Tag Archives: technology

Notes on Wendy Mitchinson’s Body Failure: Medical Views of Women, 1900-1950. University of Toronto Press, 2013.

Mitchinson chronicles the history of how the male body was understood as normal and the female body was understood as abnormal, weak, prone to breakdown in the first half of the twentieth century in Canada. What follows are selected quotations and some contextualizing notes.

The first chapter on “Woman’s Place” takes up historical arguments based in medicine and health (and, implicitly, reproductive capacity and fertility) about women’s employment, eating habits, exercise, fashion. The author points out that female sexual organs are naturally better protected than male sexual organs, and yet physicians only seemed to express concern over female fertility in most of these areas.

“I see medicine as a bedrock of societal norms, sometimes in their creation and more often in their maintenance” (p. 8).

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Computers and Writing!

I’m SO excited for the 2015 Computers and Writing Conference. I’m presenting with some super-smart women (Angela Haas, Kristin Arola, Michelle Eble), and I’ll be talking about how aesthetics bridge cognition and sense perception (look u Anne Wysocki’s recent work for more on that) in medical contexts. Some questions I hope to raise include:

  • How do computer-based artifacts such as patient-accessible records or the sonogram image function aesthetically?
  • How does this process influence access to and understanding of  treatments?
  • How do such objects influence diagnoses and/or doctor-patient relationships? 
  • How might we intervene in these perceptions and invent new uses of computerized data to more effectively bridge the cognition and sensory work done by our bodies?


Reflecting on gamergate

I recently read an article in Bloomberg Businessweek that quoted Anita Sarkeesian’s male co-producer, Jonathan McIntosh, as saying, “In the video game industry right now, women don’t want to speak. There’s a real fear, and it really is silencing people.” I’d call McIntosh an ally, and I’m thankful for his work and his statements. But I also think it’s too bad that we have to have a quote from a male game producer/critic to validate what should already be obvious:* Women who dare to have a critical opinion about sex in the gaming world are in real, direct, physical danger. The above quote was buried deep in the article, long after a description of nasty, graphic threats against Sarkeesian (including the infamous threat of mass murder that caused her to cancel a talk at Utah State University), long after a discussion of how female game designer Zoe Quinn “fled her home in Boston and hasn’t been back in months” because of threats of violence. Yes, there’s a real fear. That’s because there’s real danger.

*To be clear, this is not a critique of the article, written by Sheelah Kolhatkar. Rather, it’s a cultural critique, and a testament to Kolhatkar’s understanding of what is required to persuade an audience.
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Digital Activism & Social Justice

From the Guest Editors of a recent special issue of Harlot:

“As Angela Haas has argued, the concept of digital refers as much to the work of the human hand as it does binary code. Even when digital tools enable activists to collaborate across great distances, the body remains a powerful force in the activist scene. After all, we must remember that the web is not and has not ever been a democratic, egalitarian space; power inequalities of sexuality, race, class, gender, ability, and nation persist—and are often reinforced—in online spaces.”

“[T]he body is one of the most important activist media that we have.”

Read the guest editors’ introduction to the special issue.

A Thousand Tiny Paper Cuts

A re-post: This fascinating NYT article, “Technology’s Man Problem,” discusses the systemic discrimination faced by women who enter the tech sector.

“Women who enter fields dominated by men often feel this way. They love the work and want to fit in. But then something happens — a slight or a major offense — and they suddenly feel like outsiders. The question for newcomers to a field has always been when to play along and when to push back.

A male-dominated subculture, I’d argue, isn’t necessarily an urgent problem. (At least no more than a female-dominated one is; both such cultures could certainly benefit from a greater diversity of perspective.) But a misogynist-dominated culture of any sort–that’s a terribly urgent problem. And that’s exactly what’s described in this article.

“‘It’s a thousand tiny paper cuts,’ is how Ashe Dryden, a programmer who now consults on increasing diversity in technology, described working in tech. ‘I’ve been a programmer for 13 years, and I’ve always been one of the only women and queer people in the room. I’ve been harassed, I’ve had people make suggestive comments to me, I’ve had people basically dismiss my expertise. I’ve gotten rape and death threats just for speaking out about this stuff.’”

I, for one, am thrilled that Dryden continues the courageous project of speaking out.