It’s About Control

Have you ever heard someone wish that they had a remote control for humans? With apparently no regard for what an incredibly disturbing thing that would be, or how they would feel if it was turned on them? Maybe you have been fortunate enough to never have had that conversation. I have not been so fortunate. And I now have the dubious pleasure of presenting to you the following novelty toy: the Control A Woman remote.
The Control A Woman remote in red and grey packaging. Described below.
Oh hey! It has funny buttons! You can do all sorts of things to your chick like put her on mute, switch off her PMS, get her to calm down or hurry up. You can increase or decrease her breast size. You can get her to forgive, forget, move on, say no, say yes, remove her clothes, cook, clean and leave. You can get her to give you beer, sex or food. You can get her to stop nagging, moaning or whining.

This is not funny. This is not even slightly amusing. This makes me feel ill. Because there are people out there who think the idea of controlling their partner, controlling women, is a source of amusement. That getting those nasty bitches to pipe down is a dream. But more than that, worse than that, is that this remote is a reminder that there are men out there who desire to control “their” women’s every action and being like this. That is abuse. It is not a source of humour, and I don’t know what kind of disconnect or contempt or hatred it takes to make anyone think it could possibly be something to laugh about.

Variants on this remote are being sold all over; the variety pictured above is being sold in Borders stores here in Australia, as hit the news following on from International Women’s Day, as the ABC reports. But, says Lauren Thompson of Borders, they’re also selling a Control A Man remote. Apparently that’s meant to make it all okay. Somehow, this does not reassure me. So, let’s examine the Control A Man remote, shall we?
The Control A Man remote in blue and grey packaging. Described below.
You can mute him, too, you can turn his ego off, you can make him get a hint or multi-task. You can make him have a bigger or smaller orgasm. You can get him to give you flowers, chocolate or a massage, to say no, say yes, propose, tell the truth, put down the toilet seat or listen.

Now, I don’t know how anyone could argue honestly that the remotes are in any way equivalent – as though you’d want equality of harms. A lot of those buttons are based on stereotypes of women, women requiring gifts galore and being desperate for their men to propose (uh, yeah, there’s quite the heteronormative focus here, too). And, especially given the orgasm button in the place of the breasts button, something tells me that it wasn’t women designing or approving these remotes – at least, I really hope not. Both remotes are horrible, they’re also both more misogynistic than anything else.

The Control A Kid remote in green and grey packaging. Described below.I’m sorry to have to tell you that there’s also a Control A Kid remote. You can tell a child to be quiet and to switch off their attitude. You can tell them to stop sulking, screaming or tantrums. You can tell them no smoking, tattoos or piercings. You can get them to tidy their room, do their homework, eat their greens, say please, grow up, say thank you, do the dishes, don’t answer back and to kiss Granny. You can increase or decrease their energy. And you can tell them to go play.

I find the notion of having a remote that is supposed to control a group that is already so vulnerable and subject to adult control so disturbing I can’t even tell you.

I managed to track down these remotes to British company npw; here’s the npw website. It turns out you can also control your boss, your dog and your cat.

I just wonder about the people who manufacture and buy this stuff, and how anyone with any respect for other people’s autonomy could find this sort of thing funny.

If you would like to complain, here is the contact page for npw.


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About Chally

Chally is a student by day, a freelance writer by night, a scary, scary feminist all the time, and a voracious reader whenever she has a spare moment. She also blogs at Zero at the Bone. Full bio here.
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28 Responses to It’s About Control

  1. Ashley says:

    Good Lord. Those people have too much time on their hands.

  2. Bonn says:

    If there were JUST the one for controlling women, I would be pissed. As it is, I can only see it as creepy based on context and it could be cute/funny based on context.

    In my school we do lessons on actions. Running, jumping, standing on your toes, etc. The students are in the area of 2-3 years old. We do an activity where the moms have prepared little cardboard remotes with those actions on them. The moms and kids are supposed to share the remote and make each other do the actions by “pressing” the buttons on the remote.

    Is that disturbing? See, I just thought it was a cute, time-wasting activity.

