October 1, 2014

“Technology shapes gender, gender shapes technology”, Judith McGaw

It is common knowledge that technology is considered a masculine concept. Within Western culture we associate technology with things such as gadgets, cars, computers and electronics, all of which have become male saturated industries. In Judith McGaw’s piece titled ‘Why Feminist Technology Matters’, the concept of technology and what it encompasses is however broadened to all material/engineered things. Within this piece it is clearly highlighted that technology can and does shape gender, just as gender influences the development, production and use of technology.

These ideas led me to consider the dichotomy of socialised gender binaries, and how these relate to the architectural world. Historically architecture was a strictly male profession, yet in the modern world it is becoming more and more saturated by women. Why is this? Is it because architecture has shifted from being a mathematical and scientific profession and moved towards being an arty endeavour? It is no secret that men have historically been considered to be better at maths and science, which in turn has greatly affected the gender balance in industries such as engineering. So is it fair to assume that the removal of engineering from the role of the architect paved the way for the female architect (according to the social constructs of gender binaries)? Is this an example of technology influencing gender?

When considering how closely related civil engineering, construction and architecture are, why are the former two still male dominated professions? Civil engineering and the construction industry are associated with science, maths and strength, whereas architecture is now associated with design, art and people. To be a great architect one must understand the clients wants, be empathetic to their needs, and able to win over trust. These are skills that are commonly associated with a women’s ‘nurturing’ nature, and are clues that these binaries continue to be reinforced even today.

Emma Crea


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  1. elsajannborg Says:

    You wrote “Historically architecture was a strictly male profession” but in many ways architecture is still a strictly male profession.

    In America, there are about as many women as men who begin studies of architecture, but there are far fewer women than men left in the fifth year of architect studies and it is far fewer women in positions of power in architecture. One can read more about this in Lori Brown, ‘Introduction’ Lori Brown, ed., Feminist Practices: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Women in Architecture, London: Ashgate, 2011. (the text can be find under readings, Meeting 03 9 October ALTERING PRACTICES)


  2. danvansch Says:

    At first thought technology, more specifically the ‘high tech’ (e.g. cars, buildings, robots, computers) is typically defined as a male obsession or passion but this imbalance has been diluted over time and I hope that it continues to do so.

    When first reading your post I was reminded of a recent movement in the ‘gaming industry’ that centered on sexism and the potential for video games to promote chauvinism (which I do not dispute). The claim was further backed by a study by the ‘Entertain Software Association’ that found that most video game players were now adult women. The report led to allegations that the gaming industry was behind the times, as it placed mainly men as the (normally violent) main characters in their most popular games. However, It was later found that this study was a manipulation of the truth.(1)

    Its accurate that the percentage of females who play video games has risen and more consideration needs to be taken to equalize the use of females as main characters in the top labels. So I do not disagree with the movement, my only issue is that this manipulation of the truth caused rifts within society and lead to demonstrations of un-necessary hate and anger. It triggered many to look at male gamers as bigots, when in reality most just play games for fun and do have the ability to separate the virtual violence from reality.

    In saying that though, extremes can lead to compromise; the fabricated report has brought the issue to light and definitely stirred up some change (evident in the conversations that saturate gaming blogs all over the Internet). Nevertheless, could the same result be achieved without causing a fracture between male and female gamers and generalizing male players as bigots? Maybe, Maybe not…?


    (1) “Are video games sexist?,”, Accessed 8 Oct, 2014.

    – The study considered anyone who played any type of computer game including apps and mobile games. It did not take into account the distinction between casual or ‘hardcore gamers’ and this meant the report was completely saturated with anybody who played a “video game” at any stage of their life.

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