From left to right: Estee N. Beck, Kristine L. Blair, Mariana C. Grohowski
Collectively, the works reviewed here, Sheryl Sandberg’s (2013) Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead; Janet Abbate’s (2012) Recoding Gender: Women’s Changing Participation in Computing; and Radhika Gajjala and Yeon Ju Oh’s (2012) edited collection Cyberfeminism 2.0 address rhetorics circulating within computing culture about gender and technology. By examining the lived experiences of women in various historical, political, social, and material conditions, these works collectively demonstrate the significance of women’s contributions in technology development. Indeed, these works draw attention to patriarchal rhetorics often associated with technological labor. All too often, the gendered nature of technology skirts women’s contributions as scenic elements in the larger technological theater where men take center stage. However, all throughout history, women have been responsible for producing and developing extensive computer technologies benefiting generations of people. Quite simply, women influence, direct, and act both behind the scenes and on the ground floor of technology’s theater.
However, as teacher-scholars allied with cyberfeminist theory, practice, and action, we suspect much of the audience in Kairos supports the inclusion of women’s discourses and practices in technological spaces. We imagine the readership working within technological and educational domains with a good deal of interest and expertise for cultivating and sustaining a diverse range of social practice and action. Within computers & writing, women often serve in national and institutional leadership roles, perform invisible labor practices of mentorship and collaboration, and author scholarly works addressing technology’s role in education.
Despite this community ethos and practice, some men continue to target some women in the larger culture as digital consumers and passive objects reflecting ideological bias and reinforcing social scripts of patriarchal dominance and mastery, including, as Kris discusses in her literacy narrative, the term “webmaster.” Just as Janet Abbate (2012) and Sheryl Sandberg (2013) noted in their works, women face difficulties in achieving work/life balance in part because of gendered labor practices. And, as Erica Kubik (2012) noted in her chapter in the Gajjala and Oh collection, women encounter male gamers who sexualize women during game play. Estee also noted in her digital literacy narrative, the experience of revealing herself as a woman while playing World of Warcraft led to her being subjected to an onslaught of sexualized and gendered slurs forcing her to leave the game for good. Indeed, we can hope grand narratives about gender and technology are shifting in academic and popular culture. At first glance, Walter’ Isaccson’s (2014) best selling book The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution, which focuses on Ada Lovelace’s contributions to STEM fields seemed a hopeful push for society to acknowledge women’s invaluable contributions to STEM fields. However, on closer inspection, Isaccson’s (2014) discussion of Lovelace serves as anecdotal bookends to his thorough investigation of eleven men credited for “creating our digital revolution” (the book's subtitle). Isaccson’s (2014) work reminds us that we have still got a long way to go to in order to change ideological biases about gender and technology. These experiences demonstrate the work that still needs to happen in the public. While our own computers and writing backyard still needs attention, we must attend to disrupting and subverting the gendered scripts assumed on women’s bodies in the larger culture. Which is why as Mariana points out in her literacy narrative, by sharing individual stories and technological literacy narratives, we can challenge grand narratives about technical use bit-by-bit.