Minutes of the third planning meeting for Scholar and Feminist X, 1982
To: Scholar and Feminist X Planning Comittee From: Lee Coppernoll Subject: Minutes of the Third Planning Committee Meeting, October 14, 1982 Bettina opened the meeting with the announcement that the date for the conference has been set for April 23, 1983. She shared correspondence from people interested in the conference topic and reported on a conference "Women and Income Control in the Third World" held at SIA. A concern was raised that the tone of the previous discussions has been anti- technology and suggestive of the position that the only proper feminist stance is anti—technology. People responded to this point as follows: There is a need to address both the opportunities and liabilities for women in technology and we may not have spent enough time on the opportunities. It is dangerous to take a Luddite position toward technology and yet it is important to examine how the unequal power relations between men nd women are expressed in the technology being produced and used. It was pointed out that it is not possible to rise above these arguments about technology to a more theoretical level where the contradictions between the opportunities and liabilities don't operate; we must examine these contradictory characteristics of technology. Feminists can't be anti—technology because it is here to stay and instead it is important to examine how technology is developed and used so that they can be involved in the creation of appropriate technologies. Discussion then focused on reading material. In response to an assertion that the materials seemd biased and simplistic, one person reported that the materials being read were much more theoretical and thought-provoking than many materials on the new technology, which tend to be speculative or descriptive and not analytical in assessing the social impact of technology. The readings for the meeting investigated the impact of technology on women as paid workers. For example, third world women have jobs producing the new micro- processing equipment, although these jobs are low paid and prove to be dangerous to workers’ health. Someone asked whether there was any difference between these newer jobs for women in high technology fields and the earlier jobs, mostly held by men, in manufacturing and agriculture in the Third World. Both are instances of exploitation of poor workers, whether men or women - what's different, if anything, about the situation of these new workers? In plants that manufacture microprocessor chips, the labor force is almost entirely women and this is certainly a change. Furthermore, besides the dangerous health conditions including long hours, exposure to deadly chemicals and eye intensive work, the move into ;'the factory results in social dslocation for many of these women workers. As they work in these modern plants, they are still expected in the home to adhere to traditional feminine roles. The point was made that the situation of Third World women workers has become more directly related to the situation of women workers in this country, seen in the increase of outwork being done by women in New England as a result of the decline of major industries in this country. The impact of the new technology on women as paid laborers in this country was discussed in further detail. Word processors are becoming a necessary tool for ‘office work done by women and thus women are gaining expertise in the operations of computers. The prevalence of word processors signals the possibility of doing office work at home. Benefits and disadvantages to having the home double as a workplace were presented. Concern was expressed over whether women would be doing worse economically if they did piecework in the home for piece rate pay, instead of hourly pay. It was pointed out that piecework may free up women's time, giving them more control over their time. Another response to the issue of piecework was the suggestion that there is the need to be aware of the
- 2 _ differences between those who have some control in generating their income and those who have less control; for example, there is a difference between a sales- person who works from his/her home, who generates a task and is paid on commissions, and a secretary or clerk who works from the home performing tasks given from the office paid by the piece. As in the prior two meetings, the issue of the electronic cottage was discussed with many of the same questions raised, including a critique of the privatization of the home and the limiting of women's action to the domestic sphere (especially in light of the fact that historically women have had the most impact on society when they have had access to the public sphere). On the other hand, several people suggested that the availability of a computer in the home for work purposes allows more flexibility and may make it possible to work part of the time at home and part of the time in the office as one wished. Childcare arrangements may be less problematic if work can be done in the home. The impact of technology on men's life was raised. It was suggested that some men will want to work in thehome, and thus the domestic sphere would not be only reserved as a workplace for women, and that a result may be more equal relations within the home as well as society. A question was raised, however, as to whether the increased presence of men in the home was necessarily desireable. Others reminded the group that not all homes were nuclear traditional in structure. Significant implications of computer technology for education were presented. Despite teachers‘ fears of computers, students benefit from the use of computers in the educational process. They can learn at their own pace and the computer is programmed to give the student positive, helpful feedback. The computer can also function to keep the teacher "off the student's back." Other positive aspects of computer technology were raised. Two examples were: that computer language reflects no gender or ethnic bias, and that with knowledge of how to operate computers women and disadvantaged groups could gain access to information and, therefore, power. At the close of the meeting, people spoke of several reasons for taking a critical look at technology as it is currently being developed and implemented. It was proposed that it is important for feminists to analyze what new types of power relations are made possible by the new technology. NOTE TO ALL PARTICIPANTS: Come to the next meeting (October 28 at 4:15 pm) with a few questions that you might like to see the conference itself address. Discussion of these questions will be our agenda for the meeting. Present: Alice Amsden, Annette Baxter, Bettina Berch, Leslie Calman, Sally Chapman, Lee Coppernoll, Betty Corbett, Sally Cummins, Eva Eilenberg, Wendy Fairey, Jane Gould, Ruth D. Handel, Jamie Horwitz, Janie Kritzman, Maria La Sala, Julie Marsteller, Nancy Miller, Esther Rowland, Sue Sacks, Quandra Stadler, Norma Stanton, Mary Ellen Tucker.