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Mac for dummies. Female dummies.

2012/09/06

It turns out that sexism in science isn’t just a problem in the English-speaking world (who knew?!). Further to yesterday’s rather long and rambly post, I bring you this gem, via a friend on Facebook:

Hat-tip to Quentin Mazars-Simon

At first I thought it must be a hoax, but the friend of mine who originally pointed it out found this link, which leads to the book’s catalogue page on the publisher’s website.

For those of you who don’t read French, it is called “Mac for dummies”. But not just any dummies, oh no, this is specifically aimed at female dummies. How can I tell? After all, the dummy logo person is clearly meant to be a man.* Well, there are several clues.

First, the pink* highlighting of the letters “LE” in the word “nulles”. In French, nouns for men and women are often different. A male dummy is a nul, whereas a female one is a nulle. It’s the same idea as having gendered words for “waiter” and “waitress”, or “actor and “actress” in English.* There is also the rule that the feminine plural form (with an “s” on the end) is only ever used when no males are present in the group in question.* So if just one male dummywere to read this book, regardless of how many millions of females dummies- shall we call them dummettes? – were to read it, it should be called Le Mac pour les Nuls.

Second, above the title, it says

Avec les Nulles, vous n’aurez plus rien à envier aux hommes!

Which means

With the Dummettes, you will no longer have anything to be jealous of men for!

If it were aimed at any men at all, I don’t think it would say that “men won’t have be envious of men any more”. That just wouldn’t make sense. Not that any of this makes much “sense”, but there you go.

If you are still in any doubt that this is a book aimed at women (we’ll get to the patronising content in a minute, don’t worry), then I give you…

Third, and perhaps most obviously, the speech bubble coming from Mr Dummy’s mouth, which says

Un livre informatique rien que pour vous… les femmes!

Which means

A computer science book just for you… women!

So I think we can be pretty clear that this is a book aimed at women.

Now, what about the content? Lest we judge a book by its cover, here is the publishers’ own summary: (translation below)

Peut-être allez-vous vous demander pourquoi un livre sur le Mac spécialement dédié aux femmes ; un Mac c’est un ordinateur, et quel que soit celle ou celui qui le manipule, il n’y a pas 36 manières de le faire fonctionner. Débarrassé de considérations techniques ennuyeuses, ce livre se concentre sur l’aspect pratique et ludique du Mac. Bien entendu, il faudra passer par l’apprentissage de son système d’exploitation et parvenir à le domestiquer, mais c’est promis, on ne vous donnera que les notions indispensables à votre survie dans «cet univers hostile». Dans la partie consacrée à Internet, nous vous donnons tous les conseils pour commencer à surfer en toute sérénité, communiquer avec tous vos amis par l’intermédiaire des messageries, faire vos achats en toute sécurité, et pourquoi pas, pour les plus audacieuses d’entre vous, créer votre blog pour afficher haut et fort vos convictions sur la toile !

Which means (This is my own translation. I’ve improved the sentence structure a tad: the original has got long, rambly, “chatty” sentences, like this one, I mean, just look at all those commas, it’s as if they’re trying to write like they expect their readers to talk.)

Perhaps you will ask yourself why there is a book about Macs specifically for women. After all, a Mac is a computer – there aren’t a million different ways of going about it, regardless of whether the user is a man or a woman. Free of boring, technical considerations, this book focusses on the practical and fun sides of Macs. Of course, you will have to learn to use the operating system and domesticate it [it's not clear if this refers to the operating system or the Mac]. But we promise to give you only the minimum tools necessary to survive in “this hostile environment”. In the chapter about the Internet, we give you all the tips to start surfing with peace of mind,  communicate with your friends via messaging services [the original uses "amis", which thankfully acknowledges that women can have male friends], go shopping safely. For the more audacious [feminine form used] amongst you, why not even create your own blog to put your views on show on the web?! [emphasis added]

And what kind of topics will be covered? (again, translation below)

Au programme :

