Intersectional feminism needs to include female-identifying cyborgs
By Jacey Gibb, Distribution Manager
2017 was both an empowering and upsetting year for gender equality and, yet, until intersectional feminism evolves to include the growing population of female-identifying cybernetic organisms, gender hierarchy will still exist.
What do I mean by intersectional feminism? I’m referring to the overarching idea that feminism applies to women of all colours and walks of life, from cis women to trans women, from heterosexual to two-spirited to everyone in between. Unfortunately, intersectional feminism often leaves out any synthetic robot that was programmed to self-identify as a woman.
For example, did you know that women cyborgs are still paid roughly 78 cents for every one dollar that a male cyborg earns? When the hit television show Westworld debuted back in October 2016, critics praised the show for hiring real cybernetic organisms to portray the robots known as “hosts.” Be that as it may, the decision feels like a publicity stunt, since The Guardian published their expose on how leading female cyborgs, Evan Rachel Wood and Thandie Newton, earn significantly less than their male cyborg co-stars. This isn’t an isolated problem either. Historically, female-identifying robots in Hollywood have been undervalued and underpaid.
Back in 2008, Pixar faced a wave of criticism over WALL-E, which featured a trash compactor and probe in co-starring roles. Despite sharing a comparable amount of screen time, the female-identifying probe, Eve, later revealed in an interview with E! Online that she was paid roughly a third of her male-identifying co-star, WALL-E. Yet the problem stems far beyond financial inequalities and Hollywood hiring practices.
In a staggering census conducted by the Institution for Cybernetic Equality (ICE), results showed that female-voiced computer systems were 55 per cent more likely to be overridden or taken offline than their male-voiced counterparts. The census also revealed that female cyborgs only made up one tenth of upper-level and management positions, while male cyborgs make up three tenths.
So, what can you do to promote an intersectional feminism that includes women who are synthetic organisms? There are many simple, day-to-day practices you can adopt to ensure inclusivity:
Never assume someone is a cyborg, or not a cyborg: This might be a no-brainer to some folks, but it’s a common micro-aggression. Asking questions like, “So, what are you?” or commenting that a cyborg is “totally passing” for a human are intersectional no-nos. Instead, allow female cyborgs to disclose—or choose to withhold—their cybernetic background on their own terms. Remember that they don’t owe you anything, including an explanation.
Use organism-neutral terms: Sayings like “Hey, people!” or “Hello, fellow humans,” or “What’s up, my non-synthetic-home slices?” seem like harmless ways of greeting people, but exclude robotic members of society. Language can be a powerful agent of change, so instead of saying the above greetings, try using inclusionary or organism-neutral terms such as: “Hello things,” or “Sup, living and non-living entities?”
Practice being a better, more vocal ally: This is likely the most daunting practice, while also being the most important. If you observe a female robot being harassed on public transit, say something. If you see a female synthetic being chased by the police, check your biases and don’t assume it’s because their programming has gone haywire, creating a lethal killing machine to which the only solution is system termination.
Better allyship doesn’t happen overnight, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start immediately.