Panel: Gender and Technology
In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 megabytes: compressed Cyberfemmes are everywhere, but cyberfeminists are few and far between. Sex, danger, women and machines – the plot of every other futuristic, sci-fi movie in which women play any role they want. Adapted to reflect male high-tech fantasies, the influence/power which these women wield is evil, technological and, of course, seductive.
In her latest incarnation she is exceedingly voluptuous. The scalpel blades beneath her fashionably manicured nails are discreetly retractable. The arm twisted up behind her back is, at first glance, barely noticeable. Meet Molly in William Gibson’s novel Neuromancer, or Melanie Griffith in the film Cherry 2000 – sexy, tough, aloof, and ultimately a fantasy.
The power which these women wield is evil, technological and, of course, seductive. Any influence or control which they exert is clearly misguided or accidental. And, if they happen to be pre-menstrual, they may just blast you to hell and back. The powerful woman, bitch/ goddess, ice queen, android, is represented in popular culture as a 21st century Pandora. And the box which she holds this time is electronic and very definitely plugged in. Linking the erotic representation of women with the often terrible cultural impact of new electronic technologies is not a new concept. Cinema addressed the desire to anthropomorphize machines and vilify women in the process as early as 1927 in Fritz Lang’s cult classic Merropolis. Women as anti-technology neophytes is also an enduring theme. Sex, danger, women and machines: the plot of virtually every mainstream, futuristic, scifi movie in which women play any role at all. Cyberfemmes are everywhere, but cyberfeminists are few and far between. The deconstruction of feminism, the division of women according to geography and sexual or other politics, is as often selfinflicted as it is directed by the corporations and corresponding figureheads which oil the gears of mass media’s machinery. A response to the acceleration of technology and history. Our lives are careening very nearly out of our control With the pieces and parts scattered at our feet what can be salvaged from 20th century feminism? Through examining the relationship between women and technology, perhaps where science and fiction converge (in the new technological ethos of new electronic media and art) there may be an opportunity to reconstruct feminism. Post-gender, transgender – the possible parameters of a new philosophy.
- Nancy Paterson (Canada) is an independent artist working in the field of interactive new media. She has exhibited her interactive installations internationally at venues including SIGGRAPH 93 and has lectured at numerous symposiums, galleries and universities. She is an instructor at the Ontario College of Art and is Facilities Manager at Charles Street Video in Toronto (Canada).
Full text p.226-228