    I mean … really? Really?? Pressing a button in hopes that your kid will say “please” or do their chores is violating their bodily autonomy? Really? It’s not like the remotes are REAL, and unlike our cardboard remotes, the pointee doesn’t even have to do a damn thing (in my class they do, because … it’s a class)

  3. Anna says:

    I’ve never understood the logic that it’s okay to demean women as long as a corporation is also demeaning other humans with similar products. The control-a-man one is really stupid and kind of offensive to all people, but at least you can’t use it to normalize the notion of forcing women to succumb to unwelcome sexual advances: “say yes,” “take off your clothes.”

    Honestly, I would just roll my eyes at the control-a-woman remote if those two buttons were replaced with “laugh at my joke” and “turn off Lifetime,” or something stupid like that. It wouldn’t be funny, but at least it wouldn’t be making light of a series violent crime. Women are forced against their will to “say yes” and “take off their clothes” every day, worldwide, and no it will not ever be funny in any context.

  4. Lauren says:

    I am a little less annoyed by this than you are, but the one part that did push my buttons the wrong way was the “get HIM to have a bigger or smaller orgasm”. It bothers me that the remotes to control him still encourage women to please him. I chuckled when I first saw these years ago, but I ultimately find these stupid and a horrible waste of money.

  5. epanalepsis says:

    All of this is disturbing, nevertheless let me rage about just one thing here: Children should not be forced to kiss anyone they do not want to kiss. Ever. Even if it’s Granny. It sets a bad precedence.

    (On an aside, I recently saw a comedy sketch on TV – in a show similar to Candid Camera – where someone called in tech support for her DVD player because the remote control didn’t work. When the tech support guy pressed the buttons, the woman’s flatmates (female) reacted: moved forward, backward, paused, etc. The guy looked quite freaked out when he noticed. Which is, imo, the correct reaction.)

  6. Lurkin Merkin says:

    It unfortunately isn’t surprising to see people reduced to machines that can be controlled by conveniently pressing a few buttons, even if it is supposed to be humorous.

    Plus – control orgasm size? WTF is that about? I was sure that sentence would end with the word “penis”. Not that I want either of these things to be objectifying, or to reinforce tired stereotypes about sexuality, or to reinforce people’s dissatisfaction and feelings of inadequacy about their own bodies. But what happened – was penis size considered too inappropriate? Would it make men not feel good about themselves? Or is it because the much more vague “orgasm size” puts this potentially within the realm of emotionality which is the only thing women are supposed to really care about?

    Another thought: Could this instead refer to time it takes to orgasm, or something else that makes slightly more sense? I’m just totally baffled by those two buttons.

    I also enjoy that there’s a “tell truth” button – because all men are liars, apparently.

  7. Valarissa says:

    The item itself isn’t really the issue. It’s the misogynistic intent behind it. More over, it’s the idea and desire of the ability to completely control a person, ignoring their autonomy and their own desires that is so offensive.

    I’d have to agree with the OP and say that these items (intended to be cute) are jarring and reinforce stereotypes to a fairly large degree. Now, it could be that this is just an overblown reaction and that we should just calm down. However, it has affected people in a negative way, and that is a very real thing.

    The thought of being controlled (against one’s will) is very disturbing to some people. Having these types of products, which only serve to reinforce the thought that controlling some one in such a way is a perfectly acceptable behavior, is not alright in many regards.

  8. prosaica says:

    When you have a child age 0-10 around for more then 10 hours/day, you end up wishing for volume control :-).
    I do agree that the woman remote and the man remote are not equivalent, but I find the kid’s remote much more disturbing than either – not for the volume control, but for all the rest. Because people really try to control their children (at least my parents did try very hard to control me).

  9. umami says:

    But what happened – was penis size considered too inappropriate? Would it make men not feel good about themselves?

    I suspect that since the thing was designed by men who apparently don’t know any women or have any conception of what women want, it just didn’t occur to them that women might ever want to make a penis smaller.
    Which was stupid, clearly.
    Also, I think “orgasm size” might mean “amount of ejaculate”? Which approximately 0% of women care about (yeah, I know someone will probably pipe up and say she does, but you’re a rounding error, deal with it), but some men think it’s important, if they watch a lot of porn.
    Oh, I don’t know. Maybe it really does mean “intensity of orgasm” but if the whole fucking “joke” is “ha ha, I’m reducing you to a frequently-inconvenient object and that’s hilarious” then why would you have a button to affect what the object experiences? Objects don’t have experiences!
    Objectification: UR DOING IT RONG.
    Though the “control a woman” and “control a child” remote are doing objectification just fine. I doubt their “control a man” remote actually sells, they’re just available as a figleaf so the company can say “look, we’re not sexist!”

