There’s something unique about the way sexism is deployed by tech companies in marketing: it’s often done from a sort of fearful distance, and whether that’s done out of cluelessness or in a lame attempt to draw the nerd audience (or, most likely, some of both), it’s hard to say, mostly because I can’t really get into the mindset of people who propose ads like these out loud.
Ads for VOCO, a voice-controlled audio and video streaming service that is, I’m ashamed to say, based in Minnesota, go further than most in dehumanizing women. (And have been rightly criticized for doing so.) But where a great number of ads tend to use women as bait — buy this car and you, too, could have sex with a woman as beautiful as the the one we’re showing sitting in it — the VOCO ads don’t even pretend to offer that kind of rationale. The women here are purely, and literally, props. In one ad, a torso-less pair of women’s legs, wearing bright, shiny red high heels float above a speaker. It’s hard to say what the legs’ owner has to do with anything, or whether she’s a satisfied VOCO customer, but given the pallor of her skin, it doesn’t look likely. Another ad dispenses with any remaining ambiguity, positioning a woman’s wet-looking open mouth adjacent to the products, with text reading “Because oral is better” above it.
VOCO might be the most recent company to utilize disembodied women and blowjob-referencing language to try to sell its product, but it’s far from the first. These ads, and ones like it, reinforce the assumption that the only people interested in actually purchasing and using technology are men — and that women’s only place in technology is lying provocatively under it.
Here’s a handful of the many similar ad campaigns run by technology companies in recent years (and there are even more here). There’s definitely a pattern here — and it’s starting to look extremely old.
Whatever the reasoning, tech companies continue to employ sexist marketing that assumes that women are neither approachable nor relatable; neither participants in the products or the process, nor even as figments of aspirational manhood, the way they appear in so many other areas of sexist advertising. Women in tech ads are, all too frequently, just things.