Scholarship in the history of computer programming has demonstrated how the contributions of engineers have been erased due to gendered assumptions of labor and science. I argue that such erasure parallels a gendered epistemology of mastery embedded in computer programming itself. Towards this, I extrapolate and refine the concept of “computational performativity,” drawing from media theorists Katherine Hayles and Wendy Chun, to put forth a gender performativity of code. Looking at two queer code art objects—Zach Blas’s transCoder and Julie Levin Russo’s Slash Goggles —as well as production code in the C programming language, I argue for a critical move away from representation as the seat of meaning in code, and towards a performative understanding of gendered code through “contexts of complexity.” Focusing on complexity and interrelationships allows scholars to read code as gendered, and to furthermore leverage such reading to propose and enact queer “failures” in code as rhetorical critiques of software.

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