aoir: "hacking women"

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Sarah Stein, NCSU
"Hacking women: media representations of the technically proficient woman"

The Net and VR5 both cast women as hackers. Surprising, because women are almost absent from the real world of hackers.

What is the effect of media representations of women "transgressing" into internet and gaming culture?

Hacking is one way in which men enter and advance themselves in software development. Joy, passion, creativity are typically associated with the media image of the hacker.

Why are there no female hackers? Perhaps because men are more able to find relief from fixed time schedules and daily tasks (much of the daily caretaking and routine drudgery of life falls to women).

Shows a series of clips from both The Net and VR5. Interesting stuff. Will need to go back and watch The Net again. Have never seen VR5. Is it available on DVD or reruns at all?

The women are skillful and competent with technology, but socially inept. There's teh big question: Does technological skill mean deficiency in "womanliness"?

In both of the narratives analyzed, the women go from asexual figures, clothed in baggy garments, to more feminine and stylish apperances.

Not sure I buy the argument that portrayals of geek guys don't lessen their sense of masuclinity...or that the portrayals of female geeks necessarily makes them less "womanly"--unless we want to buy into stereotypical definitions of what constitutes femininity.

In both of these narratives, mothers are physically present but mentally incompetent (comatose, etc). What message does this sound? Women can go into the technical domain when they are freed from family demands--but they can only reclaim their femininity by "rescuing" their mothers, and taking on the caretaker role.

[Will follow up with her to see if the paper is being published, or will be. Can't find a web site for her at NCSU, at least not via Google.]

Audience member notes on the extent to which gender norms are being "policed" and reified in current online environments and media messages surrounding these environments. Is there any reason for optimism?

Sarah Stein replies that the hope lies in "activist feminist" work. There's no open door inviting revisions; we have to breach the barricade and take it on.

She references Mary Flanagan...need to find out about her work. Creating new representations of online environments.

Audience member suggests that the Internet allows us to "escape binary gender" (updated version of "on the Internet nobody knows you're a dog"?). Can we put gender behind us?

The problem is that nobody exists solely online--nor do they want to.

(Note to self: Interesting to think about the representation of maternal figures in Sarah Stein's examples. Many of the women I've interviewed for the grant have described their mothers as "computer illiterate.")

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Here, here. It was exactly this kind of thing that prompted me to begin work on a novel centered on a female hacker, one that showed the reality not the strange thing the media has put forward. And of course, I think the real thing is much more interesting than what is in pop culture.

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This page contains a single entry published on October 16, 2003 3:22 PM.

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