Grrl Codes: the Scripting of Racial and Gender Stereotypes


Session Title:

  • Long Papers Presentations

Presentation Title:

  • Grrl Codes: the Scripting of Racial and Gender Stereotypes



  • For years the discussion of the numerous constraints imposed by software has remained within a technical context, tucked safely away within a language of technological limitation. The “revolution” in technology has occurred in the daily dissolution of technical boundaries that only yesterday seemed insurmountable. Unfortunately this revolution has far fewer implications than a battle that places these boundaries within a historical and cultural context focusing on gender and race.

    offers a critical reading of hidden constraints found in “preference”, “default”, and “library” palettes in animation and rendering software. It aims to reveal the subtle ways in which stereotypes of gender and race are reinforced, re-enacted, and distributed within multiple contexts including video games and educational applications. Knowledge of this thesis comes firsthand. During a collaboration with choreographer Yacov Sharir in the design of cyberhuman dancers (dance figures modelled and animated digitally I discovered that despite a “revolution-ary” approach to the materials and metaphors used to represent the body, the language of representation coded into the animation software in the form of libraries of human figures, animation sets, and poses was less than revolution-ary. It was, in fact, highly historical, rooted in a long tradition of stereotype and cliche. When the “ideal female” or “ideal male” (selected from libraries of pre-built figures) have as default settings pale pink skin and large breasts, or heroic upper body measurements and optional genitalia, gender and racial stereotypes are built into (and reinforced) by the very architecture of the software.