3Com Gives New Meaning to "Palm Pilot"
"Thinner, sexier palm pilots". But even though 3Com is spamming magazines and billboards all across the country, their new promo advertisement of naked women is nowhere to be found on their website. If its such a "wholesome" and "elegant" "art form" then why?
Image courtesy of Maureen Mason. Feminist virtual graffiti enhancement of 3Com's "Simply Palm" billboard ads for its hand-held computer.
3Com's "Simply Palm" Campaign Simply Stuns Feminists: Follow the response of consumers and activists to 3Com's sexist ads for the latest version of the much satirized Palm Pilot. This WomensNet highlight includes commentary by women in technology, links to other coverage of the controversy, and letters of protest WomensNet readers have sent to 3Com's marketing department.
Email Liz_Brooking@3Com.com, the company's marketing director, if you object to 3Com's notion of how women are using technology!
Dear Ms. Brookings (Liz_Brooking@3Com.com),
I've just learned that Foote, Cone & Belding (F C & B ) was employed by 3Com to use crouching, naked women (on the ground) in fetal positions and with their knees drawn up into their bodies, with heads bowed, to sell your new Palm Pilot. Adding insult to injury, your company defends these images as "tasteful", and David Hunter of F C & B -- unable to figure out what's wrong with this picture -- has claimed in the San Francisco Examiner that: "If you wanted to be sexist, you'd have her like those images in car ads, slithering across the hoods.
Is it possible that someone could try to drag 3Com, as well as your advertising agency, into the new millennium by educating them that sexist advertisement can be easily created in this day and time by portraying women as anonymous, cowering, naked, prenatalish fetish-type objects? And furthermore let them know that it's not okay to portray these Neanderthalish naked women to sell computers to white businessmen in suits: It's reactionary and sexist.
You surely won't try to claim that you have created those ads to persuade *women* to buy your computers, will you? If so you have allowed your advertising agency to seriously misjudged your potential women customers. As much advertising is, this ad is transparently done by men-for men and I -- and many of the women who could have been your potential customers -- certainly won't consider buying a computer from your company. And if you and your advertising agency haven't directed your campaign to persuade women to buy the Palm Pilot then you've employed a discriminatory advertising campaign. There can be no doubt this is sexist, even without the woman slithering across the hood of a car, which is btw an incredibly simplistic analysis of sexism for an adult male in the business of advertising to hold.
What's good for the goose is good for the gander. Here's how you see sexist: You strip that business suit off that man you are selling your computers to (awww, you liberated guys are cringing already), and you put him cowering with the computer in his outstretched palm (It would never work, you're thinking). But if it doesn't work for him, then it doesn't work to do it to her, or women in general; and you are backwards to misname this corporate exploitativeness -- of women and even of wholesome nudity -- as "tasteful". That cowering woman is now a symbol of your companies lack of actual creativity and of your cowardess in hiding behind nude women and posing as if you are doing something so damn progressive with such a truly unliberated body image. Yes, we'll be remembering 3Com for years to come and we won't be thinking nice thoughts.
In case you haven't seen it, WomensNet's Maureen Mason has beautifully enhanced your Palm Pilot ad for internet consumption. Check it out at: http://www.igc.org/womensnet and next time you need an ad done why not give real equal time to women and call her instead?
PS It's just been declared (again in the San Francisco Examiner) by the latest 3Com woman sellout (Liz Brooking) who steps forward to give us some more tired (inaccurate) cliched apologism that these worn out pictures of naked women's bodies, used to sell a product, (ho-hum) is an "elegant...art form". As if you were chipping these out of rock instead of doing propaganda spamming on every billboard and magazine across the country. And when, I wonder, can we expect to see Ms Brookings and David Hunter (and Christie Hefner, too, for that matter) up there on those billboards, naked and objectified as, uhhh, elegant art forms? If it's all that, and if it's so damn elegant and liberating then why aren't they up there? huh?
A variation of this letter has been submitted to the San Francisco Examiner, national newspapers, some women's organizations and activist websites.
From: Nikki Craft
Subject: VS: 3Com Gives New Meaning to the Phrase "Palm Pilot"
Dear Ms. Brookings
And other related 3Com employees and legal staff, :)
It has come the attention of the ACLU (Always Causing Legal Unrest) that 3Com has issued legal threats regarding copyright infringement to certain individuals who have created artistic parodies of your 3Com "Simply Palm" advertising campaign.
