When BiC did some targeted product development and launched BiC for Her pens – “designed to fit comfortably in a woman’s hand” and with “attractive barrel design available in pink in purple,” they got tons of consumer response.
Unfortunately, it was all derisive.
One commenter on the feminist website jezebel.com, for example, wrote “Oh thank the heavens above! My feeble, female hands were just a-strugglin’ with those bulky man pens.”
But it wasn’t just feminists who were outraged.
When Amazon put the pens up for sale online, angry women – and men – flooded the reviews with ridicule:
- “Before these pens, I was nothing. I was a mere inconsequential woman, stumbling around writing nonsense with big pens that made me look ridiculous.”
- “I could barely write my name without having to sit down afterwards- it’s nine letters long and thus really takes it out of me when writing with a normal pen designed for men.”
- “These pens actually make me feel liberated! At last my delicate feminine needs and tastes are being considered!”
- “When I saw these I just had to have them, so I asked my Husband to buy them for me. He refused, as he said that owning a pen might make me Think, and then have Ideas Of My Own. Then I might start to Write, which would take time away from my wifely duties such as Cooking, Cleaning, and Bearing Children.”
- “I was recently given a box of these as a gift from my husband, but I have no idea what to do with them! They’re too thin to make a good rolling pin. I can’t ladle out my soups with them. And the tiny point doesn’t even make a dent when I try to use one to chop veggies! I don’t get it. If I can’t use it in the kitchen, what the hell am I supposed to do with one???”
- “We’re all joking about this, naturally (a woman using a pen – ridiculous!), but this could have serious implications. What’s next, ladies attending universities? Pens to encourage literacy in the lower orders? The modern world is a mad place indeed.”
- “Amazon, I do hope you’re scrupulous in only selling these to married men to give to their wives. To be used under strict supervision and with a doctor’s note of consent.”
- “Finally! For years I’ve had to rely on pencils, or at worst, a twig and some drops of my feminine blood to write down recipes (the only thing a lady should be writing ever). I had despaired of ever being able to write down said recipes in a permanent manner, though my men-folk assured me that I ‘shouldn’t worry yer pretty little head.’ But, AT LAST! Bic, the great liberator, has released a womanly pen that my gentle baby hands can use without fear of unladylike calluses and bruises. Thank you, Bic!”
- “It was like a breath of fresh air to see lady colored pens. For once, I don’t have to grip a giant, man-sized pen just to sign receipts at Saks. And the ink just hits the paper so smoothly, not at all like the rough, gritty man ink in Bic’s normal pens. My only complaint is that they are a bit finicky. When I was copying down recipes from my neighbor, it worked just fine, but as soon as I sat down with the bills, nothing. It wouldn’t work! But that’s okay, my woman brain gets all muddled trying to figure out finances anyway.”
- “These pens are really dangerous to non-girls, they turned my brother into a unicorn and I’ve been hearing similar stories from others. I thought it was strange/sort of sexist that they felt the need to put ‘for her’ on the product, since, like, it’s a pen, are boys really not allowed to like pretty pens? But now I realize that the real problem is they didn’t make the warning explicit enough.”
- “I was hoping it would be less phallic.”
- One man posted, “I bought this pen (in error, evidently) to write my reports of each day’s tree-felling activities in my job as a lumberjack. It is no good. It slips from between my calloused, gnarly fingers like a gossamer thread gently descending to earth between two giant redwood trunks.”
- And another man, Gordon Meadows, wrote, “I opened the package and was immediately assaulted by question after question. The pink ones wanted to know when I was going to get them an iPhone and wanted $200 to get their hair and nails done while complaining about how I don’t make as much money as their friends’ owners do.”
One online reviewer, signing herself bicGirl, complained about the pens’ functionality: “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.”
Maybe Bic for Her seemed like a good idea at the time. The only problem is, the time it seemed good for was the 1950s, when the target audience was June Cleaver and her fellow housewives.
One more proof that you don’t sell your audience by condescending to them.