Gendering Humanoid Robots: Robo-Sexism in Japan
In humans, gender is both a concept and performance embodied by females and males, a corporeal technology that is produced dialectically. The process of gendering robots makes especially clear that gender belongs both to the order of the material body and to the social and discursive or semiotic systems within which bodies are embedded. This article explores and interrogates the gendering of humanoid robots manufactured today in Japan for employment in the home and workplace. Gender attribution is a process of reality construction. Roboticists assign gender based on their common-sense assumptions about female and male sex and gender roles. Whereas the relationship between human bodies and genders is a contingent one, I argue that gendered robots render that relationship a necessary one by conflating bodies and genders. Humanoid robots are the vanguard of posthuman sexism, and are being developed within a reactionary rhetorical climate.