Pen 15 Club: The “BIC for Her” Debacle is About Sexism, Not Social Media

Thank God I’m typing this post on a laptop, because ladies like me need special, feminine pens to write longhand these days.

snapshot of Bic for her pens
Ah, that’s better.

You may have seen the hilarious Amazon customer reviews for the BIC “For Her” Ball Pen that have been circulating the web this week. Written in response to BIC’s ludicrous idea that women need a pen with an “Elegant design - just for her!” and a “Thin barrel to fit a women’s hand,” the reviews are smart, sarcastic, and sounding alarms in the social media world for all the wrong reasons.

The “firestorm” ignited on is being framed in the advertising/PR/social media world as a debacle of epic proportions not because BIC produced an infantilizing, unnecessary, sexist product that is pissing off potential customers, but because BIC didn’t secure a Twitter account to respond to the fallout. Says B.L. Ochman of Ad Age:

Despite the fact that the buzz has been growing for weeks, the brand did not have the foresight to secure @BicForHer on Twitter, where a spoof account has already been launched, nor did they buy the URL, which is available for $12.99. A Tumblr blog is chronicling the funniest reviews and blog posts. An ad for BIC for Her launched last week, and is fast picking up derisive comments on YouTube. And through it all, BIC is silent.

Steve Hall of Ad Rants has a different take. He doesn’t believe this “debacle” will harm BIC’s brand, and advocates the company do nothing. “I’m not arguing that a small but very vocal minority should be ignored,” he says. “But in the greater scheme of things, is this really as big a deal as we’d like to make it?”

Patricio Robles of econsultancy agrees, adding that, “At this point, the ‘backlash’ against BIC for Her is better described as an exercise in sarcasm, and while this could be the start of something bigger, it’s worth keeping in mind that, at this moment, there are still under 200 reviews for the BIC for Her pen on”

Yes, they’re looking at it from a PR perspective, but debating whether or not BIC should’ve secured @BicForHer on Twitter before a (sadly suspended) spoof account could start ignores the real issue here: BIC made a pen “for her”! A PEN. FOR HER. And not only that, BIC is charging significantly more for its lady pens than it is for the gender-neutral varieties. The problem isn’t how BIC is handling the social media backlash, it’s that the pen was made in the first place.

These reviews have gotten media traction outside of feminist spheres because they’re funny, but you don’t need to be a Women’s Studies major to spot the sexism. BIC is talking down to its female customers, assuming that women are so flighty and delicate as to desire a glittery, pastel, slender writing utensil. Precious ladies can’t use MAN PENS! We might break our tiny ring fingers!

That flawed logic (women have undoubtedly been using ballpoint pens since they were first patented in 1888) is what’s alienating people, not BIC’s lazy customer response rate. Amazon reviewers are cleverly skewering this product because it’s offensive and ridiculous (and entertaining).

screen shot of reviews from Amazon. Link to text below
Full text here.

If BIC learns a lesson from this “disaster,” it shouldn’t be one about registering domain names or weathering a storm of complaints. It should be that women don’t want to be upsold on stupid shiny lady pens. Period.

Image: Margaret Hartmann

by Kelsey Wallace
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Kelsey Wallace is an editor in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter if you like TV and pictures of dogs.

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13 Comments Have Been Posted


Yup. this piece is bitchy.


I agree. The article is a bit bitchy, but isn't it still true that any marketing is better than no marketing? A comical review can take off and drive a lot of traffic if done correctly!

It depends...

If by "bitchy" you mean "painfully true", then I have to agree with you.

I will never buy a BIC pen again

Instead I will consider the sale at the top of the page. ;-) That's not an over-price, it's support of Bitchmedia. All those BIC pen sales support, are their profit margins.

ooohhhh lady pens! but

ooohhhh lady pens!

but where's my nonbinary pens? :(

What's the tumblr link?! THAT

What's the tumblr link?! THAT is a trend I want to follow!

Bic for Her

I remember when the first Bic pen hit the market. In the dark ages. They had that wonderful clear barrel, a nifty cap, and were fun to write with. They were a new thing, and we embraced them. Be mindful that I was, I think, in junior hi when these came to the market, so I'm talking a "loongg" time ago. I have used other Bic products along the way-not razors but writing utensils. I always liked the old-school ones the best.

Oddly, they fit my hand quite well. I had no difficulty writing with them, and I wrote reams and reams of paper with those simple pens.

I have purchased pink pens and other pink things that were manufactured and marketed to support breast cancer research by donating some part of the purchase price to research.

Bic really stepped in it with this one. The only new product I can think of that is an even more egregiously denigrating product is a new line of Legos for girls--houses and kitchens and proper "womanly things" rather than the plain old Legos which we all love with girl heads as well as boy heads.

I have three words for y'all. CUT.IT.OUT.

Pen 15 Club: The "BIC for Her" Debacle is About Sexism, Not

Woah! I'm really digging the template/theme of this site. It's simple, yet effective. A lot of times it's tough to get that "perfect balance" between superb usability and appearance. I must say you've done a excellent job with this. Also, the blog loads super quick for me on Opera. Superb Blog!

It's not just pens....

FYI -- Fujitsu has made a laptop just for you! The Floral Kiss computer, that comes in "Feminine Pink" color and has a gold rim and an easy to unlatch cover -- perfect for those with "long nails!" And, you get three great chic-apps! Diary, Scrapbooking and Horoscope!!!!

Is It Really a Mistake?

I'm not sure this is going to be as bad for Bic as everyone thinks. comment pages are funny, but don't hold too much interest. Ellen has spoofed it, and it's all over FB. But in this polarized political world, is it possible that as many people will buy the pen because they don't like Ellen as there are people who won't because they love Ellen (as I do). Gun sales went up after the NRA's ridiculous press conference after Newtown. I want to see what happens to Bic pen sales after this. We might be shockingly surprised.

These reviews have gotten

These reviews have gotten media traction outside of feminist spheres because they're funny, but you don't need to be a Women's Studies major to spot the sexism. BIC is talking down to its female customers, assuming that women are so flighty and delicate as to desire a glittery, pastel, slender writing utensil <a href="">sale more gym memberships</a>

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