Riding the waves

Feminism is in flux these days.

As the waves lap at the shore, generational differences are crashing into one another and creating a lot of white water. I’m not old enough to remember the start of the second wave, but I am almost certain that there would have been conflict between first wavers who concentrated on the political and legal situation of women, and the next generation who explored the social and sexual. Not, of course, that these are necessarily in conflict: the legal framework of any group defines its social position, and indeed it was only at the start of the second wave that the Equal Pay act was introduced, and well into it before women got the right of independent taxation.

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Ada Lovelace Day: Donna Haraway

Today is Ada Lovelace day, a day to celebrate the achievements of women in Science, Engineering and Maths. As a former mathematician and a bit of a geek, I remember feeling both surprised and pleased when at eleven years old I discovered that the ADA computer language was named after the first computer scientist and that unusually she got the recognition that she deserved, in a time when so many women’s achievements were accredited to their male partners. For today I’d like to select Donna Haraway as a woman who has been inspiring to other women including myself to pursue aims and ambitions within the STEM area.

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Kill the Goddess and Birth the Cyborg

A cyborg is an odd creature, not entirely of woman born, but one which lives in the complex hybrid spaces between man and machine, a fictional creature with a lived social reality. Traditional conceptions of humanity rest with our primate origins, our connection with nature and our material existence; the cyborg however unites the man with the man-made, where human augmentation reaches beyond the traditional senses. Hearing is amplified through the use of the telephone; sight through televisuals and touch through haptic technologies. Identity and personhood extend beyond the embodied through the created and on into the ether.

It is in this world that contemporary womanhood is situated. Technology is not created in a vacuum, it is the dominant with access to resources – material and human – that drives technological development. Much of contemporary technology is developed for military and commercial purposes, for the exercise of domination, power and control whether physical or economic. Technological production enslaves Third World women, paid bobbins to produce expensive luxury consumer electronics for Western consumption; uneven technological distribution empowers the wealthy over the poor and technological consumption enslaves workers to their bases, ever on call in a virtual workplace.  Yet technology is subversive, once the genie is let out the bottle, it cannot be contained. Advances in technology, although originally developed to wield power, eventually seep to the masses.  Literacy, a highly prized skill, which required scarce and expensive resources in the middle ages was originally used to enhance the power of the Church, but eventually provided mass communication through the development of the printing press and the ballpoint pen. Many of the developments in audio-visual technology, such as the polaroid camera (first edition: “The Swinger”), cable television and streaming video were driven by the pornography industry, yet now provide citizen recording. So too with the rise of the internet – originally conceptualised by the US military as a means of maintaining information and survival in the event of a nuclear strike, today it operates as a mass communications device. In the West, mass technology is ubiquitous, although this is not yet the case in the developing world, the growth rate is phenomenal, with several steps of development skipped – why lay land lines in Africa when mobile phones require so much less infrastructure?

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