Tag Archives: gender

Femininity as a technology: some thoughts on hyperemployment



Does digital technology, especially insofar as it is masculinized or seen as gender-neutral (which are generally the same thing: mankind, postman, etc.), resignify the gendered stigma conventionally attached to care work, affective work, and other sorts of feminized work that never quite counts as “real” labor?


Have an Anti-Racist Halloween: Some Materials From Around The Web

Happy Halloween Week, everyone!! As much as I love free candy from strangers and the widespread creativity of costuming, Halloween inevitably brings with it a darker reality—and I’m not talking about monsters or ghouls. Unfortunately, Halloween becomes a showcase of Americans’ systemic racism, as displayed through ill-conceived racially fraught costume choices.

Below, I’ve compiled some nice resources to share with undergraduate students (or anyone, really) to facilitate discussions about and dissuasion from, the racist choices so many people make this time of year.

Keep in mind, the most effective form of anti-racist conversation is the one that happens *before* someone has a chance to engage in racist behavior. You get to avoid all of the messy defensiveness.

This list is far from exhaustive, but has some really useful material. Additional suggestions welcome in the comments section


The Apple Event


Confession: I watched the Apple event yesterday, and I’ve watched at least part of every product announcement for the last several years. Apple announcements are the opposite of a guilty pleasure; they are a burden that I take on with pride.  They are insipid and represent everything that is wrong with Silicon Valley and yet I feel obliged to watch them because they let me stare deeply into this heaving morass of Cronenbergian lust for technology. It always feels like we’re one year away from Phil Schiller offing himself with an iGun after screaming “LONG LIVE THE NEW FLESH!” When I watch Silicon Valley spread out on the Moscone Center stage I feel prideful (to a fault perhaps) that these events just seem so… transparent. They’re so easy to read and so easy to critique they amount to social science target practice. (more…)

Upgrading ‘consent’?

Screen Shot 2013-10-09 at 7.24.10 PM

On Cyborgology we’ve talked a lot about digital social media’s use for and implication in various forms of sexual assault; there’s David’s post the Steubenville rape case, Whitney’s post on sexts and online bullying, and PJ’s post on rape culture and photography at Burning Man. In a press release about a bill before New York state legislature, law professor Mary Anne Franks uses the term “virtual sexual assault” to describe the posting of a sexually explicit image of someone without the subject’s consent. Now, I know this may shock some of you, but I’m not going to problematize the “virtual” part of that phrase–I’m taking that problematization as a given (just go read the above-linked posts). Instead, I want to problematize the concept of consent. I think it might need an upgrade.

Following feminist political theorists’ and philosophers’ critiques of the language of “consent,” I want to raise the question: Is “consent” really the most accurate, most productive lens through which to understand and address “virtual sexual assault”? Using some feminist political theory, I want to suggest that “consent” is ultimately a counterproductive tool in combatting sexual assault perpetrated on/via digital media (I know that’s a clunkier phrase, but it’s more accurate than “virtual”). Because the concept of consent is tied to a specific notion of property–private property–it isn’t easily translatable to digital ‘property’ (I talked about this a little last week). So, consent might not be able to address the so-called “virtual” or digitally-mediated aspects of this type of sexual assault. But, it’s also not particularly helpful in addressing regular-old meatspace sexual assault. As Carole Pateman famously argues, “consent” was never designed for women to exercise. It may well be one of those “master’s tools” that will always, no matter who uses it and with what intention, prop up the master’s house.


Digital Property & The Virgin/Whore Dichotomy

Nowadays we want our girls to be fun.

Jenny, Whitney, and I were talking on Twitter about Jenny’s recent post on the gender politics of a Microsoft Windows 8 Surface TV advertisement. I want to recap that conversation because it sets up some interesting questions about the relationship between contemporary gender politics and contemporary technology: If Jenny’s post described the gendering of technological devices, how do these attitudes toward technology in turn inform our judgments of human women? How do gendered evaluations of digital media frame our attitudes toward women, especially insofar as women use and are represented in digital media?


Do You Still Think I’m Pretty?



From an augmented perspective, technologies both reflect and affect social structures and hierarchical relations. It is perhaps no surprise, then, that theorists of science and technology have long recognized how technologies are gendered. This goes beyond probing technologies of female reproduction, or masculine tools of object manipulation. This pervades even those seemingly gender neutral technological objects, and the ways in which we talk about, use, and make sense of them.

Awhile back, I talked about the gendering of Siri. I argued that the female voice, coupled with her designation as a “personal assistant” created an environment ripe for highly sexist/sexualized personification of the iphone application, and iphones themselves.  Far from Haraway’s utopic de-categorization, this melding of mechanical and organic solidified gendered meanings and strengthened interactional gender inequalities.

