Man the maker, Woman the consumer

Candace, 23 May 2007, No comments
Categories: Academia, Culture, Feminism, Feminist Theory, History, School, Sexism

Ruth Oldenziel (2001) argues that producers and consumers are linked and that the mythology that distinguishes men as exclusively “makers” and women as solely “consumers” is false. Consumers shape what is produced, just as producers create what will be consumed (p. 143).

Telephones were originally intended only for short, efficient business calls (Martin, 1998). When women began to use them to connect socially, telephone companies realized women were a potential market. Marketing changed and the telephone was reconstructed as a useful social tool in order to increase sales and profit. Women participated in the production of telephone technologies, but they are credited only with consumption.

Often women are producers in areas not regarded as “technology.” Women’s inventions for the domestic sphere like those related to needlework (Oldenziel, 2001, p. 131) often did not received patents. Without this formal recognition, women’s production goes unrecorded, unacknowledged, and therefore unvalued. Because of this, women who produce are not recognized as such. This strengthens the mythology of women as consumers rather than makers. Without formal examples, it is easier to disregard women’s contributions. It is important to recognize that the ways that this formal recognition is given is through systems developed by men.

Women’s modification of ‘male’ technologies has also been invisible. Women who converted car engines into refrigerator generators have not been credited as producers of technology (Oldenziel, p. 134). Instead, women are constructed as not interested in new technologies (Oldenziel, p. 133). This simplification does not recognize that women lacked funds of their own (Oldenziel, p. 133) and that their dependence on reliable, simple, durable, and easy to repair machines (Oldenziel, p. 134) drove their decisions, not irrationality, obstinacy (Oldenziel 132-133) or rejection of technology. As women became involved in production so that products matched needs, women embraced labour saving devices and other technologies.

Martin, M. (1991). “The Culture of the Telephone.” In Patrick D. Hopkins (Ed.), Sex/Machine: Readings in Culture, Gender, and Technology (pp. 50-74). Indiana: Indiana University Press.
Oldenziel, R. (2001). “Man the maker, woman the consumer.” In A. Craeger,
E. Lunbeck, & L. Schiebinger (Eds.), Feminism in twentieth-century science, technology, and medicine (pp. 128-148). Chicago: University of Chicago.


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