The next day, I was called into a formal meeting with
representatives of the granting agency. I was in big trouble. I was a "public
relations disaster." The agency was "considering taking the grant away." Wow!
Never in my professional life had I heard of a grant explicitly
withdrawn for reasons of PR value. Stunned, I stammered an explanation for my
conduct pointing to the university's non-discrimination policy, and my
obligation to "educate." Finally I found myself crying - big salty and very
embarrassing tears. It proved a persuasive gender display. I was given a second
chance. But for what?
The above experience manifests
many of the major elements of women's relation to new technologies. Women live,
paradoxically, in a state of intimate connection with the technologies of
re/production and yet are represented as perennially inadequate: groping
towards and never reaching competence, technophobic and Luddite. As Cynthia
Cockburn, Carolyn Marvin, Ursula Franklin and other feminist sociologists of
science have argued, conceptions of gender identity and notions of
technological competence are co-constructed and inter-dependent. Boys and men
are typically represented as embodying an unproblematic and agentic relation to
tools. Femininity eschews tool use, and yet is enacted by the skilled use of
domestic technologies: sewing machines, washing machines, vacuums. These tools
are no less complex than cellular phones or computers and yet to be able to use
them is to embody a gendered identity as technologically inept.
Women have always had access to technologies, whether
reproductive, domestic, industrial, or educational. However, a historical
overview of the relationships between women and technologies suggests three
tentative conclusions, all of which provide acute cause for concern and
systematic inquiry into issues of en/gendered in/equities (1):
- Women are usually involved in the development and/or early
uses of technologies, then squeezed out as "expertise" coalesces around male
expertise, and attendant social relations and practices are redistributed
- The kinds of technologies made readily accessible to women
(like the "Fabulous Mark Eden Bust Developer," the Wang Word Processor or the
Dalkon Shield) tend to reify and produce gender effects-effects which
consolidate already inequitable class and race positionings. "Power tools"
(laptops, cellular phones, automobiles) are targeted to men (3).
- As well as consolidating inequitable divisions of labor, new
technologies often increase the subjection of women to surveillance, chemical
and physical damages, and other regulatory and extraordinarily destructive and
Sexing the Texts of Educational Technologies
strategy for unpacking the complex relations between gender, in/equity, and
tools is to analyze critically the conceptualization of "gender" in
contemporary discussions of "equity." For the purposes of the analysis
presented here, we restrict ourselves to recent articles from the domain of
education. First, we consider a "positivistic" conception of gender as
equivalent with biological sex; second, a constructivist conception of gender
as socially produced and sustained; third, a critical conception of gender as
the ideological product of a repressively patriarchal hegemony; and fourth, a
"postmodern" conception of gender as a non-cohesive, open-textured "pastiche"
of characteristics, aptitudes and dispositions whose ongoing construction and
reconstruction it is a central task of feminist praxis to enable and encourage.
We argue that accounts of equity and technologies reflect
differently ordered sets of assumptions about the nature of knowledge and
sexual difference, the purposes of schooling, and about the scope - and the
limits of - technologies in the classroom. In selecting texts for this
analysis, we chose those that are frequently cited and within which the
author/s explicitly commit themselves to engaging seriously with the goal of
creating equitable technological environments for female students and