Tech, Sex, and Race

How Technology Has Affected Gender, Race, and Politics

Technology has exploded over the last 100 years. With technology comes change, most notably in the way that different people interact with each other, with the world, and with how they are viewed. Some of the most notable groups of people that have been affected and changed by technology are women and minorities, who are both fighting for social equality, and government officials who are becoming more seen and connected.

Over the last 100 years, technology has slowly moved from pushing women deeper into the house as homemakers, to pulling women out into the workforce and towards social equality with men. Many technological advancements in the early to mid-twentieth century encouraged the stereotypical happy homemaker. With the Hubert Booths vacuum cleaner in 1910, the first modern electric washing machine in 1916, and the first iron with an adjustable temperature control in 1927, women were expected to keep a neater home than ever before. This was especially true in the 40s and 50s with magazines such as Good Housekeeping, Vogue, Mademoiselle, and Redbook pushing the domestic lifestyle (Zeisler, 2008). Women also had the “ideal woman” image pushed onto them, with the Barbie doll coming out in 1959, Mary Phelps Jacob’s invention of the bra in 1913, and dozens of fashion magazines pushing women to start shaving in the 1920s. Fortunately, technology has also had a positive effect on women. The first oral contraceptive in the 1950s gave women more power over their reproduction, the emergence of social media helped women react to the world from their homes, and the internet gave single mothers a chance to continue their educations while being at home with their children (Wejnert, 2010).

Minorities from all ethnicities have been fighting for equality since the dawn of time. The advancements in technology have made their struggle more public than ever before. In the 50s, TV became the dominant media, which allowed viewers to see the news instead of hearing someone talk about it, which left a stronger impression. This, especially, was part of the reason that the Civil Rights movement of the 50s and 60s, was so powerful. People from across America saw peaceful protestors sprayed down with a fire hoses, beat down by police, and viciously mauled by police dogs (Conklin, 2008). The March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech was broadcasted and can be easily found and watched to this day (Papademas, 2011). The same phenomenon is happening today in many Middle Eastern countries, but on a faster global scale thanks to social media. Something can now be shared across the world in a matter of seconds.

One of the biggest ways that technology has affected government officials is by helping them connect more easily with other leaders in the world, as well as to the constituents who elected them into office. The Wright brothers invented the first gas motored and manned airplane in 1903, giving government leaders an easier way to travel to foreign countries. Communication with these countries got even easier in the 1900s with the creation of the world wide web (Kurgan, 2013). Between the shortwave radio in 1919 and FM radio in 1933, the public was getting used to hearing about the world, newsworthy events, and their government leaders regularly (Kutler, 1996). With TV being the dominant media in the 50s, government leaders were forced to become more charismatic in order to win votes, and today that demand is even higher with social media making everything instant. Unfortunately, technological advancement has also created a more dangerous world. Since the invention of the electronic sonar device in 1906, tracking technology has skyrocketed with unpiloted drones and spy software. Weapons have also been getting more advanced, with the most notable being the atomic bomb that ended WWII.

If all of that can happen in just 100 years, what will the status of women, minorities, and government officials look like in another 100 years? Will technology ever allow women to be treated as equals to men? Will there ever be a way for minorities to have their unique needs met? Will there ever be a flawless way for government officials from around the world to communicate without language barriers? A lot of the time the answer isn't if, but when. Technology is only limited by the human imagination. While there will be setbacks, technology will always have more to offer than to take away.

References

Conklin, W. (2008). Civil rights movement. Huntington Beach, CA: Teacher Created Materials.

Kutler, S. I. (1996). Encyclopedia of the United States in the twentieth century. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.

Kurgan, L. (2013). Close up at a distance: Mapping, technology, and politics. Brooklyn, NY: Zone Books.

International Workshop on Empowerment of Women Through Science & Technology Interventions, Prakash, N., McLellan, B., Wejnert, B., & Centre for Science and Technology of the Non-Aligned and Other Developing Countries. (2010). Empowerment of women through science and technology interventions.

Papademas, D. (2011). Human rights and media. Bingley, U.K: Emerald.

Zeisler, A. (2008). Feminism and pop culture. Berkeley, CA: Seal Press.