Editorial – Techno-gender

Most of the time, I tend to agree with the opinions my writers have. That’s generally what happens when you’ve got a bunch of university-educated people trying to write smart, well-researched articles. There’s not often a lot that can be objected to, but this week is a bit different. If you take a look at Primal Numbers this week, S.D. Livingston takes a look at the issue of sexism in technology, and (spoiler alert) concludes that although societies may be sexist, the technologies they develop generally aren’t, and are getting even less so.

I tend to disagree. Not in that our technology generally isn’t sexist by nature, most of it probably isn’t. But I disagree that that’s the default assumption we should have. Consider the example of the smart phone, which Livingston does. While it would appear that the smart phone is not a sexist device at all, the design of the standard touch-screen can make it difficult to use in a precise fashion if you have long nails.

Also consider the size and design of such technologies as laptops and iPads. While newer models are smaller, original models, although perfectly suitable for carrying in a briefcase or backpack, were generally slightly too large to fit securely into most ladies hand-bags. Of course, this doesn’t mean that these products were made sexist on purpose, but rather by the simple lack of considering the differences between genders, and the almost exclusively male designers creating these products for how they would use them.

Part of the problem with this subject is that so many assume if you’re declaring something sexist, you’re declaring those who created it to be purposely chauvinistic or anti-female, but I don’t think there’s any need to go there. Sexism doesn’t have to be intentional. I’d go so far to suggest that most times, it’s not, it’s just people blindly not thinking beyond themselves. But the idea of sexism, unintentional or not, in technology is important, because as our society brings technology into every aspect of our lives, the unquestioned assumptions that product designers, and all people have really, that they aren’t sexist could lead to the development of various technologies that unintentionally make life a lot harder than it has to be for around half our population.

The moral of the story, to my mind, is that whenever you’re making something, ask yourself, “Is this sexist, somehow?” Asking that question of yourself isn’t saying that you’re a sexist person, just that you’re a person who has probably only experienced a single gender, so is there anything about your creation that might not work for people who aren’t the same gender as you? Doing so not only keeps us aware of unintentional sexism, but might go so far as to broaden the audience of people that our creation can appeal to.

Aside from that, however, this week is a particularly good issue of The Voice Magazine, to my mind. Starting with an interview with our own Travelling Student, as well as his setting off on his own in his regular column, we also have a look at the new AUSU planner, a warning for those looking at student reviews of courses, a thoughtful look at how our viewpoints are created, and of course our selection of reviews, advice, and other articles to keep you thinking.

Enjoy the read!

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