CMS News Archives
Jennifer Robertson, Professor of Anthropology University of Michigan
In humans, gender--femininity, masculinity--is an array of performed behaviors, from dressing in certain clothes to walking and talking in certain ways. These behaviors are both socially and historically shaped, but are also contingent upon many situational influences, including individual choices. Female and male bodies alike can perform a variety of femininities and masculinities. What can human gender(ed) practices and performances tell us about how humanoid robots are gendered, and vice versa? Robertson explored and interrogated the gendering of humanoid robots manufactured today in Japan for use in the home and workplace. She showed that Japanese roboticists assign gender to their creations based on rigid assumptions about female and male sex and gender roles. Thus, humanoid robots can productively be understood as the vanguard of a "posthuman sexism," and are being developed in a socio-political climate of reactionary conservatism.