As for compulsory math. and science, I suspect that if these subjects weren't as compulsively narrowly defined as they are now but were more inclusively and contextually framed, it would no longer be so compulsory to consider making them so. From such a reformed curriculum, you'd not only get more women scientists and technologists, you'd get women who practiced science like Barbara McClintock and Anne Conway (17th century), with a feeling for the organism. You'd get women like Ellen Swallow (19th century) who gave public demonstrations on how to test water for pollution.
AISLA: You have said that your own thinking on the relationship between technology and knowledge has changed. What have you learned during this process?
HEATHER I think that we've been talking about this all along, although we haven't addressed the technologies specifically associated with the begetting and accrediting of knowledge: the gatekeepers on thesis boards and newspaper and journal editorial boards, who allow or disallow new information; the established frame of reference in relation to which one positions oneself, even if it's in opposition; the biases built into methodologies, for instance, what choices are excluded in multiple-choice questionnaires, the subordination of the qualitative to the quantifiable and so on. I guess the main thing I've learned is to be aware of the context when talking about technology. This includes the knowledge, the understanding and related biases and assumptions out of which new technology emerges and against which it is applied, as well as the perception of the technology held by the general (or particular) public depending on how and by whom it is portrayed.
Hospital birthing technology provides a devastating illustration here. Recent health- care research has found that the traditional delivery table, with the woman on her back with her feet in stirrups is actually detrimental to the birthing process. It's really birthing technology designed for the aid and comfort of the presiding doctor; yet it's sold to the public as in the woman's best interest. It's the same very often in the case of caesarian- section delivery.
AISLA: Has the new technology helped you in your work? Do you own a word processor or computer? Have you ever taken a computer course?
HEATHER: Oh yes. Personally, I live the new technology, although I admit that I put off buying a computer longer than I could justify by lack of funds. A certain technophobia there, perhaps. I'm the perfect example of how the computer can be a liberating tool. To me it is a tool because I define how I use it, because I define my own work. Being self-employed, I'm used to that. So it was relatively easy to see the computer as something which I could control. No I haven't taken a computer course. For my purposes, the user manuals (and a partner, Miles Burton, who helps me when I'm stuck) is quite sufficient.
AISLA: Do you have a feminist vision of how technology can be used to benefit society?
HEATHER: I worry a little at the language here. There's just a hint of the great white hope: one politically correct Tao of technology which would displace the technological establishment which is partiarchal, hierarchical and so forth. I think most people realize that for Schumacher the operative phrase wasn't "small is beautiful" but "economics as if people matter." The key to my vision of technology in society isn't a prescription about scale. The key is values, and I think Ursula Franklin's statement of the core values covers it: she speaks of technology premised on the principle that "all people matter equally." From that, we'd get a peace-promoting, health-promoting, creativity-promoting, love- and laughter-promoting application of a diversity of technes to a diversity of logos.
Benston, Margaret, 1982. "Feminism and the Critique of Scientific Method." Feminism in Canada: From Pressure to Politics (Miles, A. & Finn, G., eds.). Montreal: Black Rose Books.
Ellul, Jacques, 1964. The Technological Society. New York: Knopf.
Franklin, Ursula, 1984. "Will Women Change Technology or Will Technology Change Women?" Knowledge Reconsidered: A Feminist Overview, (Proceedings of the 1983 CRIAW Conference). Ottawa: CRIAW.