A Gross Over-generalization Related to Gender

I try very hard not to fall into the trap of making generalizations related to ethnic or racial groups.  However, I must make a gender-related exception.  There seems to be something about how the average woman's brain is wired that the concept of source switching on a TV set is virtually impossible to comprehend.  I have just had yet another hopeless tech support conversation with a female friend/family member that got "stuck" with cable or DVD material on the TV screen when they wanted to view the other.  Adding to the fun, the female in question was attempting to use a universal remote control which also required mode-shifting to make sure one had the remote set to control the correct component  (another concept apparently particularly difficult for the fairer sex).  Making the tech support challenge harder in this case, the manufacturer of this TV apparently chose not to use the fairly ubiquitous "TV/Video" label for the source-switching functionality, obviating my usual strategy of yelling "TV/video button" over and over into the phone until I get a response.  Fortunately, my second guess of "input" seemed to match a label on the remote.

Yes, I know, all you women will now be rushing from Lawrence Summers' house to mine to set up protests.  I still think that with women dominating on things like relationship management and hygiene standards, and men leading mainly on understanding television source switching and programming remote controls, that women are probably still ahead on points.


  1. Steve:

    Jeez whatever you do, don't say that in Canada. You'll wind up in court.


  2. Bertha:

    I would never come protest at your house a la Larry Summers b/c I love your blog and your common-sense wisdom too much, but can I at least say this? There are millions and millions of women who can work their TVs just fine - and drive well and understand math and all that - but you just don't notice them b/c they never call you for help. Just like you (and by "you" I mean people in general, I should say) never notice excellent Asian drivers, polite German tourists, or well-behaved children on airplanes.

    I know you were just speaking in general and I know you do have a point but as a tech-savvy woman, boy do I hate getting lumped in with the dummies.

  3. ErikTheRed:

    I heard a theory once that women want to nurture those bad TV shows to see if any good can be wrought from them. My wife's like that - she'll keep watching a TV series that starts off well even if it dives into sucking cartloads of ass... just in case it gets better.

    On the other hand, though, my wife has no problems changing whatever settings on the home theater system ... and she even enjoys the PS3 (the makers of Rock Band deserve a Nobel Peace Prize for all of the video game console-related relationship issues they've smoothed over with that product). So Epic Win for me!

  4. macquechoux:

    Bertha, cher, because there are so many ill behaved children on airplanes and elsewhere in public those that are well behaved stand out. In fact because they are so obvious nowadays I always make an effort to commend the parents of said children. I don't run into many German tourists in my part of Louisiana, but in my travels in the Caribbean the vast majority of Japanese and German tourists that I have run into are, in fact, rude. As far as that remote is concerned I personally only know of two women that can can/could unleash the full powers thereof: My current wife's 19 year old daughter and my late wife.

    Coyote, I got your six.

  5. dearieme:

    In defence of the fair sex, the problem is sometimes that the male who designed the gizmo was being rather thick when he was making his decisions. It's perhaps because such tasks are often entrusted to somewhat autistic males. Though, on the other hand, even autistic males can usually tell left from right.

  6. Yoshidad:

    Wow! It's so reassuring to read that I'm not alone. A certain female member of my family is famous for asking me questions, then pointedly ignoring the answer, particularly about computer matters. Shouting, or grimly grinding my teeth as I answer for the umpteenth time is also ineffective.

    My own analysis: Anxiety (male or female) is at the root of this.

    Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink" suggests that the fight-or-flight reaction narrows our focus so much that we start acting like autistic kids. This actually has serious consequences in cases like police brutality. Q: Why do the police keep beating the guy when he's already surrendered? A: Because their anxiety makes them misinterpret even the slightest movement or posture as an attack.

    Anyway, this deer-in-the-headlights catatonic reaction to tech suggestions is likely related to your competence in that area, Mr. Coyote, and the interlocutor's insecurity.

    You'll just have to stop being so competent!...8^)

    D'you think there's a support group for this...?

  7. Doug:

    Coyote - you describe my wife so well you have me a little worried. I don't remember being there when you dropped by the house.

    Bertha - I don't see where Coyote lumped anybody in with dummies (any more than Larry Summers did.) Above referenced wife is brilliant in so many ways I enjoy the chance to help her change channels when necessary. It does seem to me that TV remote skills are sparser among the ladies (I'm almost 60 - is that term still allowed?), but certainly not unheard of.

    As for why, I have some ideas but maybe dearieme is onto something.

  8. Dan:

    In my house, it's the opposite. My wife figures out how all the gizmos work and then she explains it to me. I think I'm lacking the requisite male hormones that allow my brain to handle technology. I have fathered two children, so at least my hormones aren't lacking where it really counts!

  9. Erin:

    In my experience, there is an age component to this, too. Every female I know who is my age and younger has no trouble comprehending TV source component relations. My mom and my grandma don't even try.

  10. Dr. T:

    This appears to be a generational gender issue. I have gone over source switching multiple times with my wife for our simple family room setup (TV, DirecTV, and DVD). My two teenage girls, watching the much more complex setup in the media room, have no trouble using the galactic (not quite universal) remotes and the individual remotes. They also know how to rapidly switch between normal, widescreen, zoom, wide zoom, etc. on the HDTV. They also can use an older DVR (not a TiVO) for timed DirecTV recordings by following my typed directions. This would be beyond my wife, who had problems with scheduled VCR recordings.

  11. Dan:

    I think the blame lies with the company that designs the machine. It's such a common mistake for electronics and software companies to misinterpret an unintuitive interface as something wrong with the consumer. Sure, you'll always have advanced features that only relative experts will be able to take advantage of, but if the basic functionality is beyond the grasp of half the population, there is something wrong with the product.

  12. Stew:

    I find this funny just because this happened with a girl friend of mine the other day. I recommend purchasing one of the newer TV's that have that automatic source switch detecting ability. When I turn on my xbox it detects a new signal from another source and automatically switches to that source.