Gender inequality has been a serious problem when humans adopted patriarchal society thousands of years ago. Back to the age of ancient Greek, philosopher Aristotle has expressed the idea that ‘a female is female by virtue of a certain lack of qualities.’ (Beauvoir, 1949) Unfortunately, the similar idea still exists even in today’s society. However, due to industrialization and the rapid development in today’s society, we have a powerful tool to fight against gender inequality, and that is technology. In my perspective, technology is designed to bring equal chances to everyone in society, because if one type of technology like the internet becomes popular in society, it has to facilitate the lives of the majority instead of a certain small group of people. With the help of technology, many feminists can spread their voice further and bring much more freedom and gender equality to women. On the other hand, technology has its problems. Because most high-tech practitioners are males, their thoughts may be put into the product they invent, the algorithm they use, which may cause the reinforcement of the gender gap. Therefore, I deem that technology should be used smartly and carefully in order to make it as a tool to pursue gender equality instead of letting it reinforce gender stereotypes.
Nothing is perfect, and technology is not an exception. If we do not lead technology developments to the right track, they will bring us more problems than benefits. As we all know, the STEM industry is one of the most male-dominated industries in the world. Many people believe that women are not able to achieve as much as men do in such fields. Confronted with the large disparity, some people attribute it as the evidence of ‘biologically-driven’ gender differences in abilities and interests (Good, et.al, 2009; Blackwell, et. al, 2007). They believe that men tend to be born with better skills like spatial skills and logical thoughts that can help them achieve more in the technology or engineering fields. Admittedly, such skills are very important for people in these industries, but according to studies conducted by Stout et al, in 2011 and Miyake et al. in 2010, spatial skills can be easily developed in a relatively short-time training. So it is, in fact, our stereotype that reinforces gender inequality and minimizes women’s interests in entering technology-related industries. According to the Office for National Statistics figures from August 2014, there are 723,000 male “information technology and telecommunications professionals” in the UK, compared with 124,000 women (Mitchell, 2015). If women are continuously “discouraged” to do tech-related works, and the inventions and developments of technology are done with the absence of women, technology would be highly likely to be gender-biased. Take the automobile industry as an example: when the federal government released the regulation of designing seat belts for crash tests in the 1950s, car makers only designed and used the average-sized male model to reduce the costs, which greatly increase the risk of injury of women in a car crash. Irresponsible behaviors like this are not uncommon even in today’s society: one mobile manufacturer has released a model that is designed for women, which has high-quality lenses and attracting appearance. But this model only has one color available, which is pink, as if women only like pink color. I believe if male high-tech practitioners still largely outnumber female practitioners in the future, gender bias will be more and more reflected on the products they design, and gender stereotypes will be reinforced. However, development cannot be stopped just because people are afraid of the problems it will bring. The problems generated by development should also be solved by development. Therefore, in order to avoid letting technology enhance gender inequality, we have to encourage women getting interested in and being involved in the high-tech industry so that technology won’t be thought of as the “toy for him”, and more and more opinions from women would be considered and valued. Technology will also play more significant roles for women to pursue gender equality instead of the opposite way as long as people pay more attention to regulating and appropriately developing it.
Fortunately, compared to some “side effects”, technology has long been used as the tool to benefit the “majority” and underprivileged group. Women have long been treated as a “weak” group, and today’s technology can play an important role in decreasing and even eliminating the gap between genders. In fact, if we can utilize it appropriately and continuously complete the regulations and increase people’s awareness, we can neglect the problems and embrace the solutions that technology brings to us to address gender inequality. One important reason for the gender inequality is the boundaries that people draw among genders, and the fact is that due to the influence of technologies, boundaries in society today are blurring in everywhere, including the boundaries that we are used to drawing between men and women. In fact, Beauvoir has shown the wrong opinion many people hold is that women should be treated as the other because women’s femininity is secreted by the ovaries (Beauvoir, 1949, p.23). When setting such a boundary between selves and the other, it is hard for men not to focus on the differences among genders and reinforce the idea that men are biologically better than women. Beauvoir has argued that “it is wrong to deduct the whole organism from gamete, and the gamete itself does not represent the quality of femininity and masculinity (Beauvoir, 1949).” But similar arguments and movements did not work effectively to change people’s thoughts in the 1950s, women were still deemed as ‘undesirable’ if they were not engaged in their early twentieth. Luckily, such wrong opinions and the hostile boundary can be addressed with the help of technology in today’s society. Specifically, with the facilitation of the internet, more voices of feminists can be heard and resonate with others. In the 1950s, one of the most important jobs of women was housewives. They had to take care of every aspect of the family, and many of them did not have another job. It resulted in the fact that they are relatively uninformed with updated news and knowledge compared to men, who caught up everything during their work time. It was too difficult for women to connect with the rest world outside their lives. If we imagine a scenario that a woman was sexually assaulted in that period, it would be nearly impossible for her to find other victims and revealed everything together. Nowadays, one of the most influential movements is Me too. With the facilitation of the internet, it popularizes its cases and visions throughout the platform like twitter using the hashtag #Metoo, which successfully arouses the conversation of sexual violence globally again and make mounting numbers of victims joining the movement and protect themselves with further harms. Even though most people are aware of the problem of sexual violence, without the propaganda of movements like Metoo via the internet, they may not understand how serious the problem already is. One particular benefit of the internet is that everyone is treated equally and has equal opportunities to speak out for themselves. Not only can we use YouTube to listen to famous feminists’ speech, but also everyone can comment on that and express his/her own opinions. When nearly identical information resources are available for both men and women, the boundary between them is vanishing; men are more likely to adopt the alternative thinking patterns of women and tend to place themselves in women’s shoes. We are all the production of our thoughts. As thoughts are becoming increasingly similar between men and women, it will be less likely for men to think women as the other anymore.
