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Gendered Technology

Kalyn Schofield

Gender & Technology

March 6, 2009

Laura Blankenship

 Gendered Technology


Societies around the world all claim in some manner or another that there are differences between the female and male sex. In this way, this gives all societies a varied degree of gendered inequality. One of these cultural cliché’s is especially prominent within society.  The long held cultural association between masculinity and technology. “It operates not only as a popular assumption from which much sexist humor about women’s ‘technical incompetence’ has been generated – but also as an academic ‘truth.’ Some analysts see it as biological in origin, others as social, but there are few who seek explicitly to challenge the idea that technology and masculinity go together”(Gill & Grint, 3). The idea of science giving people a supposed rational line of thinking, makes many people pass on the idea of technology being originally a male trait. Society then creates the association between masculinity and technology because of scientific findings which eventually become culture norms passed on to generations.

          The link between masculinity and technology comes through biological science as a perceived truth often in the same way people rely on the traditions of religion. “Biological explanations have the ring of “true” science to them. Because their theories are based on “objective scientific facts,” the arguments of natural scientists are extraordinarily persuasive” (Kimmel, 19). From social Darwinism, sociobiology, and evolutionary theories scientists everywhere have slowly provided research that makes it acceptable to understand that males and females are born different. In this way certain things in society were slowly associated with being “male only” such as technology. “To talk about women and technology in the same breath seems strange, even incongruous. Technology is powerful, remote, incomprehensible, inhuman, scientific, expensive and above all male. What does it have to do with women”(Grill & Grint[1], 3 ). Such a strong statement was made by someone with no previous biological background in science. Instead the idea of females being separated from technology became common knowledge. This happened as the ideas of scientific theories regarding gender were thought to hold the key in knowing any biological differences between males and females. The norm of what gender was associated with technology became set in place because of biological links made through science. In turn science made it acceptable for people to have these views without further questioning. Such scientific evidence spread and slowly became a universal truth for many.

          Science stated the biological nature of a male automatically deems him both competent and predisposition within the realm of technology. Working with this concept means each sex is supposedly biologically programmed with specific preferences to fulfill individual gendered tasks. With this idea in mind, the culture emphasizes a man’s relationship between technologies just as women are naturally linked with child rearing. “Biological models assume that biological sex determines gender, that innate biological differences lead to behavioral differences, which in turn lead to social arrangements”(Kimmel, 54). These social arrangements define a culture making it acceptable for all technology to be gendered male.

          As gender is preformed the act of using technology becomes a given male characteristic, which is reinforced through the lack of female participation. “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 plumping or a sewing machine while a woman watches, a communication about her helplessness and inferiority is made”(Gill & Grint, 11). In this way females are ostracized by technology on two levels. In the first way they are not expected to use technology which leads them to stay away from it. Two, 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.

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. “The effect of male control of technology and women’s exclusion and alienation from it is that the technologies produced for use by women may be highly inappropriate to women’s needs, and even pernicious as well as embodying male ideologies of how women should live” ([2]Gill & Grint pg 10). This extension of male power in the form of technology dictates the direction of technology in the future. With males all ready 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. The video game industry today still caters to a predominately male population. This is because video games have been historical associated with males. Men both play and create most of the video games with the industry.

All though unclear at first the entire construction of society is directly affected by the idea of a “gendered technology.” The technology of separate work with “women’s work” such as housekeeping, cooking, and caring for children is present even today.  “In western countries images of ideal masculinity are constructed and promoted through competitive sport” (Connell, 1987: 85). Also, the technology of education provides stereotypical teachings on what males and females can and can not do. Males are portrayed at being good at physical sports with women being good at health. The idea is that various technologies are being gendered everywhere even if the technologies are similar in their usage. 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 ideas of science have determined the direction society thinks about biology. In turn this creation of male and female biological differences leads to standard cultural norms which impact a person’s life. Men are pushed in one direction and females in another regardless of their individual skills. Society wants technology to be a masculine area. “We can learn from the discursive contradictions and fluidities of a falsely homogenized and universalized ‘masculinity’ (Segal, 2007: xxxi). Even in modern times today we still see the effects of people who step to boldly outside what is considered natural. Until we acknowledge that it is not biology but an individual’s own doing which dictates their success we will continue, as a society, to create distinct gender divisions.











Works Cited

Connell, R.W. (1987) Gender and Power, Cambridge: Polity Press.

Grint, Keith, and Rosalind Gill. The Gender-Technology Relation: Contemporary Theory And Research An Introduction (Gender Change and Society). 1st ed. Dallas: Taylor & Francis, 1995.

Kimmel, Michael S. The Gendered Society. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford UP, USA, 2007.

Segal, Lynne. Slow Motion: Changing Masculinities Changing Men. Rutgers UP, 1990.

[1] A quote taken from Faulkner and Arnold, 1985, p. 1 located within Grill & Grint on page 3.

[2] A quote taken from Karpf, 1987, pg 159 located within Grill & Grint on page 10.


One Response
  1. March 24, 2009

    Although it seems tangential right now, the paragraph about the division between different types of technology along gender lines is interesting to me. I think you could actually make a whole paper out of that, showing how supposed biological criteria (women are the caretakers) leads them to certain kinds of technologies, i.e. minivans. That, to me, would be more interesting than trying to solve the issue of how social norms derive from biology or not.

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