—hew to retrograde notions of gender.

And none more so than HTC.

HTC’s “Bliss” phone for women is just a rumor right now, as are its offensive features like a built-in calorie counter. But the website This Is My Next quotes a confidential source said to be in on the phone’s development. Joanna Stern writes:

[The Bliss] will be a greenish hue—we are told it’s somewhere between a forest and sea green and the color was selected for its “calming” effect. … We also heard that “calming” adjective used to describe the wallpaper.

I had to read that a couple times to believe it. It’s one thing to market deodorants differently; at least a company could make a pseudo-scientific claim that men’s sweat has a different molecular structure (I’m a humanities person—I’ll believe anything). But the so-called calming features of the Bliss remind me of the days when women were diagnosed with “female hysteria” a medical malady now known as “utterly unsurprising feelings women had about their shitty lives.”

Additionally, the idea that women’s moods are more labile than men’s is preposterous. If anyone needs calming, perhaps it’s men, who significantly outnumber women as perpetrators of violent crime. And they don’t even have PMS!

Of course, HTC’s gambit has nothing to do with what the company believes to be true about gender. It’s about spending, and some women undeniably like products designed for females. I think they’re the same women who buy scented tampons or who fake orgasms to make men happy (not that I should judge—I’ve done both of those things, though one more than the other).

I suppose the question for HTC is: Will women buy the argument that they need to be calmed? It’s not hard to imagine. But I’m going to buck the trend. For Father’s Day, I’ll get my dad flowers and a purple pashmina and then I’ll schedule him for a pedicure. If that doesn’t upend the paradigm, I don’t know what will.