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First Questions

2009 January 23
by Ruth Goodlaxson

I got really excited for this class after our first session, and I can’t wait to read and hear about everyone’s ideas. I’m a junior English major, Education minor, and I decided I really wanted to take this class even though I did all the 200 levels I have to already. In Methods, we talked about some gender theory; we read Judith Butler, and then some feminist film theory with Laura Mulvey. It was really interesting, and I was looking for a class that would examine further and more in depth the socially constructed nature of gender. Personally, I always tried to make myself into a boy when I was a kid, which I think is a fairly common experience. I cut my hair short, loved the Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers, and collected toy bugs and snakes.

In terms of gender AND technology, I have to admit, the “technology” part made me a little skeptical. I couldn’t imagine how long we could talk about the lack of female representation in the sciences, so I assumed there would be more to it, i just didn’t know what it was. If we understand technology as “the study of that which has been artfully made,” the range of what we can think about opens up a lot. The first question that came to my head is whether gender itself can be understood as a technology. People put a lot of effort into constructing their gender – with how they act, the clothes they wear, the activities they participate in, etc. In that sense, it could be something artfully made. I’m just curious to see if that idea could go anywhere.  I also am curious about how the evolution of technology has changed our concept of gender. In my history of photography class, we just looked at a daguerreotype of a naked woman from behind, who was beautiful, but today would be considered overweight, and definitely too fat for contemporary media images. Did technology have anything to do with this change in the idea of the female body, or does it simply reflect societal changes?

3 Responses
  1. Baibh Cathba permalink
    January 23, 2009

    I love the idea of gender as a technology. It’s true that there is an artistry, and I guess I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of subverting gender norms. I was particularly influenced by a visit to P-town where there was a man in a red dress, heels, and a fashionable pearl necklace… sporting a very obvious mustache. I also have read a lot of fiction where men dress as women or visa-versa, and often fairytales cite the ability of one gender to “be better than” a man/woman.

  2. Natasha permalink
    January 24, 2009

    I like your point that gender can be seen as a technology, going along with Anne’s definition of technology as something “artfully crafted” or constructed. In addition to individual people constructing their own gender, as you mentioned, society as a whole might be responsible for constructing conceptions of gender — if we can say that society as a whole can “artfully construct” something. Why _does_ a woman wear the clothes she wears, and a man wear the clothes he wears? While a woman probably chooses this or that shirt because she personally likes it (and some people, as Baibh mentioned, are specifically choosing their clothing in order to _subvert_ constructed gender roles), she might also have a socially crafted image of “what women wear” — based on what her Mom used to wear, what her female peers wear, what women in TV/movies/media (technology…!) wear. And the clothing store itself is “artfully crafting” gender by separating the Women’s department and the Men’s department.

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