  10. Dawn. says:

    The desire to “control” someone with a remote has always freaked me out. I’ve heard countless people espouse this wish, and it’s usually directed at their spouse/partner or their kid(s). Why would you want to control anyone? Don’t you love them, not what they can do for you? How can you love someone and want to take away their autonomy? Fucking creepy.

    epanalepsis – I agree. Kids should never be forced to kiss/touch/be touched by anyone if they don’t want to. I mean Jesus Christ, let’s at least try to instill the importance of consent into our children.

  11. William says:

    I mean … really? Really?? Pressing a button in hopes that your kid will say “please” or do their chores is violating their bodily autonomy? Really? It’s not like the remotes are REAL, and unlike our cardboard remotes, the pointee doesn’t even have to do a damn thing (in my class they do, because … it’s a class)

    Ahh, but these remotes do not exist in the absence of context. The context in this case is that the activities on the remotes are things which their targets are supposed to do. More importantly, they are reinforcements of the social conditioning to which we’ve all be exposed. Sure, a woman doesn’t have to make a sandwich when the button on a joke remote is pressed, but the existence of the button and it’s presence in her field of perception send some very specific messages about both what she is expected to do and what she will be valued for doing. It says that women should be of value to their men and not annoy them and then lays out the specific ways in which society says that can be accomplished. The same is true of the other remotes. They are subtle aggressive messages telling their targets under what circumstances they can be accepted as valuable beings. The fact that they’re presented as humor makes their influence more insidious as it creates a ready means to devalue and silence any object (“you just don’t have a sense of humor”).

    Your remotes, while cute and not quite as damaging, still send a specific message. You’re looking to teach your students something. Given the vast majority of what constitutes “education” I’d wager that part of what you’re teaching (especially at the age you’ve mentioned) is how to do what one is told. They might have fun, they might even enjoy it, it might even be a necessary message at their age, but to deny that a message is being transmitted and that there is a specific dynamic of power that is encoded in that message is naive.

  12. Zelda says:

    This gag-gift is just another example of how sexism really is the last publicly acceptable form of discrimination.

    Thankfully, a gag-gift to control African-Americans, gays and lesbians, Jewish people or differently-abled individuals would probably be thrown in the trash bin before it was seen on any store shelves. Why is it that sexist gifts are not held to the same standard of unacceptability?

  13. Salome says:

    The PMS part just reminds me of how sick I am of guys who seem to think that periods are worse (or just-as-bad) on them as they are on women, because they “have to put up with PMS-y women.”

    I’m beginning to wonder if PMS is a myth designed by men, considering that most of the time I hear people accusing me or other women that we’re “PMSing” we’re not actually on our period (nor am I right-about-to-start-it).

  14. PrettyAmiable says:

    Zelda, at least in the US, pretty much all forms of discrimination are still publicly acceptable. I’m thinking about the people that congregated on Capitol Hill today to shout n-bombs and f-bombs at our legislators because they disagree with healthcare reform. The response by almost everyone involved is, “Let’s ignore it right now and focus on healthcare reform.” That’s pretty gross.

  15. bluedancer says:

    The PMS part just reminds me of how sick I am of guys who seem to think that periods are worse (or just-as-bad) on them as they are on women, because they “have to put up with PMS-y women.”

    No kidding. I suspect it’s true that some women may tend to be crankier just before or during their period — especially the ones dealing with painful cramps! Funny though, when I say I’d be happy to switch places, and promise to be tolerant when the men are cranky from dealing with abdominal pain and blood loss, they never like that idea…

  16. Valerie2 says:

    Not quiet as pissed about it as some, but it is fairly stupid.
    But on the other hand, it’s a good to be able to sell men this crap because then they can’t hide who they are for very long.
    If a man has one of these, leave. Clear sign of asshole round the corner. I also like to check out a man’s tee-shirt collection from his past. They are never going to tell you that they’re assholes. They wait for you to figure it out on your own.
    If your dating someone, just run this by him. Tell him about it and see if he laughs. Then you will know who he really is.
    I had an uncle that had a coffee cup in the shape of a breast. He’s a world class asshole and that just proves it. The state thought so too and had to throw him in jail for many reasons.

