Sergey Brin: Smartphones are "emasculating"

Google's co-founder, pitching the company's wearable "Glass" camera and headset, told an audience at TED that smartphones are "emasculating."

"You're standing around and just rubbing this featureless piece of glass," he said. Using Google Glass requires a fair bit of rubbing as well, and the prototypes have fewer hardware features than most phones. But Brin said they improved on smartphones in certain ways, particularly in having a camera ever-ready to start snapping pictures.

It gets really weird when you realize that this means Sergey Brin sits there thinking about being emasculated.

Update: Google announces MANDROID, the masculating new operating system.


  1. So the Google dream is to stalk you while you sit catatonic in a driverless car saying, “Okay glass…” as Google shoves ad after ad after ad in front of you. DON’T RUB ANYTHING! WE WILL RUB IT FOR YOU!

    1. “Anything that might be of interest to Slitscan. Which is to say, Laney, anything that might be of interest to Slitscan’s audience. Which is best visualized as a vicious, lazy, profoundly ignorant, perpetually hungry organism craving the warm god-flesh of the anointed. Personally I like to imagine something the size of a baby hippo, the color of a week-old boiled potato, that lives by itself, in the dark, in a double-wide on the outskirts of Topeka. It’s covered with eyes and it sweats constantly. The sweat runs into those eyes and makes them sting. It has no mouth, Laney, no genitals, and can only express its mute extremes of murderous rage and infantile desire by changing the channels on a universal remote. Or by voting in presidential elections.”

      –William Gibson, Idoru

  2. Saw one of the Google PM’s rocking Glass at a sports bar in Mountain View. It was kind of weird. Things got a lot weirder when I saw him again, next to me, in the men’s room.

    1. Women generally reject passes
      From geeks who wear Google glasses.

      I guess that you could argue that he’s right if you believe that a woman will think that a man who pays attention to her instead of to That Thing On His Head is less masculine.  He should probably make sure that there’s no map function since everyone knows that consulting a map turns a man into a pussy.

      1. From a friend who recently spent a weekend working with them it’s my understanding that if you try to access map functions the frames turn a bright fuscia and a small flag pops up reading “GIRL” 

          1. lists. sets are unordered. when evaluated, a mapped function will preserve ordering.

            a functor is a homomorphism.

      1. That is a god point about the dangers of voice activated hardware.

        Future smart-car drives past; kids at the side of the road scream, “Deploy Airbags!”

  3. It’s all that Gorilla Glass they use on the smart phones, ya know.  It doesn’t break easy, but when it does break, it makes really sharp shards that can slice your manhood off.  Something needs to be done about that.

    1. An acquaintance of mine, whose wife is a swimmer, had the opportunity to attend a party a few years back, held by Brin. Brin, in a fit of (drunken?) machismo began challenging people to laps across the pool, and was extremely irritated when this friend’s wife, a woman, handily beat him. I’d say, yeah, he has a pretty fragile and overinflated sense of his own masculinity (Which is a sentiment I encountered a lot among Russian men when I lived there, so maybe his upbringing plays a role).

      1. I was going to impugn his masculinity by suggesting that he was a 98-pound weakling, but he looks pretty athletic.

  4. First of all, why care so much about coming off macho?


    “You’re standing around and just rubbing this featureless piece of glass,”It’s a good thing that people with glasses are never considered wussies, then.

    1. Men are under the same social pressures to be manly as women are to be womanly and those of us to whom the machismo doesn’t come naturally can sometimes end up feeling a bit insecure just as I’m sure many women do on their end. 

      Some people solve the problem by realizing that machismo is just a bunch of bullshit and some people solve the problem by introducing a little macho bluster into their personalities.

      Hence brogrammers, misogyny in comics and gaming communities, Steve Jobs’ fondness for humiliating people by calling them “virgins”, Eric Raymond, etc.

      1. Yep, the pressure to be a macho man is a part of misogyny. And the more it’s embraced, the more it perpetuates misogyny and makes the world worse for everyone.

        God forbid people got to just enjoy things they enjoy and talk to people about it. That would be madness!

        Why, you might even find love and acceptance that way!

        1. This is specifically because men are told not to be like women with the implication that it’s bad to be like a woman. If men were told to be macho because they’re useless for anything else, with weak brains and atrophied emotions, that might be misandry — and our society would have to be built much differently for that to make sense.

      2. “Men are under the same social pressures to be manly as women are to be womanly and those of us to whom the machismo doesn’t come naturally can sometimes end up feeling a bit insecure just as I’m sure many women do on their end.”

        Yes, and as mentioned elsewhere, both pressures originate from misogyny and men. 

        1.  “originate from misogyny” absolutely but women also do a fair amount of gender policing.  In my experience women are quite capable of misogyny.

          This is not to blame women for misogyny.  Everyone is exposed to the culture and no one has very much control over how much of it they internalize.

  5. “standing around and just rubbing this featureless piece of glass” is emasculating? What would be more masculinizing, standing around rubbing a lady’s vagina or boob and NOTHING ELSE? 

    Damn masculinity is a fragile construct.