You will find our own ACLU 3Com website at:
Sure our site is explicit, so if nudity offends you be sure not to go there. :) But after all it's not even really a real penis, only a dildo. Would that make it an elegant art form of a penis?
Please address all legal threats to our legal department.
(As yet 3Com haan't replied to my letter, but be sure to catch their form reply to others printed below.)
MAN FUCKS WOMAN; Subject, Verb, Object.
Simply Bullshit: 3Com Replies
Half the fun of a confrontation such as this is how the corporate talking heads reveal themselves after the fact. Here -- if we had any doubt before -- we learn that to 3Com women are merely objects, kind of like a bowl of fruit, to represent sex to sell their product to be used as a backdrop.
Dear Valued Customer,
Thank you for your candid feedback on our advertising campaign for the Palm V organizer. Your comments are welcome and will be forwarded to our marketing team.
We would like to take this opportunity to clarify the Palm Computing position on this campaign.
The female image in the advertisement is designed to draw a parallel between the elegant design of the Palm V product and the elegance of the human form. We wanted to infer that great design involves both the aesthetics of an object as well as how that object functions or performs. In the case of the dancers image, the human form is the backdrop to the Palm V organizer and not the focus of the ad. The simplicity of the imagery and the "Simply Palm(superscript: TM)" headline are meant to reflect the simplicity that is the cornerstone of our product design philosophy and a key factor in our success.
There will be other ads in the "Simply Palm" series in upcoming months that will feature other beautiful objects to illustrate this same concept.
We hope this helps to put a context around the campaign. Again, thank you for sending us your comments.
Comments: To: Liz_Brooking@3com.com
FCB's 3Com/Palm ad exploits women to "celebrate design" in an "arresting" and "tasteful" way that would NEVER be done using an image of a man.
The saddest aspect of this puerile ploy is the company's and the ad agency's use of women employees to front for their misogyny. Apparently Ms. Brooking and her ambitious sisters haven't caught on to the fact that pimping women for men's approval is like eating worms to join the men's club--they're never going to let you in, because they see you as the woman in the ad, stripped and abject, not one of the boys armored in clothes whom they must respect as colleagues and competitors.
Alexandria (VA) National Organization for Women
Date: Thu, 15 Apr 1999 23:30:42 EDT
Subject: Sexism's little helpers
Oh Peter -- so brave, so bold in your replay of Jason Kottke's parody of the 3Com ad.
3Com trashed one woman but you clever lads in a frenzy of self righteousness trashed FOUR (plus the first one, of course).
If you had understood what was wrong with 3Com's ad, your parody would have featured crotch shots of nude men cuddling the Palm Pilot.
Unthinkable? Not funny? Exactly.
When I line you up next to 3Com's and FC&B's clever little hatemongers, I can't tell you apart.
And since you urge your readers to spread the joke around by putting up their own display of your subordinated babes, I guess the fun just won't stop.
Thanks for nothing.
One final piece of info on the people behind the Simply Palm ad--I was looking in the NO COMMENT section of MAR/APRIL 1998 Ms. to get the address so I can send them all the sexist ads in Details, and guess what? One of the ads that made it in the section that month was a Levis Dockers ad that was outrageously sexist. Remember the comment from the Foote, Cone, and Belding guy that for an ad to be sexist you need a naked woman on a car? Well, they are the geniuses behind the Levi ad, and it has a sexualize waitress dutifully holding up a pie in "server" mode, with an apron on. She has a short shirt and an extremely low, tight top with a push-up bra on. She has enormous impalnts in. And it says "All-american boys don't go for anything with a flat front". The pants aren't modeled, there's a tiny picture of them spread out at the bottom. No man is wearing them.
Gee, how much more sexist can you get, a woman in BOTH june Cleaver and Playboy Bunny mode? I thought these guys were against this sexist stuff? They only support sweet wholesome beautiful nudity on nonsexualized women...YEah, okay.
Yvonne Nicole Rasor
April 16, 1999
Special thanks to David Orthmann, Carole Sheffield and Steve Schacht.