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2009 January 24
by Hannah Mueller

I’m a junior English major, Spanish minor at Bryn Mawr, and I’m taking this class because I found that I thought a lot in Anne Dalke’s “Emerging Genres” class last spring.   We talked about Gender and Technology, but not often simultaneously, so I’m interested to see all the connections between the two that we can come up with together.  One idea from Emerging Genres (and Methods of LIterary Study) that sticks with me as we begin this class is the idea of what is “natural”, especially in opposition to what is “technical”.  In my mind, the two aren’t black and white; there’s a continuum.  If human beings are naturally occuring, then shouldn’t we consider everything we make “natural”?  At what point do we make the distinction between technology and nature?  If we’re considering technology any kind of artifice, like we said in class, then as soon as we use our intelligence to put two things together in order to make them more useful, do we categorize our creation as technical as opposed to ourselves, who remain natural?   How do we talk about human conception, then?

If those questions made any sense, I think they’re also useful to ask about gender.  Is gender natural or artfully created?  If it’s natural, then it might be intrinsically part of us, but if it’s more ‘technological’, then we can categorize it away from ourselves and shape it any way we want.  The classes I’ve taken in the bi-co so far that have dealt with gender (and almost all of them have at some level) have convinced me that gender is a fiction or construct.  It’s not too much of a leap from there to call it a technology, if we want to.

I just got back from a semester abroad in Valparaiso, Chile.  It was a great experience, but one of the reasons I’m glad to be back is because classes like this don’t exist yet in societies like Chile’s, with deeply rooted machismo (male sexism).  It’s not that these discussions wouldn’t be allowed; the idea of “gender studies” just hasn’t caught on.   But interestingly, in the past 30 yearsor so, as Chile has quickly adapted to the world’s new technologies, I think the sexism has lessened as well.  In fact, Chile has a female president, and in the past 5 years finally passed a law making divorce legal.  So, another question I have is, How do people use technology to overcome gender divides?  Is there a link here?  In Emerging Genres, we talked about this question in a different way when we looked at how people take on “fake” identities on the internet.  The writer’s or gamer’s gender can be the same, opposite, or just different from their “real” one, or it can be a non-issue.  How do people use technology to change their own genders or fight the idea of gender?

3 Responses
  1. slutze permalink
    January 24, 2009

    I liked your question about when to stop considering technology as “natural.” I tend to think that all technology is natural; technology for me is sort of a new evolution that we’ve adopted to adapt ourselves to the environment. Since that means that we’re bucking an evolutionary system that’s been happening for millions of years,we’re suddenly faced with all kinds of new issues, especially around sex and gender. If we can modify the way we reproduce (from contraceptives to C-sections to eugenics), then that has all kinds of social and ethical implications. It has a tendency to hurt my head.

  2. January 24, 2009

    I can appreciate your comments about being an American woman in Latin America. While it is true that countries such as Chile have made strides, alas, a female president does not a feminist-friendly country make.

    Have you been following what is going on in Uruguay? Given your background in Spanish, I thought you might appreciate this article from El País (Montevideo):

    Wait: Children under 12 in Uruguay being able to change their names and their gender w/the okay of their parents? Wow. Not only could countries like Chile learn from something like this…so could we.



  3. Hannah Mueller permalink
    January 25, 2009

    I would have loved to have been there for that convo in the senate! Sounds like they discussed multiple issues that I don’t see being brought up anytime soon on the floor of our senate, but who knows?
    What a great law… it seems to put gender totally up to the individual, not to be defined by the physical sex characteristics as defined by the state. That’s kind of amazing in the light of what we read for class this week, which pointed out that in romance languages, Spanish in particular, the word género has no sexual connotation whatsoever–it’s just grammatical. The concept of gender as we know it in English doesn’t exist in Spanish. There’s just “sex” that distinguishes male from female, and that’s the word the article uses. But to pass that law, the Uruguayans seem to me to have a fuller/more accepting/better understanding of “gender” than we do in the US. I wonder how many children under 12 will take advantage of the law!

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