Pen manufacturer Bic has recently introduced a new range of pens especially for women. The ‘Bic Cristal for Her’ is a ball point pen available in pastel colours, and is slimmer than usual in order to fit a woman’s hand.
One retailer describes the pens as follows:
Cristal For Her ballpoint pens are reserved for women and feature a diamond-engraved barrel for an elegant, unique feminine style. The tinted, hexagonal barrel is thinner for better handling for women and still keeps the ink supply visible.
The Bic website notes that the pens are available in Europe, but Amazon makes the pens available in the United States.
Far from appealing to the women they were targetting, the company has received scathing product reviews and sarcastic comments onAmazon.
E. Bradley “LuckyLady1978″ from New York wrote: “The delicate shape and pretty pastel colours make it perfect for writing recipe cards and checks to my psychologist (I’m seeing him for a case of the hysterics), and tracking my monthly cycle. Obviously, I don’t use it for vulgar endeavors like math or filling out a voter application, but BIC Cristal for Her is a lovely little writing utensil all the same. Ask your husband for some extra pocket money so you can buy one today!”
Another reviewer by name name of bicGirl states: “I don’t understand all the 5 star reviews- this is the WORST eyeliner I have ever used! I can’t get it off for the life of me.”
Men have also been commenting on the pastel-hued pens.
Reviewer Dan Kaufman wrote, “Men, don’t stand for this. Aren’t there enough products specific to women already? First it was tampons, now these pens? What other products will I have to suffer the indignity of being unable to purchase just because I’m a male person?”
The internet is abuzz with snarky blog posts, views and criticism for the product. Feminist website Jezebel has also featured this topic.
Bic hasn’t apologized for the pens and the company has no intention of pulling them from the market or changing their branding.
Bic’s spokeswoman Linda Kwong said that the company always appreciates to hear customer feed back.
Kwong responded to a request for comment with the following statement: “We appreciate hearing honest feedback from all of our consumers, whether it is regarding a promotion, advertising campaign, or product. As a global consumer products company, BIC wants to hear these important comments.”
Pens are pretty gender nuetral, so it doesn’t make much sense to market them to women only. The ‘ladies only’ distinction ensures that for every woman drawn to the product, there’ll be a man who is driven away by the ‘for her’ label. Business-wise, it’s a silly move.
Yes, of course Bic’s branding is unneccessarily sexist and plays heavily into gender biased stereotypes, but wait… why is this any cause for surprise? From food to toiletries to razors to cleaning supplies, certain product lines have always been targetted to women. You can see it in packaging, marketing and advertising and this goes well beyond the ‘make it pink’ phenomenon. I don’t ever remember seeing a washing detergent or cooking oil ‘for him’.
That doesn’t make it okay, but I just don’t understand the shock and rage at these pens specifically. Gender stereotyping is a larger issue that needs to be addressed but attacking one product isn’t going to do it. On the other hand, the Amazon reviews section makes from some fantastic crowdsourced comic relief from the seriousness of the issue at hand.