Robots and the Perpetuation of Male Dominance

Based on the 1972 novel The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin, a science-fiction thriller film version directed by Bryan Forbes premiered in 1975. The Stepford Wives is about a free-spirited photographer Joanna Eberhart (Katharine Ross) who decides to move with her husband Walter (Peter Masterson), and their small children, from New York City to a suburb called Stepford. As soon as they move there, both Joanna and the children realize that they do not feel comfortable, while her husband Walt settles in and enjoys himself. Joanna and her new friend Bobbie, who is also new to town, notice that the women in Stepford are strangely put together, conservative, uniform (almost mechanical), and submissive to their husbands. In addition to this, Joanna’s husband Walt decided to join an exclusive men’s club without even telling her about it, and things began to get stranger from then on after. Bobbie and Joanna are very skeptical of everything that is happening in Stepford, and start doing their own investigating. They find out that many of the women changed from their prominent, liberal selves to being housewives after they moved to Stepford. As the film progresses Bobbie starts to act differently, and with a turn of events Joanna discovers that this new Bobbie is actually a robot, which is the reason why all of the other women have changed as well. Although this film may be communicating negative messages technological advancements, a more significant notion would be to say that it is about men’s secret and insidious desire to revert women back to being the ideal housewives from the 1950’s in order to maintain the patriarchal system in which we live.

1)   The increase in the education of women seemingly threatens male dominance not only because it allows for women to achieve higher status and income, but it also causes a societal demographic transition, as more women are waiting longer, or never having children.

2)   Gender diversity in the workplace and more women entering in male-dominated professions has caused men to become increasingly covertly and subtly sexist, for example by not promoting them even when they have proven to work hard and produce excellent work in order to maintain male dominance, as opposed to as overtly and institutionally sexist as things were before.

3)   With more rights and laws that protect women, the new patriarchal system that has been forming since the suburban housewife era of the 1950’s has resulted in an interesting dichotomy between a society that “wants” intelligent, hardworking women, while still viewing them as incompetent, and unequal; and subsequently still treating them as such when it is convenient for men.

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