My new book, Alluring Androids, Robot Women, and Electronic Eves, highlights the way software designers, robotics engineers, filmmakers, artists, and photographers have been fascinated by the idea of artificial women who seem alive. The illustrations — many in color — range from early clockwork female automatons to Lara Croft and The Stepford Wives to today’s electronic Japanese female robots, which look so real they can easily fool the eye.
In my previous book, Women and the Machine: Representations From the Spinning Wheel to the Electronic Age, I discussed how visual images and writing about women have often portrayed women as timid creatures, clueless about machines and baffled by all things technological; and how women themselves have successfully countered these age-old stereotypes by demonstrating their technical expertise.
Alluring Androids, Robot Women, and Electronic Eves features images of artificial females created by men that also reveal men’s stereotypes and fantasies about women — picturing them, for example, as a beautiful playthings and cheerful domestic servants. But as the book’s images also reveal, many of today’s female game avatars and anime heroines have completely challenged these old ideas.
Some important questions remain: as more and more women enter the fields of robotics, are they changing the nature of robot designs, including the functional uses of robots and the way female robots are portrayed? As increasing numbers of women are becoming video game designers, are they changing the nature of the games and the ways female avatars are presented? I’m now writing an expanded version of the book, and would welcome the views of NCWIT members.
Dr. Julie Wosk is Professor of Art History, English, and Studio Painting at the State University of New York Maritime College.