Gender Identity Representation in Technology

Continuing from last week’s talk about identity in games, I wanted to talk this week about how technology and gender expression work together.  Technology is often male built and male oriented.  This can be seen in such diverse places as the plans for low-income housing or the design of an airplane.  A lot of this stems from the exclusion of women from the development of new technological platforms. 


I particularly like the term “brogrammer” when it comes to the male dominated profession of computer programmer.  One paper noted that the programming field expects workers to devote themselves entirely to being constantly available to overtime work, which conflicts with societal expectations of women to be family oriented to keep women out of the profession.

Another metaphor that’s interesting is the idea of gender and technology as a personal house, which can be customized and decorated with a user’s personal identity in order to better fit into society as a whole.  One of the more interesting recent examples is the change earlier this year featuring more fluid spectrums of gender and sexuality as self-identification options in Facebook.  One queer blogger said that in many ways, technology opening a dialogue is more important than the actual outcome.  What’s important is visibility, but the same blogger also says that the identity as a human being should outshine things like gender, which is a healthy attitude to take, considering the cultural and emotional baggage that gender carries with it.

As male-centric as technology is, it can be even more unwelcoming to GLBT people.  The fact of the matter is that though women may be systematically excluded; there is no shame in and of itself of being one.  GLBT, however, carries many social stigmas with those categories, which may vary by culture from being mildly unusual to being marked for public execution. 

I talked last week about role-playing.  Online identities play into the role of the persona – a constructed social image geared for a specific purpose.   Cross-play, in games, doesn’t erase gender, but adds another layer.  The player and their character or persona in a technological world merge together to become a male playing a male, or a female playing a neutral gendered entity.  Technology doesn’t erase the base gender of the person using it, but adds another world on top of the real world that adds another gender.  It’s sort of like Augmented Reality – it doesn’t replace one world, merely adds another upon it.  For instance, a man playing a female character will act much more sexually promiscuous than a female playing male because men are trained to see women as objects of sexual desire.  Male characters are instantly accepted as male players, while female personae are often treated with an air of suspicion.

All of this confirms my conclusion last week that technology cannot superseed the expectations society places on gender, but merely adds another layer on top of it.


Women Walking through Plans: Technology, Democracy, and Gender Identity
Author(s): Wiebe E. Bijker and Karin BijsterveldSource: Technology and Culture, Vol. 41, No. 3 (Jul., 2000), pp. 485-515Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press and the Society for the History of TechnologyStable URL:


Author(s):Hamid Nach (Student)

Ontario Albert Lejeune
École des Sciences de la Gestion

Université du Québec à Montréal

Gender Identity, the Culture of Organizations, and

Women’s IT Careers

Wendy R. Carroll

Acadia University, Canada

Albert J. Mills

Saint Marys University, Canada–gender_differences.pdf


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s