Hacking Gender Construction
Abstract: Before hacking gender, it might be useful to have a look at how gender is constructed in society: Why do people usually ‘see’ only two genders? Which ‘tools’ are used to establish a bias between the concepts of ‘male’ and ‘female’? … And what can ‘hacking’ mean in this context? This will be a very basic introduction into the (de)construction of gender and some thoughts about ‘hacking’ in a broader sense. Metodology: I’d like to give a rather short talk I also try to transform abstract theory into handy comic-style images) and afterwards collect ideas on how and where you want to hack gender or which useful techniques you already tried. Recomended lectures: you like and if you understand German, you can find the script on my blog (under the section ‘Material’): heterosexismushacken.blogsport.de Step #1: install totalitarianism: Something applied on you and you can't escape. [hand-drawn diagram - see slides] Step #2: Create binaries: Male / Female. This classification is constructed, made up of norms and values. Often people say biological sexes are fixed, but it's untrue because there's no unambiguous assignment (e.g., chromosomes, gonades (testicles, ovaries), body shapes, brains etc. Everyone's body is different Step#3: apply binary categories: Attribute for distinction, assignment according to attribute, gender roles (e.g., how they dress, how they move ...) Step #4: learning to 'see' only two categories: three basic (axiomatic) assumptions: either/or it's natural: gender is based on sex it's constant: someone you met today is a woman, who will stay as a woman 50 years from now on. In German for instance, there's only one word for gender and sex. It is thus difficult to explain the gender aspects. Step #5: learning to 'be read' 'be seen' as member of one category: "doing gender" in daily life "performing gender roles" "making gender assignment visible" "enact gender attributes" Step #6: rating people related to gender assignment: Judging people (others and yourself) assuming they are female / male, if they are doing gender correctly. This takes place in a social environment (people around you decide what gender you are) being rated in regard of gender roles Step #7: teaching people the 'right' behaviour related to gender assignment: socialisation happens schools, media, hospitals ... This shapes behaviour through interactions (naming, addressing, demonstrating, rules, daily routines ... ) and institutions Pictures, languages, stories also influences, e.g., toilet signs, "is it a boy or a girl?" (recommended response: "my baby is very healthy. thanks for asking") How to cope? we can try to change language. language is a living system. how to teach your kids? We are all part of 'them'; we are all responsible. Sub-consciously we all do it from time to time. Step #8: make binaries asymmetric (rather unequal): gender construction is inherently sexist. People not only put gender assignment on others, but also hierarchy. e.g., men are rational and women are not? (negation), men are better with technology and women less (graduation), men are more rational and women are emotional (complementation / contrasts) Step #9: represent binaries asymmetric (systematically): In Western linguistic systems, male words are used to refer to everybody e.g., men = human beings, e.g.: Children books with humanised animals images with sexes; in movies, ask: are there more than 1 female character? are they talking to each other? are they talking about topics other than men? Step #10: represent binaries asymmetric (quantitative): Androcentric view: mostly about men, in the view of men, the word 'God' (Dio) has the male pronoun, "the male gays" Definition of Hacking: What does 'hacking' mean in this context: Original definitions of 'hack' or 'hacking': - Tech model railroad Club (MIT): hacker is someone who applies ingenuity to create a celver result, called a 'hack'. - In a german context like the Computer Chaos Club (CCC): disrespectful and creative usage of technology in daily life (Lehnhardt 1988) which can imply social engineering. To the presenter of this workshop: hacking is self-determined, do things differently, examination and play with things, intervene (hopefully successful) with given objects and structures. To summarise: 1) hacking means finding extraordinary ways to solve problems - even and especially for problems the majority is not aware of - because they are part of the unquestioned, part of the system. 2) Hacking also means taking joy in playing with the allowed and the forbidden, in crossing boundaries of norms and conventions, in autonomous exploring, in questioning, reinterpreting and reclaiming what is given.