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Reviewed by:
  • TechnoFeminism
  • Sarah M. Brown (bio)
TechnoFeminism by Judy Wajcman. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2004, 130 pp., $54.95 hardcover, $19.95 paper.

In TechnoFeminism, Judy Wajcman writes about the significant role gender plays in technology. Beginning with women's past technological successes, she focuses on the significant influence gender and feminism have had on technology. Though looking mostly at women educated in technology, Wajcman includes elements of third-wave feminism and the many variables that affect gendering such as "place, nationality, class, [End Page 225] race, ethnicity, sexuality and generation" as explained in her introduction (8). There is, as Wajcman argues, a current opportunity for women to further their progress in technology through the connection between technology and feminism.

In her first chapter, Wajcman begins by outlining how women have advanced technology in the past. These examples create a foundation for readers regarding women's role in technological achievements including the cotton gin, sewing machine, and the small electric motor.

One technological achievement that Wajcman discusses is the microwave, which was first unsuccessfully marketed toward men. With sales dragging, the machine was then marketed to women as a convenient cooking tool for the busy woman who still wants to cook for her family. This study illustrates the importance of the gender factor in the technological process even through marketing. Wajcman writes, "what is so original about the microwave study is that it follows the gendering processes through the various stages of the artefact's life" (47). When the microwave was moved from the entertainment portion of stores to the domestic portion of stores, the marketing message was to appeal to women by perpetuating the stereotype of women as domestics. Wajcman acknowledges how marketing the microwave in this way reinforced gendered stereotypes; however, the focus of her book is on the contributions women have made in producing—not just consuming—technology and on the lack of recognition women have received because of their undervalued skills. Specific stories and examples make the information accessible and engage the reader as Wajcman moves to a discussion of cyberfeminism.

Wajcman focuses much of chapter three on cyberfeminism—the merging of feminism and technology—and its prevalence and importance in today's society. She cleverly catches the attention of her readers with the racy subtitle, "Cyberfeminism: 'The Clitoris is a Direct Line to the Matrix.'" The author's bold use of sexuality in gender roles is appealing and representative of her controversial and engaging subject matter and writing style. She explores the blurring of gender lines and stereotypes through technology when she discusses the human body's technological changes through plastic surgery, sex change operations, and hormones. Much of her writing in cyberfeminism refers to Sadie Plant, a major force in cyberfeminism. Cyberfeminism, as Wajcman writes, "emphasizes women's subjectivity and agency, and the pleasure immanent in digital technologies. They accept that industrial technology did indeed have a patriarchal character, but insist that new digital technologies are much more diffuse and open" (63). Wajcman similarly moves from past technologies into the present and further to future opportunities for women.

Wajcman argues that "while men are ill-prepared for a postmodern future, women are ideally suited to the new technoculture" (64). Highlighting the capabilities of women who are flexible to the changing [End Page 226] systems of today, she argues that current technological workplaces may provide opportunities for women entering the workforce. Supporting this claim, she illustrates the history of females as superior programmers, an occupation dependent on relaying information. While the author offers an intriguing examination of the gendered implications of technology, she may be oversimplifying the construct of gender by showing women as more skilled communicators and men as less skilled communicators.

Wajcman's main argument stresses the importance of gender and feminism in technology. Technological advances made by women and men have been improved, made useful, and will continue to be even more strongly influenced by women. The author clearly brings the complex topics of technology and feminism to a medium that will appeal to students in technology, Women's Studies, sociology, and communication.

Sarah M. Brown

Sarah M. Brown holds an M.A. degree in Rhetoric, Composition, and Professional Communication with...


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