I'm going to say something a bit controversial.
The reaction to the new iPad in feminist circles is a sign of the last frontiers of misogyny - internalized or otherwise - in America.
Items in Feministing and also in Salon have feminist and feminist-sympathetic writers snickering about the name "iPad," and wondering whether women were involved in the development and naming process, because the name iPad is apparently reminiscent of feminine hygiene products. Even here at Open Salon there's sophomoric "ewww... gross!" discussion going on.
Maybe it's just me, but my mind didn't go there until it was pointed out to me. Of course, I've seen comments by women on the pieces linked to above that indicate I'm not the only one. I immediately thought: Notepad. Touchpad. Thinkpad. The word "pad" is used for all kinds of things. Knee pad. Shoulder pads. Note pads, for goodness sakes! So why the derision of "iPad"? iPad seemed like a logical name for a large notepad-like device that looks like a big iPod.
But then, I don't think of menstruation as gross. It's a natural part of the female body. It's normal. It's not a big deal. If anything, it's a positive thing. Who cares?
But apparently women across the country are amused and/or angry about the name, because it makes them think about... menstruation. Horrors! Megan Wilker over at Geek Girls Guide seems to think that only men would not be grossed out or at least somewhat perturbed by the iPad name. But, last I checked, I'm a woman, and I still don't get the feminist flap about the name.
If you want to attack something, you generally want to find the worst insult you can get away with. So why not associate the iPad with menstruation? Something that has rendered women inauspicious to even touch for at least a couple thousand years?
On the other hand, if it's a natural thing to jump to (iPad = menstrual pad = ewwww gross, awful, etc), then does that say more about the ones who named it, or the women who are reacting to it?
In traditional cultures around the world, menstruation has frequently been the subject of taboo. But there's also a pretty strong menstrual taboo that persists beyond the borders of so-called "traditional" culture into "modern" culture. Even in the modern world, it's used as reasoning to keep women out of everything from religious proceedings (where menstrual blood renders a woman "unclean" or "impure") to politics (where menstruation is said to cause a woman to be crazy or overly emotional). PMS is often listed as the main reason why a woman shouldn't be president... and let's not forget that PMS can stand for either pre-menstrual syndrome or post-menopausal syndrome, so women of all ages are basically, uh, screwed. It doesn't matter that the people who make this statement often laugh it off as a joke. They say it because they mean it, and it carries significant cultural weight.
Feminists have decried the menstruation taboo as a symbol of misogyny, a fundamental hatred of women. When I was growing up, my mother wouldn't let me use a tampon, because it was too much like sex, and I might not be a virgin anymore if I used one. Seriously. So I wore pads for years and years (I use a cup now, and I LOVE it, so many miles better than a pad or tampon). Our ultra-conservative Christian household didn't look very kindly on menstruation. It wasn't something seen as a "curse," though the narrative of Eve in the garden of Eden was a constant reminder as to why I would never be allowed to be a leader in the Church. I think my mom tried to make it as non-taboo as possible in her own way, but the Biblical narrative of menstruation as unclean really stuck with me throughout junior high and high school.
It wasn't until college, though, that I found books like Blood, Bread and Roses and The Chalice and the Blade, which pushed my thinking about menstruation in a totally different direction. I started to see it as something positive, rather than negative. I saw it as a symbol of femininity - and when you look at it that way, you see assaults on menstruation as assaults on women themselves.
And now feminists are using menstruation as a reason to criticize Apple, calling the name of the iPad a huge gaffe indicative of a lack of female leadership. To me, this belies some internalized misogyny, the idea that menstruation is so awful, so dirty that anything that might be construed as being at all related to it should be relegated to the place where other "dirty" things are - the bathroom, the diaper and condoms aisle of the grocery store, etc. We certainly shouldn't think about menstruation any more than is absolutely necessary, and if something reminds us of menstruation inadvertently, we will shame it, because it is a shameful thing.
Menstruation is normal. It's innocuous. It's part of being born a woman. The fact that older women could only begin talking about menopause openly just a few years ago is another sign of how the subject of menstruation is still so taboo.
Yes, menstruation is sometimes uncomfortable for some women. Yes there are things it does to some women's bodies and hormone levels, though usually it's hardly noticeable or at worst a mild annoyance (don't tell that to the marketing people at pharmaceutical companies who have further convinced us that PMS is a major disease). Some women get migraines during menstruation, others get really debilitating cramps. That's not good, and I'm glad that there are things happening and medications to help these women get relief.
But the part of menstruation that everybody likes to make fun of - the bleeding itself - is frequently the part that still keeps women in the "inferior to men" category, in the minds of so many people. It's the reason women are considered "too emotional" (that's code for PMS) for leading this country (the people who hold onto this idea - consciously or unconsciously - seem to forget that Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, Benazir Bhutto, Cory Aquino and others managed to be heads of state).
There's legitimate questions to ask of Apple - for instance, why are no women featured in the promotional video for the iPad? How many female engineers do you employ? What's the percentage of women in leadership in your company? These seem like much more relevant questions.
The personal question - will I buy an iPad? Well, I already have an iPod Touch and a Macbook Pro, so I don't think I'll end up getting one. At a $500 starting price, I'm just not in the market. But I think the iPad is a natural, perfect name for the device. And I'm a woman. And a feminist. So there.
So yeah, I do think the fact that a name like the iPad is cause for such vocal derision by feminists, of all people, just shows how far we feminists have to go to fully accept ourselves as women. And, given the sophomoric nature of the snickering about all this, it shows how much we need to, you know, just grow up as a movement.