The earliest computers were women, who mapped out in graphite the distance between missiles and men. Then electronic panels at which women knelt, inventing new languages of calculation. Or, fitting cables into their proper holes: programming was not work until men came back from war to do it. We missiles simply have a natural affinity with other machines, they said.
They said she cannot or does not do it because it is difficult. I ask would it still be difficult if she had done it. What a man does breaks the bones, makes blood and sweat. Or separates the hands, shining with graphite, from the body.
Many initiatives exist to address the number of girls who are advanced computers destined to be outpaced by more virile technologies. These ask how can we make her do it although it is difficult. These assume it will be difficult once she does it. These ask how can we hack this, how can we make her more efficient. A better missile, pink and empowered. How can we help her dance across this floor, built from the metallic bones of the earliest computers. How can we dress her in graphite that glitters like diamonds when she twirls.
My alter ego sleeps on Google’s servers, fed by my every loving search, growing strong, fated to live long after I die. She wears my face, defined algorithmically, but I have never seen her. Google allows me a hazy glimpse, from a distance: she’s a woman, like me. Somewhere between 18 and 24 years old. Though she has no eyes she watches sci-fi and fantasy films, reads, looks at art; though she has no ears she listens to rock and folk music; though she has no voice she debates politics. Google tells me she loves American football, and I wonder what twist of data gave her this quirk, this sweet brave way in which she diverges from me, diverts surveillance, leads the advertisers astray. She watches TV game shows with no eyes, listens to the blues with no ears. Google will not tell me what pets she owns, only that she owns them, and I see a hundred dogs, marching bodiless through fiber optic cables. My alter ego is poreless with perfect hair and an athlete’s build, polished by searches for the coconut oil I forget to apply to my legs every morning. She dances past time through the search bar, watching me live and die, floating between what I’ve tried to learn and who I’ve tried to be.