Why it matters that the Apple Watch is gender neutral

The Apple Watch is here! OK, not quite here yet. But soon, soon. Will the nifty features built into Apple’s latest gizmo help the company win this round of battle of wearable tech? Opinions vary.

Whether you love it, hate it, or doubt it, one of the most interesting things about the new Apple Watch lies in the somewhat subtle fact that the watch is ungendered. Rather than coming in two genders — men’s and women’s — it merely comes in two sizes, bigger and smaller. On Apples product page you’ll find reference to the 38mm model and the 42mm model, but no reference to “his” and “hers” models.

This is a subtle thing, but entirely refreshing. Even in 2015, we still have plenty of pointlessly gendered products. But Apple isn’t the kind of company that was going to produce watches with a “pink for her” option.

Of course, not all gendering of products is stupid. Women are, on average, smaller than men. And so clothes and other wearables designed for women should generally be smaller. But that statistical generalization obscures substantial overlap in body size, and a commensurate overlap in preferences. And as for watches, gender bifurcation is at least somewhat dubious. Most jewelry and department stores keep watches neatly divided, like members of some especially conservative place of worship, into a section “for him” and a section “for her.” Generally, the big watches are in the “for him” section and the dainty ones are in the “for her” section. But interestingly, when you look in the display cases you see considerable overlap in the size of the watches. The biggest watches in the women’s section frequently dwarf the most slender ones in the men’s section. So the bifurcation amounts to gendering for gender’s sake.

It is interesting, then, that Apple opted to buck the trend and go gender-free. Of course, the fact that the company didn’t name them “men’s” and “women’s” doesn’t mean Apple didn’t intend to target two different sets of customers. And some people are inevitably referring to the 38mm Apple Watch and the 42mm one as the “women’s” and “men’s” sizes. But Apple isn’t calling them that. And words matter. The company apparently has no interest in reinforcing gender stereotypes. For its part, the company is just making two different sizes of watch, and offering them for sale. And its refusal to gender the watches is as much a recognition of the diversity of its customers as the fact that the company offers more than one size to start with.

1 comment so far

  1. Kostya on

    Historically all women watches were smaller than men’s ones. And it was not practicable to build-in any normal function of e-watch in woman sized watch.

    I think, that in particular apple should not rise any distinction between woman and man watches at all. As company did not offer “woman” and “man” phones. Meaning, that this will rise additional not necessary challenges for the company.

    But, if to consider this topic into much broader aspect, we can easily face far interesting discussion on the matter of using accessories that were initially designed for other gender (ex. wallets, perfumes, watches, clothes, phones…). Should there be a distinction in genders, or it is some new type of humanity evolution.
    The soundiest part of question is not in accessories but in mindset, that caused such changes, and it’s further modifications.


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