Week 9 [Mon March 6 ] From the ‘Transparency Gap’ to ‘Gender Gaps’ (and Boundaries)

Bray, F. (2007). Gender and Technology. Annual Review of Anthropology. 07 / Issue 36. (pp.37–53)

This week’s readings drew some interesting ideas about technology and gender to my attention. While I usually tend to be well-versed in feminist/post-colonial/gender theory, I hadn’t really thought about technology and its relationship with gender. While I’d always known about (and been upset at) gender disparities in the business world, reading Bray and Jenson’s articles gave me an added perspective in just how “bad” it is. Bray states, “gender is expressed in any society through technology. Technical skills and domains of expertise are divided between and within the sexes, shaping masculinities and femininities,” which makes sense to me. Hearing about women being forced out of STEM subjects by privileged men and hegemonic ideas of what is and isn’t for women is not something that’s new. I think stereotypical gender roles have been so finely ingrained and weaved into the fabric of our society that many women believe when someone tells them, “that’s a man’s job!”, which nudges women away from the STEM subjects and into other fields of work. This is hegemonic masculinity, as women become “passive beneficiaries of the inventive flame”. Men like the ones described in this article decide that other men are the only ones who can and should be able to study those subjects.

Jenson, J. & de Castell, S. (2014). Gamer-hate and the ‘problem of women’: Feminsim in Games, in Diversifying Barbie and Mortal Kombat: Intersectional Perspectives and Inclusive Designs in Gaming. (Chapter 13)

This article provided me with some really solid thoughts on gender, technology and intersectionality. It really is a shame that the misogyny is so bad that women feel the need to step back from positions of power and social capital where they have a voice, because some men feel threatened by the presence of a woman in “their” domain. It sounds almost ridiculous that someone would threaten a “massacre” or rape and/or murder because a perfectly capable and qualified person, who just happens to be a woman, decides to utilize her voice.

The article states that for “over three decades, it has been evident that women do not choose education pathways that lead to careers in the technology industry in numbers similar to their male counterparts”, which is because of the “intense and vitriolic harassment” women face by men and sometimes other women. Jenson states, “if you venture into traditional male territory, the abuse comes anyway. It’s not what you say that prompts it—it’s the fact that you are saying it”. So why is it that just the fact that women are participating in conversation about STEM subjects that pisses men off? What is it about the term “feminist” that is so frightening? I believe the issue is an institutionalized, systemic one. As I mentioned in the reflection above, hegemonic masculinity and misogyny has been weaved into our schools, systems, institutions and corporations. People don’t understand that feminism doesn’t mean hating men, or that women are superior to men, but that everyone is equal. I read this last week, and it reminded me of this article and our discussions in class: “equal rights for others does not mean less rights for you. Its not pie.”

I also really appreciate that Jenson spoke about intersectionality in her article as it is incredibly important to what feminism actually entails – because if your feminism doesn’t include women of colour, queer, black, poor, disabled, trans, women with all sorts of backgrounds, its not feminism. I think its important to recognize while it is terrible that white* women in the gaming/STEM/tech/gaming industries are targeted and harassed, at least they have a platform to use their voice (as dangerous as it is). How many queer, muslim, women of colour and different abilities and backgrounds make it to those positions in the first place? As the article states, “gamer gate is a part of a larger, systemic problem in games industry and culture, and whose history is far longer than either; and second, feminist approaches and practices can and do provide a means to initiate a broad-based, grassroots transformation, with a powerful cross-sectoral infrastructure.” An intersectional understanding of feminism and how that relates to opportunities and socio-political transformation in the STEM/tech/gaming fields is imperative to creating a safe and equitable society.

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