On Gender and Things: Reflections on an Exhibition on Gendered Artifacts

Nelly E.J. Oudshoorn, Ann Rudinow Saetnan, Merete Lie

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In this paper, we describe an exhibition on gendered artifacts we have organized in the Netherlands and Norway. The major aim of the exhibition was to show the public the ways in which technical objects are inscribed with gender; this in order to make people aware that we live in a technological and gendered culture. Reflecting on our experiences with the exhibition, we discuss the two different approaches to theorizing the gendering of artifacts underlying the Dutch and the Norwegian version of the exhibition: the genderscript approach and the domestication approach. We conclude that the gendering of artifacts can be understood only by representing designers as well as users as active participants in the social construction of artifacts. Designers are important by shaping the initial forms, functions, and meanings of objects. Users, by their different ways of interpreting, using and talking about technologies, further contribute to their social shaping. They define whether they experience things as gendered and whether they find them useful in articulating and performing their (gender) identities. By interpreting and using technologies, users are thus active participants in shaping the gendering of artifacts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)471-483
JournalWomen's studies international forum
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2002


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