  • lui trouver sa place dans la maison
  • le partager en famille
  • imprimer, récupérer des photos…
  • un peu d’ordre dans la fichiers et les dossiers
  • un peu de lèche vitrines sur le Web
  • faire des achats en toute sécurité
  • effectuer ses paiements en ligne
  • la messagerie élecronique
  • les messageries instantanées
  • je créer [sic] mon blog

Which means

Contents:

  • finding your Mac’s place in the house
  • sharing it with the family
  • print, recover pictures
  • organising files and folders a bit
  • a bit of window shopping on the Web
  • shopping safely
  • how to pay online
  • email
  • instant messaging
  • I to create [sic] my blog

Here’s what another retailer had to say about the book (again, translation below – emphasis in original)

La révolution du girl power est dans la collection Pour les Nuls !

C’est quand même pas mon Mac qui va faire la loi !

Avec Le Mac pour les Nulles, conçu par une femme, pour des femmes, vous n’allez plus jamais vous laisser impressionner par un tas de ferraille (votre ordinateur, pas votre voiture – ça, c’est une autre histoire…) ! Vous avez dompté votre homme ? Faites-en autant avec votre Mac ! Il va vous obéir à la souris et à l’oeil ! De l’achat de votre ordinateur au téléchargement (légal, of course [sic] !), en passant par les 10 bourdes à ne pas commettre, sans oublier l’initiation à Pages, Numbersl et Internet adaptée à vos besoins, Le Mac pour les Nulles va devenir votre meilleure copine ! Dans ce livre, le jargon pour informaticien-boutonneux-à-lunettes est strictement interdit ! On est entre filles, non ?

Which means… (again, my own translation – notice the presence here, too, of the long, comma-full sentences, which I have largely left in this time, as well as the excessive use of exclamation marks! Computers are exciting!)

The girl power revolution is in the For Dummies series!

After all, my Mac is not going to be in charge!

With Mac for Dummettes- a book made by a woman, for women – you will no longer be overwhelmed by a lump of scrap metal (your computer, not your car – that’s a whole other story…)! You’ve tamed your man, now do the same for your Mac! It will obey your every command! From buying your computer through to downloads (legal ones, of course!), via the 10 stupid mistakes everyone should avoid, without forgetting the introduction to Pages, Numbers and the Internet tailored to your needs, Mac for Dummettes will become your best [female] friend! In this book, there is a strict ban on computer-scientist-with-spots-and-glasses’ jargon! We’re amongst girls, aren’t we?

Now, I’m all for clear, instructive books giving insight into the non-technical, day-to-day aspects of using a computer. As a science communicator, I know how important it is to think about the needs of one’s audience when trying to get a message across. However, I don’t think that “women” is a very specific audience – their needs with respect to Macs range from learning how to turn it on, to advanced program de-bugging. Just like men’s. Like with many things, there is more variation within the group, than between them – the overlap in women’s and men’s computer needs is huge.

For comparison’s sake, let’s take a look at the cover of the male version of the book:

What, no footballs, fast cars or beer?

The caption above the title reads

Un livre simple, clair et drôle pour découvrir votre Mac!

Which means

A simple, clear and funny book to get to know your Mac with!

As for the speech bubble

La première collection informatique dans le monde

Meaning

The number 1 series of computer books in the world

I barely know where to start with this.  What is it about this “male-oriented” book that is meant to be unfathomable for women? Unfortunately, I can’t find any more information online about this book, such as a summary or blurb. However, I can’t really think of what aspects of a “clear, simple and funny book” might put women off. Maybe a step-by-step guide for how to hide your women-hating porn, but again, not all men would want that in the first place. So the publishers will have left it out. The very same process of picking and choosing what to put in the book, and how to present it, should lead them to realise that there is no demand for a female edition. For them to produce one, and then push it, smacks of marketeering, creating a sense of need in people where there need not be one.

I could go on disssecting the numerous insidious impressions given off by the summaries of the Dummettes book. But I would hope this stuff is obvious by now. If not, go read yesterday’s post instead.

*don’t get me started.

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