According to Apple, “vagina” is inappropriate but “penis” is not

That’s what Justyn Hintze discovered when she bought a new iPad recently and tried to take advantage of the free engraving offered by Apple.

Being a sex-positive feminist, she decided to engrave lyrics from her favorite Alix Olson song: “I’ll give myself a lube job/shake my broomstick til my clit throbs.” Not so fast, according to Apple’s “inappropriate language”-flagging algorithm!

apple engraving rejects clit

Sensing something fishy, Hintze made some adjustments, which revealed that according to Apple’s standards, “clit” and “vagina” are both inappropriate, while “dick” and “penis” are a-okay. The customer service agent she called about the problem got the same results. 

apple engraving with penis

Obviously, the engraving on an iPad is not the most urgent of all feminist issues–although you can tweet about it to Apple CEO @Tim_Cook using the awesome hashtag #MyClitMyChoice–but double standards like these reflect the larger problem of women being woefully underrepresented in the tech world. Remember when Siri came out and was suspiciously clueless about women’s reproductive health but super helpful when it comes to finding Viagra and escorts? As Amanda Marcotte wrote, it’s not about intentional sexism, but “Siri’s programmers clearly imagined a straight male user as their ideal and neglected to remember the nearly half of iPhone users who are female.”

But honestly, at this point, Apple’s clear discomfort with women’s bodies seems to be bordering on intentional. I mean, I can hardly believe such a blatant double standard got through in the engraving case–you’re creating a list of words that get flagged as inappropriate, how do you not notice that vagina is on there and penis is not? It would offend my sense of symmetry. Meanwhile, Apple just rejected an app designed to help teach women how to masturbate that featured a cartoon vulva and, as Jessica Coen recently documented, the iPhone stubbornly refuses to autocorrect to “vagina.”

Maya DusenberyMaya loves her clit more than her iPhone.

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director in charge of Editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard. Before become a full-time writer, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008.

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Editorial.

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