Sunday, December 11, 2011

"Gynoid" vs "Android"?

Oh, semantics. Why you so lovely and so pain-inducing.

I like sci-fi, but sci-fi is not one of my fields of expertise. (Fields of expertise: Dissociative Identity Disorder, Adam Lambert, the works of John Green, Batwoman.) So after TCAST came out, I talked to quite a few sci-fi devotees about how TCAST fit into the awesome universe of sci-fi tropes.

One thing I started noticing was the term "gynoid." Gynoid means a robot that is built to resemble a female. You're supposed to use it instead of "android," since the "andr" root of the word refers to men. The word is supposed to be less sexist.

But somehow it kind of rubs me the wrong way.

Not that I think it's really that sexist, and I don't have strong enough feelings about this topic to dislike the use of the word--if you like it, go for it--but I'll just explain why I personally don't use the term.

Elly-in-Jude: Bringing robot
gender confusion since 2011.
Even though a root word of "android" refers to men, it seems a little bit of a daunting task to be responsible for the roots of every word one uses. I mean, I don't even know what language most English words come from. And there are far more offensive words to get mad about. For example, "hysteria" comes from the Greek word for uterus.

Also, most people see the word "android" not to be so much about maleness as it is about robotics. Google defines it as "a robot with a human appearance." Princeton calls it "an automaton that resembles a human being." Wikipedia calls it "a robot or synthetic organism designed to look and act like a human."
These groups aren't defining it as a man, but rather as a human. And "humans" is a category that includes both men and women.

Actually, I think to use the term "gynoid" is a little more sexist than otherwise. Because in the common definition, "android" refers to a humanoid robot, to specify that a "gynoid" is different than an "android" implies that women are not humans.

I keep forgetting my blog and staring into her eyes. o.o

And let's be honest--gender is a human category (or at least you could argue it's a biological category, though I disagree and may argue this another day). Robots aren't humans nor are they biological. If they have gender, it's because their maker tried to create them in the image of a certain gender. All of their gendered attributes were given to them one at a time by a theoretical team of designers, who could just as easily given one android broad shoulders and boobs and balls and a vagina. Why not? If we use "android" as a male term, (which as I said, it isn't being used that way,) and "gynoid" as a female term, what do we call this humanoid robot? Do we have to make up a new term? Androgynoid? (That's kind of awesome but mostly just facepalm-inducing.)
When you get to mix and match the theoretical human-form the way robots allow, and because gender is confusing in the first place, I think their "humanoid robotness" is more important part of their label than their theoretical gender.

So, anyway, like I said, if you like the term "gynoid," go ahead and use it, I'll know what you mean and it doesn't bother me. But that's why I prefer not to use it. Instead I'll just say "male android" or "female android."


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