Not only can technology contribute to removing the social barrier like information resource differences, but it also brings more liberation for women physiologically. In fact, one common misconception is that “sex merely represents the body’s anatomy, and gender merely represents the social force that molded behavior, (Fausto-sterling, 2000)” as if they are two independent factors. But according to Dr. Fausto-sterling in her book Sexing the Body, similar dualistic theories confine our thought about the body, which is one of the reasons that “some feminists did not question physical sex, and they only question gender and ignore contemporary neurobiology (Fausto-sterling, 2000, p.4).’ Therefore, if we only focus on how the society ‘constructs’ women like who they are today, we miss the important reason why society does that. I have to admit that it seems that women have some “disadvantages” in adapting the high pace of society, especially during their pregnancy period, and reproductive technologies today can greatly decrease negative influences of it. In today’s society, technologies like IVF (In vitro fertilization) and surrogacy are getting matured enough to be applied outside the laboratory, not to mention that the birth control pill has already greatly reduced the rate of women’s accidental pregnancy rate. Even though there still are many ethical and other issues that the society needs to address, reproductive technologies still provide women much more choices to avoid long time and numerous energies for carrying the baby during their pregnancy period if they wish to. Another benefit that reproductive technologies have brought to us is that they can gradually decrease our hostility on “constructed lives.” People would no longer view constructed lives as the opposite side of ‘real lives’ because they will be co-existed and affect each other even on one individual’s body. It will also resolve the debate of “real vs. constructed” described by Dr. Fausto-sterling. In her book, Dr. Fausto-sterling criticizes the dualistic idea of real and constructed lives. In order to fit the intersexual body into one of two sex categories, people “normalize” them by “doing the surgery to fit the intersexual body into one of two categories” (Fausto-sterling, 2000, p.8). With the advance of technologies, people will not view the intersexual body as uncommon because the combination of real and constructed bodies will fall into numerous categories instead of two, which will naturally vanish the boundaries between
We have already seen how technologies facilitate our daily lives and gradually bring gender equality to society. I believe in the future, as technologies are playing more and more important roles in society, humans will interact much more with the technology. When humans are coexisting with technologies harmoniously, gender equality will highly likely be achieved because of the breakdown of many boundaries. In fact, back to the 1980s, Dr. Haraway has described a similar utopia where humans and machines coexist in A Cyborg Manifesto. In her essay, she describes the cyborg as the creature with half human and half machine. In the society with cyborgs, many boundaries would be reevaluated, including the boundaries between organisms and machines, physical and non-physical, and of course, males and females. With the metaphor of the cyborg utopia, Dr. Haraway talked about an idea of fractured identities, which means that every individual has multiple identities, and his/her identities are like fluids. Just as we cannot say one cyborg is more ‘machined’ than another cyborg because it has more machine parts than human parts, we cannot say that a woman must be more ‘female’ than a man. She mentioned, “there is nothing about being ‘female’ that naturally binds women. There is not even such a state as ‘being’ female, itself a highly complex category constructed in contested sexual scientific discourses and other social practices. (Haraway, 1984, p.5).” “Female” would be an identity that can be interpreted in many different ways and perspectives. As the author illustrated, we would be able to separate ‘woman’ and ‘female’ in a cyborg society, and even all the reproduction works will be done by a cyborg. At that time, a cyborg would break down all the boundaries between men and women, and finally achieve gender equality. That is what I believe what technologies will help in achieving gender equality.