Funny or sexist technology humor?

So I’m reading through my RSS feeds on my Pulse app for the iPad and I came across this article from Gizmodo. I’m really not sure how to interpret it. At first glance it has some cute humor, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt that it just perpetuated the gender stereotype that women are not good with computers or technology. I understand that the author may have a mother that is not tech-savvy, but I don’t think that it’s fair to say all mother are not tech-savvy, to say the least.

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Growing up, I was told that I could be anything I wanted if I worked hard for it, that education was the key to my future, and that girls and boys were equal. My mom mowed the lawn, my dad did the dishes, and vice versa….it didn’t matter what sex you are, things needed to get done, even if society thought it to be “man’s work” or “woman’s work”. I graduated college with a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies, and am now at women’s college, working on my Master of Arts in Teaching for special education. My classes consist of females, a good number who are mothers, and who are future-educators that are using technology with ease. My professors are female; they are highly educated and are in no way naive when it comes to using the computer. So, it makes me wonder, how fair is this article/cartoon? Is it really “funny”? Or is it an easy laugh, in which society is perpetuating an antiquated, and sexist stereotype?

My heart aches a little because I know that some people still believe that women cannot do as much as men, especially in the STEM fields. (For those of you who don’t know what STEM is, it stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Why do we have an over abundance of males in these majors in college, but few females? Are we sending messages to our girls that they are not skilled in these areas of academia? Even on the Gizmodo site, there are 16 males on staff, and only two females. What is going on here? Maybe, just maybe, society needs to stop and think about the things we publish that may be considered “humor”, especially when it encompasses gender stereotypes and one’s sex defining one’s ability.

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9 thoughts on “Funny or sexist technology humor?

  1. I don’t think the joke is that the keyboard is like this because the mom is a woman, I think it’s poking fun at the way people who are older and not as familiar with technology use computers. My mom was an early adopter, and is great at things like this, but I have several friends whose parents use social networking sites, and these buttons describe their posts and frantic calls to my friends pretty accurately. My grandparents ask me for tech support almost every time I am at their house, so I think this is pretty funny because I have to make notes for them that are fairly similar to some of those on the keyboard (though no number of notes seems to be able to prevent them from downloading a ton of extra toolbars for internet explorer…). I do see your point though, and this probably would have been funnier with a title like “My parents must have this keyboard” because in my experience gender is NOT a factor in computer literacy or illiteracy.

    • Here’s a great comment from the original article: “There’s nothing sexist about the original cartoon, because it’s specifically labeled “My Mom’s Computer Keyboard.” Making a joke about a particular person’s shortcomings could be cruel, but it’s not stereotyping since no generalization is being made.

      The title of the post turned it into “Every Mom’s Computer Keyboard,” and reasonable people can disagree over how offensive that generalization is. But I hope people agree that making it a personal statement instead of a stereotype absolves the original cartoonist of culpability in the “sexism” argument”

      • I saw that they changed the title too! Interesting how the author changed this title to represent a wider population. I’m still curious as to why the author changed it. I see your point in the generational gap that technology seems to affect, however I’m still stuck on the “Every Mom” title. Maybe “My Grandparents'(Or Parents’, as you suggest) Computer Keyboard” would have been better. I appreciate your comment though Evelyn, because you are so tech savvy, and female, it’s good to get another perspective on it. Thanks 🙂

  2. I think humor that may be viewed as inappropriate IS inappropriate, whether it is sexist or racist or whatever. The only way to make people aware of how their words, actions, or words are perceived by others is to let them know in an appropriate way. Then it is up to the author to take the next step if he/she wishes to do so.

    All good points…Thanks to you both for your thoughts.

  3. Beth,
    I enjoyed reading your post and felt your passion about the material come through. When I initially looked at the picture I rolled my eyes at some of the tabs. I can see how this cartoonist / author could have been poking fun and maybe was trying to be lighthearted in the “Busy Mom” stereotype where many of us wish there was an easy button we could push to “just get it done and over with because we have so much going on in our everyday, busy lives.
    I can see how older generations who did not grow up with technology could be personified through this cartoon as well but unfortunately, I have parents who are of a much older generation that were not introduced to “technology” until much later in their careers and who can at times now run circles around me; partially because they have the time in early retirement to spend figuring things out. 🙂
    Thank you for sharing this!

    • Julie-nice point about older generations having the time to learn technology! …maybe it’s not so much a “generational” difference but a “time and exposure” to technology difference.

  4. I really enjoyed reading this post and and the comments. I agree that the article was in poor taste. I have to admit though- prior to this class, some of those buttons applied to me!

  5. If this cartoon is done by a mom for moms, it pretty funny. But if it’s others in society making fun of women who choose to be moms and devote their time to their children, not their computers its sad. The reality is taking care of kids doesn’t allow as much face time with a computer. Try working on learning something new on the computer with a toddler wrapped around your leg, breasting feeding a new baby! Let’s give kudos to all of the busy moms who are computer literate and are raising a happy healthy family. Let’s hope this cartoon isn’t saying that moms are too dumb or self-absorbed to learn how to use a computer except for playing Farmville and Facebook. Taking care of kids takes lots of time, that’s the reality, and sometimes their learning curve to learn new technologies, logically, is a little steeper, due to their other, more important demands in life -children.

    • Bonnie, what a great point about raising children! I have to agree that raising children is a higher priority than playing on the computer. (I know my own mother is one who certainly put me and my brother first, and her own computer/technology needs last…but don’t judge, she now has a MacBook and is quickly turning into the iOS guru for our Windows family! Haha.) I appreciate your point about the learning curve…I think it’s a valid one. Hopefully this author realizes that when his mom calls him for tech advice, she has actually done him a service-to put him as her priority and technology on the back burner. Do you have kids? What do you think about parenting and technology?

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