Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Pointing out the gendered electronic environment, this week’s readings emphasize the power of technology to heighten and possibly mitigate existing ideologies and cultural binaries. Laura Sullivan’s “Cyberbabes” reviews influential feminist theories that explore and reveal the objectification of the female image and websites that invite men (and women) to participate in this process. Her own experience with the “long hair” website demonstrates that the social construction of gendered identities and roles continues unabated if not assisted by the internet, which should come as no surprise, but the details of appropriating images opened my eyes to the different e-encounters gender enjoins. The gender gap is not only in the number of users, but in the different way that men and women use and are used by the Internet. The “gap” is still there (check out this Pew Study from 2005 ), but it continues to be viewed as a numbers contest and not a description of systemically enforced gender identities as such.

I was moved by Sullivan’s desire to communicate with her male audience, in spite of the difficulties and frustrations, and I found her conclusions about the need to contextualize “a materialist view of technology” in the classroom compelling. Helping students to realize the potential pitfalls of identity formation can offer a platform to discuss long-standing and newly emerging sexism on the Web.

Hawisher and Sullivan propose that maybe with more women internet users, the nature of the Web can change, but it does not seem to be case. The Web, like the universe, expands outward, so this means sexism and counter-sexism will exists side by side. New liberatory (Check this Women's Resource's page out) and sexism as usual will proliferate, but unfortunately, I don't see the kind of reaching out and changing from the inside that Laura Sullivan seems to point to.

1 comment:

kristin said...

"Helping students to realize the potential pitfalls of identity formation can offer a platform to discuss long-standing and newly emerging sexism on the Web."

It's funny, I looooved these articles when I was in grad school but going back to them again left me feeling a little flat. I think, in a lot of ways, I now think "ok, yep, sexism exists on the web--I know it, they know it, but what are we going to do about it? And do students even think it's a problem?" Generally, I find students don't think it is a problem, which is always mystifying to me but maybe in their world it isn't...I just don't know.

I think, moreso, what troubles me a bit with my teaching is trying to figure out to what degree it's my job to get students questioning and considering social inequities. Clearly I don't want to ignore them, but I'm never sure where my responsibilities lie.

What I DO know though is that when I ask students to engage with technology for class that I need to pay attention to the ways in which sexism/racism/classism/homophobia all manifest themselves within and through these spaces. I can't embrace technology as clean slate from which to teach, it comes entangled with the shit of the everyday.