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So simple, your mother could do it

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Female computer users (particularly middle-aged or elderly ones) are often used as a hypothetical or even actual test of ease of use, on the assumption that if such a person can use a program, anyone can. No phrase expresses the meme of female technical ineptitude more neatly than "So simple, even your [grand]mother could do it."

This is a very commonly encountered form of condescension and is a frequent trope of sexist advertising portraying technical products as easy to use.

When showing women or mothers as users is a problemEdit

Not all portrayals of mothers or women doing geeky or technical things have this problem. It is a problem when combined with language or imagery that invites the intended audience to consider themselves more geeky/technical than the woman portrayed, especially when they are invited to do so simply on the basis that she's a woman/mother.

Examples Edit

The primary goal is to provide a messenger which is:
[…]
* intuitive: Ayttm should be almost instantly usable by your mother ;)

Ubuntu Edit

Using women, especially older relatives, as a test of ease-of-use has become an unfortunate trend in the Ubuntu community, to the point where it is beginning to appear in Ubuntu community magazines and core community wikis:

ResponsesEdit

  • Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier wrote in 2007 that It's time to retire the mom test.
  • In response to the "My mom runs ubuntu!" team, My Dad Runs Ubuntu was created by Leigh Honeywell
  • Ubuntu community responses to Martin Owens:
    • I wonder who has done the Father test by Melissa Draper
    • in Melissa's comments by Jono Bacon (Ubuntu community manager): "I think the general implication is that it refers to a parent, and while it could be called ‘The Parent Test’, some may want to apply it to their grandparents, brothers, sisters or others. As such, I wouldn’t read too much into the name."
    • Have you tried the “white boy” test? by Matt Zimmerman (Canonical CTO): "These generalizations idealize women as uninformed, technological novices or intellectual inferiors, which is particularly striking to some of us who learned computing from our mothers. This is not to say that statements like these are the origin of gender stereotypes, but they do display and reinforce these (often unconscious) beliefs."
  • Dave Winer's response to a NYT article called "A Twitter for My Sister". Winer: "It's always bothered me when people say they're making software for their mom, because that's a not-very-subtle dog-whistle that they're making it for people who are not technologically sophisticated.[... S]top using women as examples of confused computer users."
  • Grandma Got STEM blog

Alternatives Edit

When the purpose of the statement is to convey the idea that something is “really simple”, ideal nouns will refer to non-human or purely technical categories, such as cat, non-technical user, Ubuntu user, or "newbie." For example, “installing Arch Linux is so simple that my cat can do it.”

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