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Long overdue thoughts

2009 February 1
by ZY

I know we’re starting to talk about cosmetic surgery, but I didn’t get a chance to blog earlier about some of the stuff we talked about in class this past week. First of all, the image I chose to connect gender and technology was the depiction of female characters in video games. I found an article that talked about the disconnect between women and video games. Sheri Graner Ray, a game designer, argues that “most video games are like bad boyfriends- they’re too involved with their own male sexuality to even try to crack the female sexual code” and goes on to describe the typical female character displaying physically traits humans get when they’re ready for sex: partially open mouths with large red lips and heavy eyelids (“bedroom eyes”). Female characters are also dressed in sexually explicit clothing and placed in sexual poses, whereas male characters aren’t. The best image I could think of was an image of Lara Croft from Tomb Raider:

Another interesting image I came across, which I had never thought about before was the logo for Volvo. Many people don’t notice that figure surrounding the world “volvo” is also the male symbol. According to a history of the Volvo logo from The Volvo Owners Club, the symbol is the ancient chemical symbol for iron. It was used because it symbolized the Roman god of warfare, Mars, and the masculine gender. An early relationship was established between the Mars symbol and iron, from which most weapons were made. It has since become the symbol of the iron industry, symbolizing strength, safety, quality and durability.

From the article we read by Halberstam, something that stuck out to me was the concern with “the replacement of organic memory by an artificial substitute” and the fear that humans and machines will “slur/blur ever into one another, humans becoming more cold, the machines acquiring more soul.” It’s also interesting that people have been mentioning the NY Times article, “What Women Want” because I am about to give an hour long presentation in my neural behavioral sciences seminar on Tuesday about the genetics of sociality. Although genetic manipulation and biological technology isn’t often thought about as being machines… it’s extremely relevant. Basically, two neuropeptides, oxytocin and vasopressin, have been shown to be responsible for monogamous pair-bonding (or “love”) in prairie voles. By injecting the voles with these neuropeptides, researchers can artificially create a long-lasting monogamous pair-bonds. And the same thing has been shown in non-monogamous vole species. So of course, we want to know whether the same physiological mechanisms can be seen and manipulated in humans. Although, there is no hard evidence yet, the two neuropeptides are undoubtedly involved in various aspects of human sexual arousal. Another study was able to see a correlation between the encoding genes for the neuropeptides, and human partner bonding, perceived marital problems, and marital status. The fear is that there will soon be a “love potion” that can be slipped into someone’s drink to make them fall in love with the next person they see… Personally, it’s a horrifying thought that technology might be able to manipulate human emotion.

One Response
  1. Solomon Lutze permalink
    February 1, 2009

    You’re right, that’s really scary. Imagine a drug that wouldn’t just be an aphrodisiac, but would actually make you fall in LOVE. The idea of being able to affect emotions that much is pretty creepy.

    I liked the point about video games – that’s a fantastic quote. It’s always really interesting to me thinking about gender and video games. The character I always think of is Samus, from the Metroid series. In the first game, players are presented with a character in a metal suit with a big gun. They are told that Samus is a mysterious person – some say he trained with aliens, some say he’s a robot, etc. – and little else. But beat the game within a certain time limit and surprise! Samus is revealed to be a woman. I’ve never known exactly what to make of that. It’s interesting that this fact is hidden from view, as though it’s not significant for the sake of the game, but then revealing it at the end dramatically makes it seem MORE significant. Past that, she HAS been seen pretty sexually in recent games; even though she’s clearly tough as nails, she’s also very pretty and has the typical ridiculous female-video-game-character figure. So is she too sexy at times? When she isn’t, is gender removed from her entirely? I suppose that’s always the question: how do you approach femininity fairly, without oversexualizing it or removing the gender distinction altogether?

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