My brother is a computer science major and I am an English major. We’ve clearly inherited our interests from our mom and dad. My mother is an English teacher and librarian where my father majored in electrical engineering and works in the computer/web world. Being very close in age, we grew up together and mixed interests. I played cars and build forts typical “boy” activities where he would join in my role playing games and even occasionally dolls. So I never thought that the division in our family could represent a vein of gender roles.
I’m not in saying that we were raised to be that way. I was encouraged to go into a medical field or science because I was strong in those subjects as well, and my brother was encouraged to read and write. We just happened to fall in love with the areas that are stereotypically “right” within gender roles.
I found Hayles’ argument about “The Patchwork Girl” to be particularly interesting for this reason. In my head, coders and writers are completely different fields, and with those fields I picture specific genders. I know that my classes are mostly filled with women and that my brother’s are mostly filled with men. Viewing code in a “feminine” way, much like I view literature is different. The hypertext novel, then, combines both two different fields but also two gender views. Hayles quotes Shelley Jackson, author of “The Patchwork Girl” saying:
“‘The banished body is not female, necessarily, but it is feminine;” Jackson remarks. “That is, it is amorphous, indirect, impure, diffuse, multiple, evasive. So is what we learned to call bad writing. Good writing is direct, effective, clean as a bleached bone. Bad writing is all flesh, and dirty flesh at that…. Hypertext is everything that for centuries has been damned by its association with the feminine’ (“Stitch Bitch;’ 534).”
When I think of dirty flesh, I think Biblically of Old Testament rules of clean vs. unclean. Women were much more likely to be considered unclean in this environment. Hypertext is in no way clean. It, from what I’ve read so far, is messy and non linear. It is code which has to have an amount of logical linearity about it, but it is also a wild new way of writing a novel (which is much more “creative” and untamed).
One of the many issues with gender roles is that they often just don’t fit. The world is ever changing as are the mediums. Hypertext is a mix of what would have been considered “feminine” and “masculine” ten years ago. Print was like this too, though. The novel questioned gender roles the same way hypertext does now. Writing used to be the task of men because it was joined with the idea education and status. Novels, however, were sensational, emotional and often feminine. I’m reminded of a scene from the movie “Becoming Jane” where the character based on Jane Austen describes the idea to her eventual romantic interest Tom Lefroy: Novels? Being poor, insipid things, read by mere women, even, God forbid, written by mere women?. . .As if the writing of women did not display the greatest powers of mind, knowledge of human nature, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour and the best-chosen language imaginable?” But in the time of Jane Austen, novels were for women’s pleasure in contrast to real literary works made for and by men. The literary canon was mostly filled of white male authors for a long time, afterall.
I found the question of gender to be interesting to this conversation, and something a little different that the typical role of writers/copyright discussion going on in these chapters. The overall argument was nuanced by the idea of gender and I wanted to explore the ideas since they seemed to resonate in my experiences. One benefits from looking at something differently than is typical for their gender, which I think is the benefit of this part of the argument.
N. Katherine Hayles. My Mother Was a Computer: Digital Subjects and Literary Texts (pp. 155-156). Kindle Edition. via Hayles 3a.