    Oh and of course a woman would never want to stand around being emasculated, would they? How terrible that anyone should ever feel less manly.

    Maybe just a bad choice of words, as it can also just mean ‘powerless’ (sigh, unfortunate root of alternate meaning,) but good god it sounds sexist and weird at first read.

    1. “Maybe just a bad choice of words, as it can also just mean ‘powerless’ (sigh, unfortunate root of alternate meaning,) but good god it sounds sexist and weird at first read.”

      There’s really no need to go that far to give him undeserved credit. It’s sexist and “brogrammer”y.

    2.  It makes just as little sense in the “powerless” context. I can hold in the palm of my hand a piece of technology that gives me instant access to just about any piece of information I might need and is orders of magnitude more powerful than the computers used to send people to the moon.

  6. Google’s next big project will be code-named “Project Mayhem” and the ToS will inform you at least twice that you are not allowed to talk about it.

  7. Well, touchscreens and touchpads can pose accessibility issues.

    Maybe some men find it emasculating to talk about accessibility, so they talk about emasculation instead.

  8. I wish that Sergey would stop subjecting Google and its users to his midlife crisis. It’s like Google is making products (Nexus Q, Pixel, Glass) that are only going to be purchased by Sergey. 

  9. Dear Sergey, I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

    Any tool is usually the opposite of emasculating – it enables you to do things, and ‘doing stuff’ is strongly associated with masculinity.

    Just imagine yourself typing a strongly worded email on your smartphone to some idiotic customer service department who’ve treated you like crap! Instant erection!

    It’s like saying a car is emasculating because … you’re just sitting there in it instead of … sitting astride giant robot legs.

    Hey … I just said that! And as an unconnected aside, I have these cool new giant robot legs to sell you!

    Shut up Sergey.

    1. Tools are fine, but rubbing a featureless piece of glass doesn’t enable much. I bet if someone could turn Sergey’s phone on and show him where the features are, he’d feel more manly using it.

    1. Nah.  But if you *are* a homosexual and you don’t buy his product you’ll be one of those limp-wristed lisping homosexuals, not one of those burly, hairy homosexuals.

      1. Apparently, you don’t know many burly, hairy homosexuals, because they’re just as likely to be limp-wristed and lisping as any of the other kinds.

  10. Just before he walked out on stage the marketing guy told him that suggesting the competition is gay tested very effective with the key demographic. 

  11. What is most weird about this remark: use of the word “emasculating” implies women do not use smartphones, or that design considerations for smartphones have nothing to do with female gender identity?

    1. Also, he’s talking about rubbing a slick device longer than it is wide as an emasculating act, which is rather graphic on both sides.

      I’d like to be believe he meant to say “dehumanizing” or “antisocial” or anything. But he said it. It excludes all women on one side, and all penis-having people who don’t define themselves by dicks on the other.

    2. He’s clearly advocating for smartphones that are operated through feats of strength.  Phones that only unlock after being hurled 50 feet in the air and keypads that only dial if you apply 150 lbs of force (with just one finger!).

      1. Ok, but then get that inventor from earlier to make us a dildo version. What was her name?

        For the masculine smartphone you have to benchpress your weight to download an app.

        For the feminine version you have to kegel squeeze to send a text.

    3. Oh, come on, *everyone* knows that smartphones rob women of their femininity – it’s hardly even worth mentioning.  He was just highlighting the lesser-noticed issue that they also rob men of their masculinity.  It’s a double-edged sword.  Better get weird looking glasses.

      1. Men are allowed to wash their own greasy overalls as long as they toss a bar of Lava into the washer instead of laundry detergent.

  12. Aren’t women major technology consumers these days? Is this his way of saying the thinks this could not be marketed to them?

    I’ll be waiting for the pink hello kitty version then. lol!

  13. I’ve never heard him sound more like a Bond villain.  I think this was some kind of audition.

    “You don’t expect me to talk, do you?”

    “No Mr .. haha MRS Bond – if you had these you could talk with whomsoever you wished.  But you don’t.  Now who’s strong and hairy, eh?”

  14. I guarantee might first interaction with Google Glass will result in a photo/video of me telling some douche to “take those fucking things off if you want to talk to me, or comfortably be around me.”

    I guess I am already just incurably emasculated.

  15. Douche or not, I suspect I will like the idea of google (or anyone else) glasses.  Also self-driving cars (I’m usually a pedestrian, and I know that computers aren’t going to be texting/talking/spacing out and driving, or if they are it won’t affect their attention to the road)..

    Not sure what emasculating about phones, but whatever tickles your pickle.

  16. I think it was a malapropism, I don’t like using my smartphone unless I have somewhere secure to stand, out of the way. I feel pretty unsteady if I’m walking, and worry about falling bumping into people.  Maybe that’s what he meant by “emasculate”.

  17. Anyone who worries about whether being seen using a device is emasculating has serious self-image troubles. Not least that they’ve got a broken definition of masculinity, starting with the fact that they seem to be confusing it with machismo and continuing with the fact that even machismo is strongest when it doesn’t feel a need to defend itself.

    What is it this month with people making statements about the world that give us more insight into their own hang-ups than we ever wanted?

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