Feminist Perspectives on Technology Bethany Sprung Amy Rose
From Science to Technology • Traditional Model: • Technology as applied science • Science discovers – creative • Technology applies – uncreative • Current Model: • Technology and science as separate entities in a working relationship • Both are creative and imaginative processes
From Science to Technology • Feminist Perspective: alternative perspective on technology • More recent • Less theoretically developed “A key issue here is whether the problem lies in men’s domination of technology or whether the technology is in some sense inherently patriarchal” (Wajcman)
Hidden From History • Absence of women’s contributions • Denied access to education conducive to the inventor-entrepreneur • Technology’s connection with mathematics and mechanics • Encouraged to study fine arts • Traditional roles of women • Household tasks (embroidery, cooking, etc.) • Denied access to the workplace or control of personal finances Who was given credit for their contributions?
Hidden From History • Women were among the first technologists • Main gatherers, processors and stores of plant food • Digging stick, carrying sling, reaping knife and sickle, pestles, pounders • Women’s achievements in agriculture technology • Hoe, scratch plow, grafting, hand pollination, early irrigation • “The indices to the standard histories of technology … do not contain a single reference, for example, to such a significant cultural artifact as the baby bottle. Here is a simple implement… which has transformed a fundamental human experience for vast numbers of infants and mothers, and been one of the more controversial exports of Western technology to underdeveloped countries – yet it finds no place in our histories of technology” (Cowan, 1979)
Technology Based on Women’s Values • Western technology based on patriarchal values • Technology seen as symbolically masculine • Power, dominance, and control over women and nature
Female Values Intuition Subjectivity Tenacity Compassion Work withnature Male Values Power Domination Strength Violence Conquest of nature Technology Based on Women’s Values Why are these values associated with each gender? Is it appropriate to designate these values? Should technology be based more on women’s values? Why?
Technology and the Division of Labor • Capitalism • Male dominance of skilled trade • Industrial Revolution • “This gender division of labor within the factory meant that machinery was designed by men with men in mind, either by the capitalist inventor or by skilled craftsmen” (Wajcman) • Masculine culture of technology • In the past women have lacked experience of formal technical knowledge • Inventions are a function of time, place and resources
Questions for Discussion • If technical competence is an integral part of masculine gender identity, why should women be expected to aspire to it? • How do we avoid the tautology that “technology is masculine because men do it”? • Why is women’s work undervalued? • Can technology be reconstructed around women’s interests?