1st Edition

The Gender of Things How Epistemic and Technological Objects Become Gendered

Edited By Maria Rentetzi Copyright 2024
    252 Pages 19 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    252 Pages 19 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    The Gender of Things is a highly interdisciplinary book that explores the power relationship between gender and the material culture of technoscience, addressing a seemingly straightforward question: How does a thing—such as a spacesuit, a humanoid robot, or a surgical instrument—become a gendered object?

    These 14 short chapters cover an original selection of “things”: from cosmeceuticals to early motor scooters, from Scrum boards to border walls, and from robots to the human body and its parts. By historically examining how significance has been attached to specific things and how things were designed and produced, the chapters reveal how the concept of gender has been embedded and finds expression in the material world of science and technology. With insights from science and technology studies (STS), anthropology, the history of ergonomics, museum studies, the history of science, technology, and medicine but also the philosophy and sociology of technology and feminist new materialism, this collection reminds us that our material creations not only bear knowledge about our world.

    The Gender of Things will be of key interest to undergraduate and graduate students and research scholars of STS as well as gender studies.

    The Intorduction and Chapter 4 of this book are freely available as downloadable Open Access PDFs at http://www.taylorfrancis.com under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives (CC-BY-NC-ND) 4.0 license.

    Introduction: Gendering Things

    Maria Rentetzi

    Part 1: Things in/as Laboratories

    Sealing Wax and String

    Donald L. Opitz

    Butter: Fat Lions and Dairy Girls

    Anna Frasca-Rath

    Gendered Images of Chromosomes

    María Jesús Santesmases

    Godofredo and Françoise Travel Around the World: Phantoms, Radioiodine Uptake Tests, and the IAEA’s Standardization Projects

    Maria Rentetzi

    The Tell-Tale Heart: Multiple Ontologies of the First Human Donor Heart

    Annerose Böhrer and Larissa Pfaller

    Colourful Minilabs: Cosmeceuticals at the Interface of Gender, Technology, and Knowledge Transfers

    Milton Fernando Gonzalez Rodriguez

    Part 2: Things as Artefacts

    Gendered Mobility: Early Motor Scooting around 1920

    Heike Weber

    A Make-up Kit from the National Air and Space Museum

    Eleanor S. Armstrong

    The Fan: Gendered Bodily Communication at the Intersection of Salon Semiotics, Fashion, Political Campaigning, and Menopause Relief

    Annette Keilhauer

    Gendering the Boundary Object: "Sophia the Robot" as Cyborg-Woman, Fashionista, Citizen, and Imagination

    Roger A. Søraa and Nienke Bruijning

    Animating Machines, Alienating Women: Siri and Alexa as Affective Linguistic Labourers

    Siri Lamoureaux and Alexa Hagerty

    Part 3: Things as Sites of Power

    Dangerous Erections: Gender, Race, and the Engineering of Trump’s Border Wall

    Amy E. Slaton

    Paternity and Pedigree: How Academic Genealogical Databases Become Gendered

    Rebecca M. Herzig

    Is the Scrum Board Feminine?

    Stefan Sauer and Amelie Tihlarik


    Maria Rentetzi is Professor of Science, Technology, and Gender Studies at FAU Erlangen- Nurnberg, and an affiliate of the Max Planck Institute for History of Science, Berlin, Germany.

    'This is a fascinating book on a completely original topic, the ways in which scientific and technological things, objects, processes, machines, techniques, come to acquire a gender in the context of their patriarchal (and feminist) uses. Things are made and used by us: how they are made and the ways in which they are used - by whom, with what effects – is a central but unexplored question in Science and Technology Studies. This collection brings new political and social perspectives and new questions to our understanding of what technological ‘things’ may become.'

    - Elizabeth Grosz, Professor of Women's Studies and Literature, Duke University, USA

    'Certain things, such as ships, have long been gendered but these were thought of as exceptions to the general rule of neutrality: a thing is an "it," not a "she" or a "he." This eye-opening book shows how widespread the gendering of things actually is — and not just the things of everyday life but the things of science. From the sealing wax and string of the laboratory to genealogical databases, The Gender of Things reveals the subtle and not-so-subtle ways that the things of science and technology can be made masculine or feminine.'

    - Lorraine Daston, Director emerita, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Germany