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The Gendered Cable Manifesto

Noam Youngrak Son

#genderBinarism

#appropriation

#infrastructure


Introduction

Gender as a concept is not only applicable to humans. When the idea of gender is applied to the cables, its meaning is reduced into a relationship of insertion. As a non-binary individual and designer, I find this problematic in the sense that the way of classifying gender violently erases the existence of everyone that doesn’t neatly fit into those categories. However, instead of insisting on abolishing those terms, I discovered that the idea of gender that humans applied to the electric cables functioning in very queer ways that we couldn’t expect.

By applying some queer instances of the gendered electric cables back to that of humans, I could come up with a post-human species whose sexual intercourse and reproductive system resembles that of the electric cables. Each of them has multiple genitalia with diverse shapes and textures, which makes this humankind androgynous. Their sexual intercourse happens on a big-group scale involving countless connections of genitals. Genetic information(perhaps contained in the body fluid as a specific type of polymer) flows along with the connections, like electricity transmitted by cables, eventually forming a network of genetic information.

Offsprings can(but also may not) be made from that network, from a melting pot of genetic information of every participant. I, as a designer, wrote a visual-literal manifesto on this speculative human species, then visualized and materialized their reproductive infrastructure including their sex hotel, sex chair, sex toys. The manifesto is self-published into a book that is bound with electric cables that motivated the creation of this fiction.


The Recipe

USB 3.0 Extension Cable – Male to Female Adapter Cord.
High-Speed Male to Female HDMI Extension Cable.
Straight Female to Female Adapter Cable Premium Stereo Gold-Plated.
Multicoloured Dupont Wire 40pin Male to Female.
40pin Male to Male, 40pin Female to Female.

– Excerpts from product names on Amazon

Female (of parts of machinery, fittings, etc.) manufactured hollow so that a corresponding male part can be inserted.
Male (of a fitting or part of machinery) manufactured to fit inside a corresponding female part.

– English Oxford Dictionary

In detail, it consists of small egg-shaped parts connected by countless tubes of various lengths. Some parts of the structure are lit by a light from inside. It is a very vivid light, and you can see it from a great distance. The way it bounces off the structure’s surface makes out several distinct colours.
Image credit: Noam Youngrak Son

Gender as a concept is not only applicable to humans. When the idea of gender is applied to the cables, its meaning is reduced into a relationship of insertion. In order to critically reflect on how gender functions in this metaphor, we need to clarify what this signifies. Cables make connections through cable connectors, and the cisgender-heterosexual-intercourse happens by the insertion of genitals. Eventually, the metaphor relates the human bodies with the cables, and the human genitalia with the cable connectors by presuming hetero-cis-normativity.

Though one’s gender identity can not be determined solely by if one penetrates or is penetrated, the cable-like classifications are still the only legitimate forms of human existence in the majority of the societies. Genders of cables are the standardized ways for cables to make connections with each other, and gender binary is a mythical standard that is socially constructed, forcefully applied to individuals. Anyone who doesn’t fit neatly in that category might be comparable to the gender-non-conforming ways of connection, such as twisting the wires together. Those queer ways of cable connection are not usually recommended since it is not secure enough and may arouse confusion.

The connectors vary a lot in size, shape, texture, and malleability: from big to small, from light to heavy, from straight to crooked to spiral-shaped, from matt to glossy to shiny, from sleek, streamlined shape to organic-shape, not only blue and pink but in various colour, sometimes soft and flexible like a sponge and sometimes rough like sandpaper.
Image credit: Noam Youngrak Son
By speculating about the fictional ways of reproduction that references how the cables connect to each other, I am willing to discover a non-binary post-human who is as alien as us from the perspective of the asexual microbes.
Image credit: Noam Youngrak Son

Unfortunately, despite the similarity in the way that gender works in both cases, the mechanism of gender is more restrictive to us as humans than the cables. The genitalia of cables is highly plastic. Yet human genitalia that requires complexed medical procedures to be modified, cable genitals can be switched/converted/split easily by connecting additional components such as cable splitter and gender-converter. Furthermore, gendered cables always have more than one connector/genitalia since cables are designed to carry electric current between multiple ends of cables. Though the individual connection parts can be easily classified as male or female(though you may have to ignore their ambiguity violently), it is most of the time ambiguous to tell the gender of a cable because it has more than one connection parts that are male or female. Most of the people are not allowed to have this obscurity, as it can be seen from non-consensual medical interventions on intersex infants. By using their multiple genitals, gendered cables make multiple connections at once, forming a complexed electric circuit. This, if done by humans, is also considered illegal or immoral. Unlike the cables, we are restricted in the state and plasticity of genitals that we can have by gender binarism, and also in the number of connections that we can make with it at once by monogamous norms.

Therefore, gendered cables are still deviant from the perspective of gendered people. So why not consider imitating them? By applying this metaphor of gender applied to the cables back to human, I speculate a fictional society where people’s gender is functioning like that of cables.

The world of the gendered cables is not Utopian/Dystopian/Egalitarian.
Gendered cables make the connections that may not be predefined, that may be malleable, and always in flux, that may be multidirectional.
Gendered cables make the connections not only for procreation or pleasure.
Gendered cables carry electricity/bodily fluid/genetic information/social hierarchy and structure.
Gendered cables disturb the gender-binary by ambiguating/converting/ splitting/multiplying their genitalia, which may not be binary.
Gendered cables blur the distinction between the bodies, the artefacts, and the architecture. It is ambiguous if they are natural or artificial. It consequently deconstructs the boundary of an individual: where an individual body starts and ends.
Gendered cables’ power relations are formed by the connections that they make: by how many connections it makes, how influential those are.
Gendered cables’ power relations can be revealed through the hierarchy of their ability of perception: if it can see the other cables and if it can be seen by the other cables.

The city seems like a network, the blurry network of buildings. The structure looks messy and organically-built, so that it sometimes looks like a living organism, though it is clearly human-made.
Image credit: Noam Youngrak Son

Q&A

What is the context or background that inspired your recipe?

The recipe was an attempt to appropriate the binary gendered names that are given to electric cables and construct a queer narrative from it. The modern built environment is crucially reliant on the electric infrastructure, and electric cables serve as the most basic unit of it by forming countless connections with each other. The cis-heteronormative gaze renders these connections into binary gender, male or female depending on if one end of an electric cable penetrates or gets penetrated, violently erasing the existence of everyone that doesn’t neatly fit into those categories.

Which community are you offering the recipe to?

I hope this recipe can empower the gender-non-conforming people in tech field. The methodology of queer appropriation that I introduced in this recipe can be applied to not only gendered cables, but also the other politically insensitive uses of word, such as ‘Master and Slave bluetooth modules’, etc.

How does your submission relate to intersectional feminism?

The premise of this recipe is that gender is not about if your genitals penetrates or gets penerated. Gender is a social construct that emerges from the intersection of various political power-relations.

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