Clinton St. Quarterly, Vol. 7 No. 4 | Winter 1985 (Seattle) /// Issue 14 of 24 /// Master# 62 of 73

^^^o m in g of age in America in the early seventies, I found myself in a white, middle-class high school embracing the new American ideal— that I could have it all. The cultural heartbeat was a thrilling horizon where there was equal opportunity for women, it was possible to have sex without, guilt, and technology promised to make life better. I savored Robin Morgan's Sisterhood is Powerful, was inspired by the civil rights movement, and was dazzled by burgeoning options for women. I felt that all of the elements of a complete life seemed possible. Through these early years my diaries were my faithful companions. These plastic-coated, pastel books with latches for safekeeping were filled with page after page of dreams about a future where love was compassionate, work was ample, creative and economically just, and housework was shared, especially the dishes. I felt equal to boys; they were my friends. I was eager to learn how to fix my own bike, and a neighborhood boy showed me howto grease my chain, adjust the brakes, and fix a flat. My prize mathematical feat was constructing a demonstration of the binary system. I was fascinated by the notion of a world of just zeros and ones. As I molded my world, my resilience stemmed from my dreams and firm belief in the women’s movement. Action around the ERA was full steam ahead, and so were my fantasies. There was no doubt in my mind that the ERA was an idea whose time had come. I left my ethnic neighborhood with my own unique blend of confidence, expectations, and naivete. The media’s chants also assured me that America would take care of me. Television told me it was so. . Progress is our most important product Better things for better living through chemistry. . . The quality goes in before the name goes on . . . What is good for General Motors is good for America . Little did I realize that this was “cultural armor” on a dragon I would eventually attempt to slay. My initiation rites into adulthood were happening at the height of an affluent crest in America’s growth economy. Riding a wave of cultural bliss, I graduated from college, married, and got a job editing educational materials. I continued reading womens’ literature and rallied to support progressive political ideals. For awhile, while I was surrounded by the ingredients of happiness and fulfillment, the dream was working. Several years later my black, leatherbound journals oozed page after page of anger and angst about the contradictions, ambiguities and inequities of both my marriage and my work. My marriage was disintegrating quickly. I questioned where the compassion was, and even though we shared the dishes, our relationship didn’t feel equitable. We both tried to make our relationship succeed, but had little understanding or experience of what constituted a successful relationship. At the office as I edited educational reports and curriculum guides, I felt like I was cleaning up someone else’s undigested dogma. I began to question how my work influenced my world. At work I used my trusty tools: pencils, pens, typewriters and white-out. One day I wandered from the water fountain to the word processing pool and nearby computer room. Although I understood what computers did, I had never seen one before. My curiosity was aroused. What could I do with these machines? Could they make my work easier and more interesting? I was once again seduced into thinking that these tools, and technology per se, were good, and that with technology we could triumph. Wasn’t that what the cultural armor had indicated? A new frontier glistened before me. Within a few months I got a divorce and needing a job became a technical writer with a computer company. I promised to explain to people how the company’s software and hardware worked. I had no doubts that I could pick it up quickly. They promised challenging work, a decent salary, and career opportunities. That was five years ago. I remember going to a party during those first weeks on fhe job where someone asked me what I “did.” I said that I wrote computer documentation. The man stared at me like I had a social disease. When I went on to explain that I really was a translator—I made computers understandable to ordinary people—his gazed softened, conveying that this was more palpable, even though he was still perplexed. At least I was convinced. I thoroughly enjoyed unraveling the mysteries of computers, terminals, modems, and software applications. The work appealed to my need for logic and order. I saw myself as a user advocate interpreting the language of programmers and engineers. The work continued to be challenging. With each new project I became more of a technologist. I kept getting raises, earned the respect of my colleagues, won awards, and was promoted to middle-management. I had arrived. Yet a frenetic gnawing in my stomach told me that this notion was not quite right. As my responsibilities grew, my collaborations were almost exclusively with men. I found myself engaged in discussions on how decisions would affect employees, was eager to solve “people problems,” and constantly lobbied for more longterm project planning. Even though my work was valued, something was missing. The technological world that appeared to be working so well for me was leaving many others around me as puzzled outsiders, especially women. The promise of iechnqlogy had seemed a real payoff—household appliances, electricity, computers, word processors, and the pill were at our disposal. What I had not anticipated was that the growth of technology was in the so-called “national interest;” examining CONFESSIONS of a I THOROUGHLY ENJOYED UNRAVELING THE MYSTERIES OF COMPUTERS, TERMINALS, MODEMS, AND SOFTWARE APPLICATIONS. THE WORK APPEALED TO MY NEED FOR LOGIC AND ORDER. I SAW MYSELF TECHNOLOGIST Feminist Clinton St. Quarterly AS A USER ADVOCATE INTERPRETING THE LANGUAGE OF PROGRAMMERS AND ENGINEERS. By Mimi Maduro Illustration by Susan Gustavson