Gender and technology in the making
Being technologically competent is a badge of masculinity, while the ideal of femininity involves being 'hopeless with machines'. These are stereotypes however: What really happens? In this innovative book, which combines text and photographs, Cynthia Cockburn and Susan Ormrod demonstrate that the making of gender and technology are comparable social processes, one helping to shape the other. To illustrate their argument the authors take as an example the microwave oven - a recent innovation in domestic technology that neatly encapsulates the technology//gender relation. In the world of the microwave, masculine engineering encounters an age-old woman's technology: cooking. The authors follow the microwave's life trajectory from the design office to the factory and thence to the shops and the household. Examining the different jobs men and women do, the different kinds of knowledge they contribute and the unequal importance they are ascribed in the evolution of the microwave, this book shows how technology relations continue to disadvantage women. We see how the microwave begins as a state-of-the-art masculine technology, is translated in the retail trade into a 'family' commodity, one of a range of domestic white goods, and eventually settles into the kitchen alongside other humble feminine appliances. Unlike the old cooker, however, the microwave retains just a whiff of aftershave! Gender and Technology in the Making breaks new ground by building theory out of meticulous observation of lived relations - both comic and painful - between real men and women and the machines they make and sell, buy and use. It will be essential reading in the fields of sociology, technology studies and women's studies.
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