Re: Women and Luddism

Kathryn_Alexander who-is-at
Wed, 11 Aug 1999 15:11:14 -0800

hey, perhaps contemporary industrial Women have always been Luddites, but
first let's just re-state who the Luddites were, last week in Vancouver, a
local newspaper ran a column on "de-technologizing" reminding us of who the
Luddites were. They were the technological elites of the weaving artisan
culture, and their destruction of the power looms, which they were
proficient with, was not anti-technological revolt, but as Mary reminds us,
was an early example of organized labour resistance against the
concentrated monopolization of resources, human degradation and physical
mutilation, destruction of local family structures as artisan units and
the ultimate de-skilling of artists/workers as enfleshed machine parts.

Technology re-conceptualized through class/race/gender and labour history
often tells a different story than the victory narrative of the
ghetto-ization of sleek efficient machines in the hands of their masters.

As to our recent story about gender and technology, can we be more
specific about what technologies we are discussing? Even a quick glance
around the labour pool that supports the daily work of academics would see
many women working with technology - data processing, printing presses,
photocopiers, faxes, etc. which is normalized realm of clerical work. I
was a clerical worker for the first decade or so of my working life. My
sense is that it didn't matter how proficient I was with the latest
machine, some technology counts as skill and others do not.

I think we need to also look at the women labour workers in
mexico/Thailand/ china etc. who this afternoon are assembling the
multi-micro parts of our computers, so that we folks can have this
seamless invisibly mediated conversation about technology and gender and

As for Mary being a rad feminist - well, my understanding of Mary's
scholarship, I've never read Mary's work as residing within feminism, I
think her work probably ranges and exceeds outside the boundaries of
rad/left/right feminist discourses as one currently can get-

Gendertechnology in my neophyte understanding - is not about biological
gender - it's a form of cyborgian social/cultural/libidinous/materialism (
in the Marxist and Lacanian) sense, but because of new technologies, we
academic folks can capture some traces of its ethnographic and narrative
effects and have ripping discussions and get grants to talk about it.
Gendertechology has certain regulative genred features that make some
aspects recognizable, and others invisible.

So to ventriloquate Eugene, what do "you" think?


>gotta say something about the notion of a feminist Luddism from PD
>As Donna Haraway and Sadie Plant (and others) have so rightly argued,
>feminists can't afford Luddism.
> And anyway, Luddism, as a praxis, was, pragmatically speaking, a total
>failure. The automoated loom manufacturers continued to build their
>factories and get workers to bend to unhealthy and alienated conditions,
>and on and on modernism pressed.
>So no, Luddism is no option. And no, there is nothing logical about the
>digital universe, as Ada Countess of Lovelace so eloquently argued.
>There is, however, a cultural logic to oppression, and it seems worthwhile
>to figure out how to hack or jack into that code and really mess it up
>a rad "we don't need men at all" feminist:
>Mary up in vancouver
>Dr. Mary Bryson, Associate Professor and UBC Scholar 1999,
>Faculty of Education, UBC
>Principal Co-Investigator: GenTech Project

Kathryn Alexander, email ...... kalexand who-is-at
Doctoral Candidate, FAX .........(604) 291 - 3203
Faculty of Education, SFU(message).....(604) 291- 3395
Simon Fraser University,
Burnaby, B.C. V5A 1S6