There is a specific image we each associate with a woman, with her needs and her duties, with feminism as such, and I have, for years, struggled to find that image. After tens of metaphors and hundreds of fictitious portrayals, the journey culminated surprisingly with technology; more specifically, with gynoids.
A gynoid is a robot built to resemble a woman. When I first came across the term, I could think of no specific reason why there was an officiating label in place that referred specifically to “female” robots. However, it only took a minute of thinking to understand why: even when we write casually, the chosen gender to designate an arbitrary target-human is masculine. Surprise is evoked, were it in trivial amounts or in offensive volumes, when a woman is the deus ex machina. Therefore, in contrast to our discriminatory obsession with womankind, a gynoid finds its identity in the truth of that discrimination and not the act of discrimination itself – in my opinion, at least.
That being answered, the ethics of manufacturing are called into question because the cultural and semiotic dissonances caused by an “artificial human being” have been the subject of many debates. In fact, some of the arguments have transcended out of their esoteric birthplaces and into films, into the mind of the common man. Many find such entities disturbing, and in order for me to fully understand how the issues of “being” a gynoid ease my understanding of feminism, it is of consequence to know why the disturbance arises.
Most of the issues plaguing the instance of being a woman arise from the perpetuation of historically-accouched and circumstantially adopted prejudices. Specifically, a biological bias allowed men to go hunting – although not implying that the women couldn’t but just that the affair would be more efficient when conducted that way. Whether such primordial arrangements cascaded into other industries or such similar activity-centric differences were necessary, I don’t know, but over the years, a woman has been progressively suppressed, oppressed and denied opportunities and rights. Like a snake biting its tail, the sustenance of such attitudes facilitated their worsening.
A gynoid, essentially, is the embodiment of these obsessions and not the profession of it as such. While the underlying truth of the discrimination explains only the labelling, the construction of such a “product” will hold any significance only if the intended purpose is symptomatic of pejoration. For example, Clayton Bailey’s ‘Sweetheart’, a functional coffee-maker in the form of a busty woman, could be considered a reflection of an individual’s fixation on big breasts while an Actroid, which is a gynoid designed by Hiroshi Ishiguro to be “a perfect secretary who smiles and flutters her eyelids”, is reflective only of an unhealthy stereotype.
Apart from a superficial fixation, the “othering” of women, identified by denying them due participation, is visible in two scenarios: when the fixation rests with the needs a woman fulfils (objectification) and when the fixation rests with the limited roles men think they can occupy (fetishization). The former is associated strongly with the generic identity of a woman while the latter is a more individualistic notion (although often compelled by a “permission to objectify”).
Although the satiation of a purely intellectual curiosity may come about, the creation of a gynoid is more likely to cure the emotional frustration arising out of a woman not being “perfect”. Over many generations, women have been forced to bow down to what are really patriarchal stereotypes: a “perfect” woman is one who is “sexy, dumb and obedient”. With the technical resources at hand, it is unsurprising that a gynoid was constructed instead of waiting for Venus to answer Pygmalion’s prayers.
The technological bodies of gynoids depict sexism in an unnatural context, highlighting its negative impact. They also show that stereotypes and societal attitudes will not necessarily be altered through technological progress.
– Thomas Foster about the novel Dead Girls by Richard Calder
It is quite impossible to determine conclusively if these “metal women” are more-than-symbolic of the persistence of the misogynistic man (and the prostitution of his skills to strut the misogyny) or if they are undeniable consequences of the advent of affordable technology. However, instead of setting them aside as necessary evils, it is never too soon to anticipate the possibility that, in lieu of any deplorable attitudes fading with the dawn of a new age, matters can very well get worse. While prompting a careful evaluation of the socio-cultural impact of technology, the creation of the gynoid – label and body – plays a role more critical than reflection: it summarizes the existential agony of womanhood and the tumultuous struggle towards liberation in a world that robs with one hand and rewards with the other.