Help Systems & Gender Differences

Subject: Help Systems & Gender Differences
From: Brad Mehlenbacher <brad_m -at- UNITY -dot- NCSU -dot- EDU>
Date: Sat, 9 Apr 1994 02:46:33 -0400

Hi Folks-->

I've been following this discussion with great interest, since it's rare
that online help systems (online support systems?) are coupled with gender
distinctions in the technical communication literature. Forgive me for
appearing to haggle with terminology, but I think it's critical to point
out that feminist theorists and technical communicators who read feminist
theory have spent a great deal of time re-defining dichotomies like
'male-female' and 'masculine-feminine.' Some definitions that might make
our conversation a lot less 'personal' are

Male: A biological entity with a penis (surprisingly, it can be kind,
nurturing, supportive, and uncertain at times).

Female: A biological entity with a vagina (surprisingly, it can be
woman-hating, assertive, unsympathetic, and an 'honorary-man' at times).

Masculine: Culturally-determined and socially-educated perspectives
towards life (e.g., hierarchical values, competitiveness, economic
orientation, scientistic, aggressive, and so on).

Feminine: Same definition as Masculine (e.g., collaborative, holistic,
social, intuitive, subtle, passivistic, and so on).

What these definitions allow us to explain are (seemingly
counter-intuitive) events like the following:

--A 50-year-old 'female' manager promotes a 'male' colleague's work versus
the obviously _superior_ work of a 'female' collegue's work.

--A 'male' encourages research that supports collaboration and artistic
creativity, versus competition and adversity, amongst his male peers,
despite predictable resistance.

The Moral (a very 'masculine' stance to take, by the way): I know many
'males' who, according to the definitions above, behave in very
'feminine' ways, and I know many 'females' who behave in very 'masculine'
ways. Let's shake the assumption that 'girls' aren't very good with
computers; let's imagine that 'females' have been handed 'feminine'
perspectives that tell them (in an on-going way) that they're _supposed_
to be bad with computers.

No flames please; I'm finishing up a semester--but conversations are
always welcome ;^). Yours,

>> Brad Mehlenbacher Phone: (919) 515-4138 <<
>> Assistant Professor Fax: (919) 515-7856 <<
>> Technical Communication <<
>> E-mail: brad_m -at- unity -dot- ncsu -dot- edu <<
>> English Department <<
>> NC State University 'Ack, Sppfft, Bntft....' Bill the Cat. <<
>> Raleigh, NC 27695-8105 <<

Previous by Author: Announcing NCSU's New TechComm List
Next by Author: Object-Oriented Documentation
Previous by Thread: Re: American Heritage Dict. question
Next by Thread: Re: Help Systems & Gender Differences

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads