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Making Technology Masculine

Making Technology Masculine: Men, Women, and Modern Machines in America, 1870-1945

Ruth Oldenziel
Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 271
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  • Book Info
    Making Technology Masculine
    Book Description:

    To say that technology is male comes as no surprise, but the claim that its history is a short one strikes a new note. Making Technology Masculine: Men, Women, and Modern Machines in America, 1870-1945 maps the historical process through which men laid claims to technology as their exclusive terrain. It also explores how women contested this ascendancy of the male discourse and engineered alternative plots. From the moral gymnasium of the shop floor to the staging grounds of World's Fairs, engineers, inventors, social scientists, activists, and novelists emplotted and questioned technology as our modern male myth. Oldenziel recounts the history of technology - both as intellectual construct and material practice - by analyzing these struggles. Drawing on a broad range of sources, she explains why male machines rather than female fabrics have become the modern markers of technology. She shows how technology developed as a narrative production of modern manliness, allowing women little room for negotiation. This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-0573-9
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 7-8)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 9-18)

    Mcns love affair with technology is something we rake for granted. Only when that affair runs amok is it likely to dicit any serious commentary at all. The editors ofThe New York Times consideredthe subject of male rcchnophilia suflicicnrly newsworthy to devote a rrcnr-page article to it in 1986, when Robcrr Morris, J₁’., generated “the biggest computC!’ gridlock” ever known. His program jammed over 6000 computers in the United States, including some in the military computer network.

    Women and girls “use compmers; men and boys love rhem Alld that difference appears to be a critical reaso 11 that...

  5. 1 Unsettled Discourses
    (pp. 19-50)

    Technology has been neither a keyword to American cultural grammar nor the exclusive preserve of engineers.’ Language, quilts or corsets, all important objects of women’s inventive activity in the nineteenth century, do nor come readily to contemporary minds as significant inventions or as markers of technology today, yet they 0110: were. An early nineteenth-century speaker could discuss manufacturing, industry, and industriousness, referring to any kind of production mechanical or otherwise that could even include agriculture could mention science and useful knowledge in one breath without sensing any contradiction; could marvel about the wonderful inventions and discoveries that ran the whol...

  6. 2 From Elite Profession to Mass Occupation
    (pp. 51-90)

    Engineers emerged “the shock troops of industrial capitalism. Nevertheless there was something cuneus about the engineers success to command male cultural authority. While intellectuals, artists, and social scientists endowcd them with great cultural meaning and importance, mallY engineers felt misunderstood, disrexpccred, and undervalued. They suffered fi’oll1 existential anxieties what it meant to be an engineer and where the boundaries of its knowledge domain lay - anxieties that came to the forefront at three historical juncturcs.

    From the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893 through the aftermath of the first World War, many advocates for the engineering profession argued over the definition...

  7. 3 Bargaining for the Fraternity
    (pp. 91-118)

    Engineers nor only created bridges, They also produced culture in the gray areas of privately printed autobiographies and speeches at birthday parries, While at work on the production floors, huilding sites, and in laboratories, engineers produced culture as well as goods. They engineered plots that carved out a space in the middle: between labor and capital, Anglo-Saxoll culture and ethnic strife, technical reports and Literary autobiographies, crass Gilded-Age industrialism and genteel Liberal arts. That position in the middle was a tenuous one which they tried to maintain by revitalizing a code of manliness. more than forty civil, mining, and mechanical...

  8. 4 (De)Constructing Male Professional Bridges
    (pp. 119-147)

    Late Victorian male writers of romance and modern artists of the visual arts began to build professional bridges between rhemxelvcs and engineers. Over the span of two and half decades from 1890 to the first World War, male commercial writers staged the engineer as a male cultural hero, A decade Later, the modern avanr-gardc followed their popular writing brothers by acsrhcricizing the visual language of machinery and by inscribing machiuex as explicitly male symbols..Together these two professional groups shaped the symbols of rcchnology. Engineers and machines became the markers of modern manliness but not without protests from women professionals.


  9. 5 Women Reweaving Borrowed Identities
    (pp. 148-181)

    If women writers, artists, and activists articulated an alrcm.uivc language, their slide-rule sisters within the engineering occupation emulated rather than questioned male models of professionalism. American women engineers have left few written traces of rheirexisrence, unlike rhcir male cnllcagues or their sisrers in the world of literature. They could have flaunted their pioneering struggles in the manner typical of autobiography, bur they neither adopted autobiographies as a form of selt-expression nor created alternative plots of rheir own. Steeped in the ethics otself-discipline, stoicism, and overqualification, they had few narrative devices available to them.¹

    Among America women engineering, only one started...

  10. EPILOGUE Gender, Technology, and Man the Maker
    (pp. 182-190)

    The inrellectual construct,and material practices of rechnology discussed in this book come to produce the world of industrial capitalism. Modern meanings 0f rcchnology arose from the convnergence of discourses around a number of nineteenth-century terms relared to the rise of industrial capitalism, most importantly the rhetorical positions aboutUseful arts, inuentiueucss,and themachine.Each of these terms was the focus of Struggles III which middle-class professional men - among them engineers - staked their claims on key aspects of illdustrial capitalism, to the exclusion of women, African-Americans. and workers. In the US, these discourses merged in the 1930s, first...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 191-231)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 232-262)
  13. Index
    (pp. 263-272)