Girly Metaphors For Computers

I wrote a paper once in linguistics class that was the opposite- masculine metaphors for computers, in the sense of “from the male perspective.” It’s pretty obvious if you’re a programmer, and not a guy. I frequently kill, abort, execute, deploy, etc, in the line of duty! Reading this paper, to a friend, she was kind of shocked (and amused) to find out the name of that little nub of a mouse in the middle of a keyboard- the nipple. The dots on the F and J on the keyboard- also the nipples. Anyway.

This industry that I love for its creativity, inspiration, and smarts becomes sadly embarrassing when I’m trying to pass it onto my friends- young women and older women alike. Now, you can argue, as the picture does, that we’re reinforcing domesticity and traditional pink collar limits. In response, I’d like to say- have fun with it. What if our crafting and motherly side wasn’t so far from technology? Is that a bad thing? And, arguably, it all got started with sewing patterns. (Source: Ada Lovelace’s pattern for Jacquard on the Babbage’s machine, see “more reading”). I spent some time looking up pretty jacquard, which is to the right–>

Databases as
> kitchen cupboards
> stores/mall

Datatypes as
> types of dolls
> types of dogs/animals
> types of dishes/containers

> knitting instructions
> sewing instructions

> easy-bake-ovens.
> sample miniature sweaters for knitting
> mannequins

Data objects
> see data types, but also hair clips/hair

> talking to your belly about what you want to eat
> Calling your friend to find out what you want to wear tomorrow (kind of a stretch)

> Kids playing in a playground
> Chores

Controlling Structures/Loops, if/when
> Conditions are Knock-knock jokes – if they answer write, reply with the right answer
> Conditions- Parental conditions- if I clean my room, I get candy.
> Loops – the repetition game, “repeat everything I say until I say Monster” or Simon Says

More reading:
Programming Gender and Abrasive Masculien Metaphors
His reference to a great study: Gender HCl and Programming
Leaders of the Information Age: Ada Lovelace
Slimy Metaphors for Technology….” a very English major article, but interesting nonetheless, ha.
There’s a lot of valuable, if dry stuff on this topic.


  1. Comment by Melanie Archer

    Posted on February 14, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    Oh, oh, you've inspired me! I'll give it a whirl:

    Objects in JavaScript are like the needles you buy in the notions department of the fabric store. When you approached the display, you probably had an idea of a generic needle to help you find the appropriate item: you thought of a smallish, pointed thing. This thing is called a Needle object prototype, and its smallish and pointed qualities are called its properties.

    Many needles are designed to do the same things: that pointed end is meant to pierce a fabric, and the eye of the needle holds a thread to draw through the piercing, whether for sewing or embroidery. What these needles can do are called their methods. Of course, there are other kinds of Needle objects, such as for sewing machines, or for knitting, which have their own properties and methods. What all these different kinds of needles have in common are called inherited properties and methods–they are derived from a prototype Needle object, that generic idea of “needle-ness” you kept in mind when you shopped.

    Changes to an individual needle, such as bending it, blunting it, or losing it(!), won't affect other Needle objects, of course. If you want to change all Needle objects at once, you must change, or extend, their prototype. So maybe you become a big-time needle manufacturer, and invent a newfangled multipurpose needle with robotic threading and unbreakable carbon fiber and GPS locating or some such. Any Needle objects made from this prototype will inherit its properties and methods.

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