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Alternative Spaces: Technology and Gender

Alternative Spaces: Technology and Gender

Alternative Space: Technology and Gender

In the 21st century, technology has progressed exponentially, allowing for all sorts of tasks to be done quicker and easier. School assignments, e-mails, bills, art and more can be worked on through a phone. Artificial Intelligence is becoming a commodity. Nail polish can detect substances in drinks. However, technology doesn’t just make concrete tasks easier. It also affects our psychology: it gives us information about how our bodies and minds work, connects us to others with similar ideologies, and even allows us to be a completely different person. In this article, we will look at how new technology influences gender performance, provides the possibility for people to perform alternative genders, and influences the way transgender people find their sense of community.

For background information we must first analyze what gender really is. Gender is socially constructed, usually from birth. Once your sex is determined, which is based on your genitalia(male, female, or intersex), you are then dressed in certain colors and placed into certain activities that people correlate that specific sex to. For example, if you’re born a male, your gender will be typically categorized as a man, and you will be clothed in dark colors and encouraged to play with toy guns and sports. Gender is not binary, just man or woman. Some people are a little bit of both (bi-gender), neither(agender), and the list goes on. Also, gender is not to be confused with sexual orientation, which defines who a person is romantically and/or sexually attracted to.

One way technology works in the favor of gender performance is through virtual worlds. Games like IMVU , Second Life, and Gaia Online offer a chat world that allow you to create an avatar: male, female, or fantasy creature. These games also make all their clothing, hair, accessories and body modifications applicable to all genders and even animal avatars.

These online spaces allow anyone to be whoever they want without any boundaries. They can make friends and start guilds based on their interests, and virtually live in a safe community, where you can just simply block or report someone who harasses you or disagrees with who you are. A testimony would be a friend of mine, who moved out of state to be with someone they met on one of these spaces. My friend, lets just call her Banana, was openly straight but secretly bi-curious. She met a guy, lets call him Applesauce, on IMVU who turned out to be a perfect match for her. They fell in love, and she eventually had to find out that Applesauce was a woman impersonating a guy. But that didn’t stop Banana from giving her a chance, especially since they got along so well and she felt such a deep connection that she never felt with anyone else. Technology allowed them to stay connected by spending most of their day either on the phone or webcam with each other, even at work. Months went by, and they eventually saved up enough money to move in with each other less than a year later and they’ve been inseparable ever since.

New technology doesn’t just allow themselves to be a completely different gender, but also a more enhanced version of their own gender. As an avid Gaia user since 2006, I’ve lurked in guilds and watched women get exposed for stealing photos of other women or their younger female family members to represent themselves. Some also use lots of photo manipulation technology such as photoshop or apply a lot of filters to smooth out wrinkles and blemishes. Just add an interesting or “enhanced” bio about yourself and voila! You can be the dreamiest prince or princess someone could ever have.

Technology is a bittersweet thing in life when it comes to being social, especially depending on what side of the relationship you are experiencing.  By exploring virtual worlds and social media, and using photo manipulation programs and apps, you can experiment with who you are and not cause harm to yourself if you’re smart about it.

About The Author

Tembila Davis

Tembila Davis is a student of the University of Tampa, majoring in advertising and Public Relations. She is currently exploring topics such as multicultural and pro-social strategic communication, and media writing.

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