Re: Recent sexism postings

Subject: Re: Recent sexism postings
From: Stuart Selber <sselber -at- MTU -dot- EDU>
Date: Wed, 6 Oct 1993 17:10:44 -0400

Jim Porter writes the following in response to the thread on race/gender

>And, by the way, I think this issue is highly relevant to technical
>communication, though the field in general has not yet taken up
>the issue in a way that makes the connection clear.

I agree with Jim that there are important connections between technical
communication (and our processes and products) and broader social issues
and perspectives in our culture--such as those relating to gender and race.

And at the risk of getting flamed for furthering this discussion, I'd like
to try and make some of those connetions *briefly*. Perhaps it's easiest to
address these broad connections in terms of questions (in no particular

If anyone finds these at all *related* to technical communication, maybe we
can discuss them productively.

1. How are women and other minorites portrayed in our products? Ever look
at images of women in old Army manuals or at the SIZE of their chests in
virtual reality software?

2. How does the language of professional communication (what *we* write)
construct gender roles in our culture, in our organizations, and in our own
writing groups?

3. How might feminist theory (or plug in any theory asssociated with social
groups on the margins) redefine technical communication. *Remember*
technical communication was initially defined and heavily influenced by the

4. How can feminist interpretation strategies help us write better manuals?

5. What might a feminist model of collaboration look like? Of
organizational structure? Of product development? Of customer support?

6. How might gender bias in work teams affect our processes and products in
unproductive ways?

7. What kinds of power relations exist in our writing departments and
corporations? Do these relations affect our day-to-day work?

8. What might feminist inquiry into how we produce and delivery technical
communication illuminate about traditional notions of objectivity in
science and engineering?

These are just a *few* questions that I think relate gender issues to
technical communication. I hope that folks on this list find these
questions just as important to address as the day-to-day issues that arise.


Stuart A. Selber
Department of Humanities email: sselber -at- mtu -dot- edu
Michigan Technological University phone: 906-487-3252
Houghton, MI 49931 fax: 906-487-3347

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