Becoming Unmanned: The Gendering of Lethal Autonomous Warfare Technology

TitleBecoming Unmanned: The Gendering of Lethal Autonomous Warfare Technology
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsManijikian, Mary
JournalInternational Feminist Journal of Politics
Date Published01/2014

Forty-nine nations currently have UAV (unmanned autonomous vehicle, or unmanned aerial vehicle) technology. Autonomous technology could potentially alter both the conduct of warfighting itself as well as our understanding of war as a gendered activity. Using drones or "robots" could affect the activities of war through outsourcing killing to technology and removing the aggressors’ physical bodies from the battlefield. Drones could also affect the gendered construct of war as the traditional dyad of protector/protected is altered: a system in which men have traditionally protected women and children is replaced by a new system in which machines protect humans. Some analysts might interpret these developments as an important step towards posthumanity where man-machine as well as gender distinctions are overcome. However, traditional gendered concepts of warfare have a long history and it is not inevitable that new technologies will change gendered activities, relations and views of war. Instead, the discourse of new technologies as expressed by US military planners and technology developers currently reinforces rather than downplays gender distinctions. Robots themselves have been constructed as subordinate, as a new type of nature which is dominated or feminized, while "cyborg soldiers" with technological implants are constructed as hypermasculine.

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