The School of Journalism and Communication presents
The 9th Annual Attallah Lecture
Exit and the Mechanical Mom
Director of the McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology
University of Toronto
Robots agitate the patriarchal anxiety of male disposability with a fear of mommy’s departure. It hasn’t been very hard to re-inscribe the characteristics of patriarchy’s automated women onto robots. In fact, we might think of the bottle, the breast-pump, the dishwasher, and the cellphone as technologies akin to something like cordless umbilical cords extending women while disciplining and controlling their movements. We know that none of these are in fact liberating technologies on their own. It is the same structure of gender that gives way to the fact that so many of the personal technological devices we hold closest to our bodies seem to be doing the work of an overbearing and meddling mother. But robots also offer a cultural moment to think through technologies beyond the repressive binary. This talk situates contemporary robots and the discussions that surround them within a larger fantasy of male exit. While taking stock of this masculinist penchant for exit and paying particular attention to the “message” and “extensions” of our new machines, this talk will also consider whether a door has opened for a feminist exit movement.