  17. Valerie2 says:

    Not quiet as pissed about it as some, but it is fairly stupid.
    But on the other hand, it’s a good to be able to sell men this crap because then they can’t hide who they are for very long.
    If a man has one of these, leave. Clear sign of asshole round the corner. I also like to check out a man’s tee-shirt collection from his past. They are never going to tell you that they’re assholes. They wait for you to figure it out on your own.
    If your dating someone, just run this by him. Tell him about it and see if he laughs. Then you will know who he really is.
    I had an uncle that had a coffee cup in the shape of a breast. He’s a world class asshole and that just proves it. The state thought so too and had to throw him in jail for many reasons.

  18. piny says:

    Thankfully, a gag-gift to control African-Americans, gays and lesbians, Jewish people or differently-abled individuals would probably be thrown in the trash bin before it was seen on any store shelves. Why is it that sexist gifts are not held to the same standard of unacceptability?

    Ghetto Monopoly, blackface costume parties, “gifts for your nonwhite friend” lists this past Christmas, Miz Liquor, Michael Savage, Dudebros, Family Guy, Tea Partiers, “memorabilia,” hipster irony, and all those jokes.

    Racism, homophobia, anti-semitism, and ableism are still going strong. There may well be a novelty gift gap, but there are plenty of other ways to make up the deficit. You don’t have to dismiss them in order to underline the seriousness of this.

  19. Sara says:

    This gag-gift is just another example of how sexism really is the last publicly acceptable form of discrimination.

    Thankfully, a gag-gift to control African-Americans, gays and lesbians, Jewish people or differently-abled individuals would probably be thrown in the trash bin before it was seen on any store shelves. Why is it that sexist gifts are not held to the same standard of unacceptability?

    Different forms of discrimination may have common elements, but they can also be expressed in many unique ways. So not also is this factually untrue (as piny noted), but it marginalizes the victims of other / additional types of discrimination and minimizes their experiences.

    I know you meant well, but please understand what you said could be very hurtful to some people. It’s important to not fall into these traps where we may see one form of discrimination very clearly, but our experience / privilege blinds us to other social injustices.

  20. timothynakayama says:

    And, especially given the orgasm button in the place of the breasts button, something tells me that it wasn’t women designing or approving these remotes – at least, I really hope not

    Plus – control orgasm size? WTF is that about? I was sure that sentence would end with the word “penis”. Not that I want either of these things to be objectifying, or to reinforce tired stereotypes about sexuality, or to reinforce people’s dissatisfaction and feelings of inadequacy about their own bodies. But what happened – was penis size considered too inappropriate? Would it make men not feel good about themselves? Or is it because the much more vague “orgasm size” puts this potentially within the realm of emotionality which is the only thing women are supposed to really care about?

    Also, I think “orgasm size” might mean “amount of ejaculate”? Which approximately 0% of women care about (yeah, I know someone will probably pipe up and say she does, but you’re a rounding error, deal with it), but some men think it’s important, if they watch a lot of porn.

    I am a little less annoyed by this than you are, but the one part that did push my buttons the wrong way was the “get HIM to have a bigger or smaller orgasm”. It bothers me that the remotes to control him still encourage women to please him.

    Hi Folks,

    I think the correct way to interpret the ORGASM + or – button on the CONTROL A MAN controller is this:

    Since the CONTROL a MAN controller is supposed to be held by a heterosexual WOMAN, it would make sense that the Orgasm she is trying to control is not the Man’s Orgasm, but HIS actions towards HER to make her have an Orgasm. I mean, just thinking about it, all the controls on the CONTROL A MAN controller (and similarly,on the CONTROL A WOMAN/KID controller) is about making the Controller choosing desirable actions that benefit themselves (ie. the controller).

    So an ORGASM + or – button that affects the ORGASM of the MAN wouldn’t make much sense, because the Man having a large or small ORGASM does not benefit the Woman in anyway, so why the need to control it?

