Throughout history, women have been written out of cultural moments they helped shape. And now we have a new word for it
Star Trek fandom has already made legendary contributions to popular culture, but its latest sweet encapsulation deserves special recording: in the dictionary.
Earlier this month, a fan post on Tumblr from user @obstinatecondolement mourned the lack of acknowledgment given to women as the source of the series original popularity. They wanted to know when Star Trek stopped being perceived as light, fluffy, not-really-legitimate sci-fi that ~housewives~ liked and started being seen as serious nerd business that girls had to keep their gross cooties off?
A reply repeated the question, but in regards to the Beatles. When did the group start to be remembered as rock legends, rather than a silly boy band teenaged girls liked? Another user answered: when men decided they liked them.
With this, a new term was coined by @thelilithnoir: Mentrification. And as is the tradition when a single word arrives to describe something widely perceived and innately known yet not already explained, the original post went very, very viral.
If gentrification describes the process by which one improves a place so it conforms to middle-class taste, mentrification achieves an equal status transformation by taking the history of female participation and achievement, and festooning its narrative with phalluses.
Weve all seen forms of mentrification. The resultant Tumblr conversation added beer, writing novels and computers to the list of cultural products whose original association with women was redrawn for audiences of men.
Once you know the female history of computer development in particular, you cant unsee the giant cock-and-balls thats been scribbled all over it.
Efforts have been made to resolve this. Ada Lovelace Day, held on the second Tuesday of October, commemorates the brilliant mathematician as the 19th centurys first programmer. But even the word computer used to refer to women mathematicians, who solved astronomical riddles for professors like astrophotography pioneer Edward Charles Pickering at Harvard; apparently, looking at plates for hours on end was considered boring and unspecialised work, so he turned to women to perform the duties.
It was within this framework that Grace Hopper, on assignment from the navy during WW2, wrote the first computer operating manual; and that Jean Jennings Bartik (who led the development of computer storage and memory) and Frances Elizabeth Betty Holberton (who pioneered the first software application) found themselves among the group of women who programmed ENIAC, the first computer.
It took decades for these womens precise contributions to be identified; their names werent even recorded in photographs of the machines they tended because, as women, it was assumed that the work they did must not have been very difficult. While Hopper went on to develop the foundations of software in the 1950s, Nasa was recruiting its own human computers in the 1960s: the female black American mathematicians whose stories are told in the book and movie Hidden Figures.
Inventor and Hollywood actor Hedy Lamarr found her own contribution to computing filing for a patent for the technology which underpins wifi, GPS and Bluetooth – erased entirely from public view. It didnt fit MGMs marketing narrative of a screen star they insisted instead was the most beautiful woman in the world.
The mentrification of computers along with novels, and Star Trek, and beer isnt just thanks to retailers, who calculate male breadwinners to have more money than women to spend on the commodified products and make marketing decisions on that basis although certainly that helps.
Its more about maintaining power structures. Artefacts of pop culture unite their consumers in a frame of shared reference that instills collective values as it defines group identity. To imagine that a popular artwork, art form, cultural practice or habit could build to a level of broad and empowering social currency without being recruited to the maintenance of existing supremacies male, white, or anything else would be naive.
Mentrification is glib and funny, but is also shorthand for a process that isnt as much about men versus women as it is about a traditional culture that is still still gendered masculine, and whose behavioural default is to masculinise anything that challenges it.
Star Trek is for men, the Beatles are rock legends, computers are boys toys. Not because thats how any of these things were built; the instinctive pull here is not towards fairness, but towards the unfairnesses we understand. At least now we have the courage a fresh word provides to name it.
This post was curated & Posted using : RealSpecific
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