14 March 2011

Under the ribbons and artificial flowers

I bought some new gardening gloves this weekend. I probably could have taken a picture of them draped artfully over a fence post or something, but I was doing other things (like raking and repotting) and didn't get to it. But they're these: Ethel Traditional, in Jubilee.

And they're great, you know? They fit well, they're light and flexible, they breathe, they dry quickly. I wore them while sieving leaf mould for a solid 30 minutes and didn't get any compost down the cuffs, which is a wonder.

I'm happy with the gloves. But the marketing copy on the Ethel Gloves home page makes me gag:

So much more than average work gloves, Ethel Gloves specifically fit the contours of a woman's hands for maximum comfort and functionality while still maintaining femininity.
Now. Let me be clear that I appreciate greatly the effort of any business to better serve its customers. I appreciate this especially when it comes to gardening gloves, which are difficult things to get right. Most are too big for me, many are too stiff, some don't breathe well, most have cuffs that are too short and I wind up with gloves full of compost. Let's hear it for comfort and function (but not perhaps functionality. Does adding the nominal suffix -ity to the adjectival form make it more functional than the original noun?)

I appreciate the colours and patterns. I like my garden tools (including gloves) to be colourful for the very practical reason that they're much easier to see should I drop them in the grass or mud. Why don't I just get blaze orange ones, then? Because the blaze orange ones don't fit.

And I do -- I really do -- appreciate it when people try to merge the useful with the beautiful. If you click on the second picture of the gloves, you'll see a sort of floral design on the thumb and first two fingers -- that's non-slip grip, not just a decorative frou-frou.

But ... 'maintaining feminity'? Really?

I wasn't aware I was in danger of losing that while gardening. I mean, I could garden in coveralls from Dickie's and a trucker hat and I wouldn't cease to be a female of the species, or to be recognisable as one.

It can't be that gardening itself is unfeminine, either -- it's been considered an 'appropriate' hobby for girls and women for the past several hundred years (though frequently with a manservant to do the heavy digging).

Is it maybe that work is generally unfeminine? Would that apply only to manual work, or to office work as well? Either way, that notion is a steaming heap of horse manure. Excuse me while I put on my feminity-maintaining gloves and haul it back to the composter.

I am pretty sure the marketing people at Ethel Gloves meant to say 'We have designed our gloves to meet the needs and wants of women: to fit well, to be comfortable and functional, and to look attractive,' but they didn't do a terrifically good job of saying it. Had I seen the gloves on the internet instead of buying them in a brick-and-mortar store, I would probably have closed the browser and walked away. Poorly written web pages may be least among the world's ills, but I feel no need to support them.

Fortunately for me and I guess the gloves also, I did try them on and buy them in a brick-and-mortar store, and they are really excellent gloves. Just don't read too much of the web site.

Walt Whitman


  1. Couldn't agree more. Torturing the language with words like "functionality" drives me to distraction. And the idea of not risking your femininity by donning some gloves is ridiculous. Glad the gloves actually work though. Claire

  2. Hi Claire,

    It's funny, I was flipping through a gardening book from the Edwardian era last night, and it included an aside about the necessity of wearing gloves while gardening 'to keep the hands smooth and white' -- does that count as maintaining femininity? What if I wore gloves to preserve a (hypothetical) manicure? Girly enough? Who knows!


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