With this understanding, I still couldn’t contain my exasperated eye-roll when, after hooking up television in my home for the first time in almost a decade, I saw this (video after the jump): (more…)

The Introvert Fetish

I LOVE this. [Image credit: Schroeder Jones]

I LOVE this. [Image credit: Schroeder Jones]

Sometime during the spring of my seventh grade year, one of my best friends came to school with a book she’d pulled from her parents’ shelves called Please Understand Me: Character & Temperament Types. It had a long questionnaire in it that, after you answered all the A/B multiple-choice questions, sorted you across four different binaries (and thereby into one of 16 possible personality types). I forget whether it was after school or during a class (ooops), but she and I and another good friend eagerly took turns jotting down answers in our notebooks[i] and tabulating our scores.

We were three awkward, shy, 13-year-old girls; we were not, by any stretch of the imagination, “popular.” Surreptitiously read women’s magazines had taught us to seek self-knowledge through multiple-choice questions, while standardized tests had trained us to endure answering many multiple-choice questions in a row. The book’s subject matter promised to help us sort out everything that had perplexed us about interacting with others, and the title alone resonated with particular force. (more…)

Trolling Is the New Love & Theft

Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop” have been two of the most controversial songs/videos in the last few years, so it’s not surprising that they performed together at this weekend’s 2013 VMAs. Thicke’s work has been widely criticized for its sexism, and Cyrus’s for its racism (Unsurprisingly, not nearly as much has been said in the white mainstream music/feminist media about Thicke’s cultural appropriation on BL…which is also going on, and also needs to be addressed.)

Is sexism-bating and racism-bating the new way for white artists to prove their edginess? In our supposedly post-feminist, post-racist society, is overt misogyny and racist cultural appropriation the new way to accomplish the sort of shocking “avant-garde” effect that used to be accomplished by more subtle means? Instead of “love and theft,” well, for lack of a better word, trolling? Instead of positively identifying with femininity and/or blackness (the “love” part of the equation), there’s just a pragmatic instrumentalization of them (no love, just the hustle)? (more…)

A Few Questions About Sexting and Race

Jenny’s latest post on teen sexting, especially with its Salt-N-Peppa-referencing title, had me thinking about music, teen sexuality, race, and technology. These fears about newfangled technologies (and their means of distribution) corrupting (white) teen sexuality remind me of various mid-20th century (white) anxieties about (white) teen sexuality and rock music, and its circulation as records, radio broadcast, and TV performance. And notice all the repetitions of “white” in that last sentence. Race–specifically, blackness–was at the center of these anxieties. Back then, emerging technologies (recordings, radio, TV) could circulate racialized sounds, ideas, and affects in ways that confounded the institutions and informal practices that enforced a strict segregation between white and black bodies, white and black people. New technologies undermined older, segregationist technologies (like segregated theaters or clubs). So, these anxieties about media technology and teen sexuality were deeply and fundamentally racialized. John Waters’s original 1988 Hairspray does a brilliant job of connecting mid-century anxieties about racialized teen sexuality to specific technologies (i.e., records and television).


“Track Me, Baby”

iGibbs on deviantARmage credit: Elini

Image credit: EliniGibbs on deviantART

Once upon a time, when I was somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 or 12 years old, it was my job to go with my mom to the laundromat to help do my family’s laundry. I wasn’t a huge fan of this—the nearest laundromat was kind of sketchy, to this day I remain mediocre at folding t-shirts, and there’s just something a little uncomfortable about having to fold your parents’ and brother’s underwear—but there was one thing I really liked about those trips, and that was the 20 minute lull in between when the last load went into a washer and the first load demanded sorting and partial transfer to a dryer. During that downtime, my mom would read her book, and I was free to do whatever I wanted. Invariably, I sat at a little folding station and, sheltered from view by washing machines on three sides, pretended to do my homework while reading from the laundromat’s stack of “trashy” magazines.

With rapt attention and furtive glances over my shoulder, I read ALL the sex tips (in Cosmo and in other such fine publications). I studiously absorbed articles that subtly (and not-so-subtly) encouraged me to feel insecure about body parts and features that I didn’t even have yet. I was also a huge fan of Ladies’ Home Journal’s “Can This Marriage Be Saved,” even though I was already developing opinions that sometimes clashed with those of whoever was doling out advice to unhappy wives.

Somewhere in all that secretive studying was when I first read about (what I think of as) The Marble Thing.  (more…)