10/13 Biopolitics – on biohacking

This week we have finally ventured into the realm of cyborgs. The first article we came across is “Body hackers are all around you, they’re called women” by Rose Eveleth. According to the short autobiography on display, Eveleth is a producer, designer, writer and animator based in Brooklyn who is interested in exploring the relationship between human science, and technology.

In this article, Eveleth reevaluated the on-going gender discrimination that has manifested in the fields of science and technology over time. Throughout this article, She stressed the contribution women made in the field, and how their efforts are continuously neglected and overshadowed by male inventions. For instance, she mentioned how women has been modifying their bodies for years, but their bio-hacking ways were never taken seriously, while their male counterparts were easily praised for the creation of similar technologies. In addition, the writer also questions the definition of technology, she proposes that the lines between what we consider technology and what isn’t technology is in actuality more dubious than what we imagine. “Technology is a thing that men do. And as body hacking has become technology (which it wasn’t always) it’s become the realm of men. “ From Eveleth’s point of view, gender stereotypes and discrimination has a tremendous effect on our perception, thus making the definitions of technology strikingly contradictory.

Most of the propositions she outlined above I agree and resonate deeply with. But there are also some problematic claims and generalizations she made that I find illogical and poorly informed. For instance during the part where she was trying to give real life examples of how male and female inventions were given opposite treatments, Eveleth conversely illustrated her own biased view on history and gender: “ Women have been dieting for centuries, but when men do it and call it “intermittent fasting”, it gets news coverage as a tech trend, men alter their bodies with implants and it’s considered extreme body hacking, and cutting edge technology. Women bound their feet for thousand of years, wore corsets that altered their rib cages, got breast implants, and that was all considered shallow narcissism…”

Unlike the claim Eveleth has made in this paragraph, Men and women have been “dieting” since the beggining of time. It’s difficult to make a distinction in terms of “which gender started this activity”, since power in hunter-gathering societies are far equally distributed than society today. Moreover I find the example of foot binding and corset wearing to be somehow, poor examples to raise for her argument. Foot binding and wearing corsets that altered rib cages, in my point of view is nowhere near shallow narcism as to male dominance.

To my knowledge, the foot binding tradition came from upperclass court dancers during the five dynasties and ten kingdoms period in imperial china. The consequences of foot binding is way more severe and heart-wrenching than “shallow narcissism” as described above. Most of the time women don’t even get the luxury to make the decision themselves. Young girls around the age of 4 to 8 will commonly have their feet binded forcibly by their parents. This gruesome tradition has many connotations, it was not only considered aesthetically pleasing or sexually arousing. Foot binding was first and foremost an indication of status, power and complete male dominance. This is because women who have their feet binded will most likely lose their ability to work. Heck, they wouldn’t be able to stand still for a long period of time, since the feet is only 3 to 4 inches and painfully mutilated.

As an effect, women were often confined at home, and serve as a pleasure objects to men (dancing wobbly and walk ing wobbly is considered beautiful to men), which intensifies existing gender stereotypes. For further information, the foot binding tradition were frequently recounted in Chinese poems especially in the Song dynasty, the old saying “3 inch Lotus feet” perfectly delineates men’s ideal of a miniature feet. Additionally, women’s feet were also heavily sexualized by men, and thus it should be covered and never exposed, back then women’s feet were often regarded as female’s third sexual organ, apart from breasts and their reproductive parts.

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