    It does seem to me that given the other buttons, the ORGASM + or – button on the CONTROL a MAN remote controller is supposed to act to control the Man’s actions, either to make him work harder and stronger to give the Woman a faster, bigger ORGASM, or to work softer, and gentler to give the Woman a more…gentle Orgasm, or to not give HER an orgasm instead but to build up the pressure.

    That’s my take on it because the ones mentioned above by previous posters doesn’t fit with the design of the other buttons on the CONTROL A MAN controller.

  21. timothynakayama says:

    Hi Folks,

    I think the correct way to interpret the ORGASM + or – button on the CONTROL A MAN controller is this:

    Since the CONTROL a MAN controller is supposed to be held by a heterosexual WOMAN, it would make sense that the Orgasm she is trying to control is not the Man’s Orgasm, but HIS actions towards HER to make her have an Orgasm. I mean, just thinking about it, all the controls on the CONTROL A MAN controller (and similarly,on the CONTROL A WOMAN/KID controller) is about making the Controller choosing desirable actions that benefit themselves (ie. the controller).

    So an ORGASM + or – button that affects the ORGASM of the MAN wouldn’t make much sense, because the Man having a large or small ORGASM does not benefit the Woman in anyway, so why the need to control it?

    It does seem to me that given the other buttons, the ORGASM + or – button on the CONTROL a MAN remote controller is supposed to act to control the Man’s actions, either to make him work harder and stronger to give the Woman a faster, bigger ORGASM, or to work softer, and gentler to give the Woman a more…gentle Orgasm, or to not give HER an orgasm instead but to build up the pressure.

    That’s my take on it because the ones mentioned above by previous posters doesn’t fit with the design of the other buttons on the CONTROL A MAN controller.

  22. timothynakayama says:

    Oops…sorry about the double post! I pressed submit too early I think.

  23. timothynakayama says:

    That’s my take on it because the ones mentioned above by previous posters doesn’t fit with the design of the other buttons on the CONTROL A MAN controller.

    And I also forgot to add that I think a woman being able to control how hard or soft a man works to cause her to achieve an orgasm fits perfectly with the widely held notion/stereotype that Men have no idea/are pathetically clueless on how to give Women an orgasm.

    NOW, with this control, you will never be bored of his awkward fumblings and pathetic bedroom gymnastics or his epic (but never successful) search to find where the clitoris is. All you need is a BUTTON! Ta-da.

  24. Faith says:

    “That’s my take on it because the ones mentioned above by previous posters doesn’t fit with the design of the other buttons on the CONTROL A MAN controller.”

    I’m actually wondering if the “orgasm size” control may not actually be “orgasm speed”. Given the number of men who suffer from premature ejaculation, it would make sense from the perspective of someone who is steeped in stereotypes to believe that a woman would want to slow down (-) a man’s orgasm. Plus, since women are also supposed to hate sex, or at least not want it very often, it also makes sense (from the sexist perspective) that she might want to speed it up (+).

    “I’m beginning to wonder if PMS is a myth designed by men, considering that most of the time I hear people accusing me or other women that we’re “PMSing” we’re not actually on our period (nor am I right-about-to-start-it).”

    PMS is a very real phenomenon. One of the only indications that I have that my period is about to start is very real and really quite severe mood swings. I sink into what could almost be described as a mild to moderate depression for two-three days before my period begins. I can actually feel my moods shift back to normal once bleeding begins. And, yes, living with me when I’m in that state can be difficult. That being said, making fun of me for it is obviously nothing other than pure sexism. Making fun of a woman suffering from hormonal mood swings due to PMS is no better and no less disgusting than making fun of someone with an ongoing mental illness.

  25. timothynakayama says:

    Faith, your interpretation makes sense as well. Maybe the folks who created these things didn’t think it through!

  26. Oh PMS is definitely real and takes many forms. Mine usually takes the form of diarrhea for about 24 hours before bleeding starts. I have mercifully escaped the mood swings, though. Considering that I suffer from chronic depression I can’t be sure, though, my chronic depression could simply be covering and out-weighing any mood swings PMSing might involve. And I’ve had depression since before I had my first period – so I really wouldn’t know.

