Yesterday in class we discussed how technologies inhere particular power relationships through assuming certain gendered patterns of use, design, development, and deployment. Although we focused on the “male birth control pill” it was clear that the issues we were discussing about what makes a particular technology “male” or “female” were more complex.
We also talked about how this idea of the “maleness” or “femaleness” of a technology might have broader reach: the reason that the “male birth control pill” was seen as such was because the technology assumed a set of gender relations in which male users would have the power to control contraception. These ideas about what makes a technology more for men, or more for women, carry over into other usage cases, but in ways that are often subtle and harder to see. The idea of gendering technologies as a shorthand for describing the gendered power relationships they contain (at least in the eyes of the public) has broader reach, and impacts our understanding of more technologies than those that are just for contraception.
In a post of no more than 500 words and no fewer than 300, I would like you to discuss another technology that assumes–or has “designed-in”–a particular set of gendered power relationships. Explain your answer in relation to the concepts we’ve covered so far in class, and be sure to think about the idea of heterogenous engineering and the different meanings of “testing” when you’re thinking about what constitutes a “designed-in” set of relationships. (In other words, design doesn’t necessarily begin and end in the lab.) Your answer will need to be attentive to cultural and historical context; the gendered assumptions and power relations that you’re locating aren’t going to be universal or static. Take some time to think about other technologies we’ve discussed in class if you’re unsure of how to answer this.
Comments are due by 11am Friday as noted on your syllabus. I’ll approve the best comments later that day. Please return to the blog to take a look at your classmates’ responses and comment on 1 or 2 of them before class on Tuesday.