Munmun Masud

November 6th, 2010

PRESENTATION on 11/01/10: Measuring Technology on the Gender Scale

Posted by munmunmasud in Uncategorized

Is technology gendered?

*As late as the Middle Ages, the useful arts were identified as much with women as with men, and women were engaged in almost all aspects of technological practice.

*Women were not only identified as spinners or weavers, but also metalworkers and goldsmiths.



Women steadily lost ground to men for many reasons, several include:

– Politicized guild regulation

– New social legislation

– Extended market

– Increasing separation of public and private spheres

– The diminished importance of household production

– Exclusion of women from educational institutions

– And so much more…

Technology became the modern measure of elite masculine identity

*Technology came into use to describe the realm of the useful arts, reshaped by science, and from the start the idea of technology became the modern measure of elite masculine identity.

*Technological development assumed its modern appearance as a “traditionally masculine” enterprise.

*This enterprise is defined as a mythic male affair against women, who would forever have to struggle to reassert even a semblance of their former role in the useful arts.

*Since technology was defined from the outset as masculine, women were excluded and whatever women did, was not included.

Again, is technology gendered?!

*According to Autumn Stanley, “the stereotypes separating woman and technology,” legitimized the displacement of women and rendered their continuing contributions invisible.

*This left a permanent masculine imprint on trademark technological achievements.

*Ivan Illich (Austrian Philosopher) argued that technological activities as well as specific tools were traditionally divided between gendered domains.

*The male gender dominates technology, and plays the role of “director” by assigning women their technological duties. Basically, men lead and women follow.

*Therefore, yes. Technology is gendered as certain achievements were stamped masculine and, certain achievements were stamped feminine.

*The Distaff was primarily a woman’s tool. It was emblematic not only of women’s work but of the useful arts and productive labor in general.

*The following technologies were traditionally identified with men: Hunting, Warfare, Toolmaking, Metalworking, Ornamental arts associated with religion and state power

Gender and Technology in 2010

*Through the lack of female participation, technology becomes a given male characteristic.

*With women being culturally isolated, technology it self becomes an extension of masculinity within society—this furthers the gap between males and females in technology.

*This extension of male power in the form of technology dictates the direction of technology in the future.

*With males already in the technological field, they create new and improved technology designed from a male perspective.

*This creates a surplus of technologies that suit men and their ideas.

*For example, the video game industry today still caters to a predominately male population. This is because video games have always been associated with males. Men both play and create most of the video games with the industry.

*“Male power over technology is both a prudent of and reinforcement for their power in society. Even at the household level, every time a man repairs the plumbing or a sewing machine while a woman watches, a communication about her helplessness and inferiority is made” (Gill & Grint).

*In this way females are ostracized by technology on two levels.

–First, they are not expected to use technology which leads them to stay away from it.

–Second, by staying away from it they come to a mutual understanding that technology is a male concept.

*In turn they teach this concept to all women generation’s after them who in turn teach it to their children until it becomes a cultural norm with no clear origin.

*The technology of separate work with “women’s work” such as housekeeping, cooking, and caring for children is present even today. The domain of the kitchen is associated with femininity while the grill is a masculine art form of cooking. Even cars are sectioned into gender areas with fast sports cars being naturally masculine and mini van’s being associated with “soccer Mom’s.

*The idea is that various technologies are being gendered everywhere even if the technologies are similar in their usage.


“In the early medieval West, a time of significant advance in technology, men consciously sought to imitate their male god—master craftsman of the universe by assuming a new God-like posture.” (The Religion of Technology)

Did Victor try to achieve this?


* In chapter 3, Victor states:

“So much has been done, exclaimed the soul of Frankenstein—more, far more, will I achieve; treading in the steps already marked, I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation.”

*Above, Victor relates to Walton how his chemistry professor, M. Waldman, ignited in him an uncontainable desire to gain knowledge of the secret of life. Victor is driven by his passion, unable to control it. Further, the glorious, assertive quality of his statement foreshadows the fact that Victor’s passion will not be tempered by any consideration of the possible horrific consequences of his search for knowledge.

* To an extent, Victor will always be regarded as “God-like” for creating his product.

Portrayal of Women in Frankenstein

*Being a woman herself, Shelly portrayed the female gender in her novel as being very passive.

*The female characters suffered, and abruptly died as a consequence.

*Caroline Beaufort: self-sacrificing mother who dies taking care of her adopted daughter, Elizabeth

*Justine: despite her innocence, she is executed for murder

*Female Monster: Aborted even before she was given life as Victor fears yet another monster who may not be under his control

*Elizabeth Lavenza: murdered by the hands of Victor’s creation

*One can argue that Shelley renders her female characters so passive and subjects them to such ill treatment in order to concentrate on the obsessive and destructive behavior that Victor and the monster demonstrate.

How Gendered Technology Becomes an Issue in Frankenstein

*Many critics assumed that Frankenstein was written by Percy Shelly, Mary’s husband.

“It was hard for nineteenth-century critics (and many later ones through the mid-twentieth century) to believe that the young Mary was that good. And literary critics for a long time credited the accomplishment essentially to Percy’s influence and help…” (Preface).

*Some critics also argued this novel is the product of her insanity.

*Shelly was criticized because she broke out of the traditional norm.

*She no longer was the audience of man (not even her husband’s). By writing Frankenstein, she ultimately made everyone her audience.

*Finally, a woman took the lead!

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  1. on June 9th, 2017 at 7:32 am

    Munmun Masud » PRESENTATION on 11/01/10: Measuring Technology on the Gender Scale

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