Is Technology Male?

How the Differences in Technology are Hidden by the Differences of Sex

We live in a world where access to technology translates to social power, Internet access is a human right defended by the United Nations, and mechanized imaginary is the norm for anyone with a cell phone.

We’re taught that technology leads to development, and through this development we have more control of surveillance and can interact with our lived realities through computer-aided perceptions. Technology and its value within capitalistic cultures have transformed human social connections so drastically that when the technological field has an improvement, there is a cultural assumption that as a human race, we have also progressed with it.

As a career field, technology is informed by social standards of women not being mentally capable of creating due to her responsibilities as a mother, sister, daughter, etc. This allowed for technological spaces to be gendered male and more accessible to males, socially reinforcing the idea that because of differences in sex, technological companies should not prioritize diversifying their employees by hiring more women. Understanding gender and its relationship to technology is a product of dominant cultural discourses, and the underlying master narrative that uses biology, medicine, law, and philosophy to support sexual difference as a social norm. Using the logic of UC Santa Cruz professor, Teresa de Lauretis, who analyzes the social impacts of understanding gender as sexual difference, she demonstrates the way this reasoning stops potential to conceive of the social subject, in this case women, in relation to sociality around technology because it has become so easily culturally associated with maleness.

The “Google Manifesto” was direct proof that most members of the tech industry use social norms to foster an sexist tone when understanding human roles in relation to technology as a male-engineer wrote a 10-page memo to express sexist thoughts like ‘women have different sized brains,’ ‘women have lower stress tolerance,’ or ‘women work better with people, men with things,’ all reasons of which he cites as “cold scientific facts.” And even depsite being fired, he still became a martyr for all sexist brogrammers alike.

So what does this say about the way we interact and use technology?

As a cultural concept that has been gendered male, technology is also deemed as being interwoven with profit, and for that reason has limited the purpose, access, and avaliablity of tech on a global level. Vision has become industrialized and relies not just on the creative nature of male programmers, but also on the resources of countries and communities that through capital, are sponged up for their resources all in the name of development.

It is these facts that provide structural support for the male gendering of technology and have forced the feminizing of technology to adapt in ways that deem it invisible to the a world driven by capital. I’m thinking specifically about virtual communities on Twitter that, in times such as the hurricane in Texas, have provided a technological space that’s main concern is using the social power of Twitter as a means of help, education, and outreach. It’s the tiny glimpses of feminist moments within technology that allow for the deconstruction of our culture and how it values technology more than it values women and their roles as creators of the human race.