How Technology Inspired Feminism and Transformed Masculinity
A Q&A with Harvard professor Debora Spar, author of ‘Work Mate Marry Love: How Machines Shape Our Human Destiny’
What happens when the machines we create begin to change us? This question lies at the heart of Debora Spar’s new book Work Mate Marry Love: How Machines Shape Our Human Destiny, an examination of the way technology is upending our intimate and emotional lives.
In Work Mate Marry Love, the Harvard Business School professor looks at how our social structures and intimate relationships are fundamentally altered by the rise of new technology. The book takes a look at the history of technological change to find clues to help guide us in the present moment, and, in particular, looks at the ways masculinity has been shaped by technology.
“When we think about technology, it tends to be focused on what’s happening on the factory floor and in the office — our commercial and our economic lives,” Spar tells OneZero. “But our most personal decisions, how we have children and form our families and fall in love, are being shaped by technology every bit as much as our business lives.”
OneZero caught up with Spar to discuss the technology that fueled feminism, how the Industrial Revolution shaped masculinity, and how our machines transform what it means to be human.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
OneZero: You write that feminism is a direct result of technological shifts — that the massive social movement was ignited and enabled by innovation. How has technology fueled feminism?
Spar: I don’t want to downplay the role of the suffragettes and the women’s liberation movement and activists — many human beings played a huge role in shaping feminism as we know it today. However, there was also a technological change that enabled feminism to be possible.
Technology, particularly refrigerators and washing machines, were crucial in just freeing women from the sheer drudgery of work that had consumed most of their lives. If you go back and look at how many hours it actually took just to do a family’s laundry… I mean it was madness in the days before washing…