    /derail

    Really gross products. And yep, clearly men made the one for women as well. Lessee, all women care about are flowers, chocolate, proposals and toilet seats. Interestingly there’s no button to make the man help with the cooking or the cleaning. Why not? Because men designed this for other men to laugh at, not for women.

    And the one to control your kids is just beyond creepy. I can understand how parents might have a good hearty laugh about wanting to decrease the energy output at times. Same goes for my dog :P Rambunctious for 4 hours straight is a little… overwhelming.

    And the “No smoking” bit I can sorta get on board with as well. Even if the remote is completely devoid of all of the humanity that ought to be included in that sort of restrictions.

    But to kiss granny? To grow up? To lay off the attitude? How about you get yourself a porcelain doll instead of a child? They’ll never do anything you don’t want them to – of course they won’t do the dishes either.

    As someone who’s been semi-traumatized by being forced to give hugs (not kisses, though) while autistic and experiencing sensory overload, such a remote is nowhere near funny. If it was sprung on me as a ‘funny’ gift it would be triggering and that giver would leave my life with a hail of tears and possibly screams following them out the door.

    I grew up too fucking soon, too. Because that’s what you have to do when you’re the odd kid. These days I’m doing what I can to retain what child remains in my 25 year old body, and actually have some innocent and carefree fun once in a while. Growing up sucks – doing so before you’re ready not only sucks even worse, it’s also bloody damaging. Yeah, I’d totally want that for my (as yet non-existent) kids.

    So Bonn, while these remotes are not ‘real’ as in they won’t actually work. They do reflect restrictions and forced actions that take place every single fucking day to the great injury of many children around the globe. And that reflection is neither pretty nor funny. It basically amounts to the same level of funny as forcing a woman to say yes otherwise known as rape ie. not funny at all. It’s a sad fact of life that many live with every single fucking day.

    *Trigger*
    Check out the story of two little girls who are forced (by a legal judge) to go visit their dad every other weekend, even though they don’t want to, their dad has been sentenced for possession of child porn, AND they have to have a lock on their door so their dad can’t get to them at night. As if predators only prey on little children when those children are in bed at night. As if predators never do anything in broad daylight in the fraggin living room.

    *trigger end*

    And then tell me again that children’s bodily autonomy is not threatened by adults controlling them.

    Oh yeah – if you do tell me so. Or if you still think it’s cute. Fuck you.

  27. Alara Rogers says:

    Making fun of a woman suffering from hormonal mood swings due to PMS is no better and no less disgusting than making fun of someone with an ongoing mental illness.

    And acting as if *all* women have PMS just because they have periods is like acting as if “all teenagers are crazy” because there have been some widely publicized cases of teens who were depressed enough to commit suicide (and the “all teenagers are crazy” here is referring to the perspective of the people who say such things pejoratively, not a slur on teenagers or on people with mental illness). Or all elderly people are senile and stupid because some elderly people suffer from Alzheimer’s.

    Funnily enough, no one ever acts as if all men are roid-raging violent beasts with a brain dysfunction that prevents them from acting humane or compassionate just because some men commit violence… although the proportion of men who commit violent acts is probably higher than the proportion of women who suffer PMS or the proportion of teens who suffer from depression.

    Some degree of mood swing in response to one’s period is normal. It’s PMS when it’s severe and heavily impacts one’s quality of life. Also, some degree of mood swing in response to shifts in testosterone is normal, and male testosterone levels can shift as the result of something as small as getting criticized at work, yet no one talks about how flighty men are and how volatile their moods can be.

  28. Q Grrl says:

    It’s interesting to contrast this thread with the one about the chemical castration of men. In that thread, a male poster made the comparison of castration to death. While initially challenged as an over-the-top response, that response, none-the-less, became a valid part of how the construct of “humane” is defined (at least around here). In this thread, women’s anxiety about their bodies is quickly turned into a personal (not social) issue (through the “*shrug* it’s not a real remote control” response).

    Well, no one is running around randomly castrating men, yet we let the “castration = death” motif stand as valid. It’s the humane response, no?

    The underlying narrative of the non-real remote control of women is that, should any given woman object, she does so from the fragility of her own psychology, not out of a natural desire to redefine “humane” to include her own experience.

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