The robot on the left is an automated shop vacuum. It is designed to pick up sawdust, screws, and various detritus found on a shop floor.

The robot on the right is an automated house vacuum. It is designed to pick up dirt, dust, and various detritus found on a house floor.

Does either have a gender? What features, characteristics, or criteria inform that ascription (even in the case of no gender)?

What is the gender of a robot?

People often associate gendered labels to objects regardless of the embodiment. In cinema, this is common for robots: the unsettling robotic apotheosis from “Metropolis” invokes breasts; CP3O relies on American/English-speaking concepts of effete masculinity; the curious Wall-E (nominally male) employs the wanderlust of arrested boyhood through his fetish collection. But what about the robots we see at work in our world today? Do these utilitarian robots have a gender? If so, why and what purpose does gendering have? These are the questions we will be exploring for a few months. Feel free to comment, contribute, and critique as we work.