Thursday, February 23, 2012

Blog #5, Prompt 1

In Donna Haraway’s “Cyborg Manifesto,” she uses the allegory of a cyborg to represent women in the fight for women’s rights. She sees “cyborgs” as a modern group that exist today that do not share in our history or social boundaries but are looking to find footing in our society as their own, yet equal, culture. They do not share in our history or moral teachings, instead they have only a modern history, rooted in military applications. Haraway warns that cyborgs are not trustworthy and apt to rebel against the power, but this can be a positive trait in that they keep those in power in check.
“Cyborg Manifesto” drives the point that fighting a social war for identity is not the best plan of action for cyborgs, but that they are better suited to fight a war of affinity, a war fought by those of similar background with their own individualities. This is in direct opposition of many women’s movements that looked for a set of blanket traits to apply to every woman rebel.
Haraway sees three major clashes in the near future as society is forced to adapt to the way technology is changing the world. Two of these “border crossings” include the boundaries between human and machine and reality versus virtual reality. She sees these clashes as victories for the oppressed groups and that women should use these examples for hope in their own struggles. While advanced technologies may present some “monsters,” or problems that worsen the women’s place in the world, women should embrace technology as a whole in order to stay in step with society.
The character of Molly in William Gibson’s Neuromancer is the embodiment of all of these predictions on both the realistic gender side and the metaphorical cyborg side of Haraway’s argument. While she is a woman by gender, she is more importantly a cyborg with many enhancements, such as large, mirrored lens eyes and an audio amplifier on her teeth. She is prone to violence and is a strong independent entity that cannot be reduced to a term as simple as woman or even human. She is the champion in the border struggles between human and machine, reality and virtual reality and, more tangibly for our time, man versus woman. She does not share a common identity with other machines or women, but is her own person without social limitations.
Molly follows Haraway’s characteristics of a cyborg eerily well when she describes them not being trustworthy in a positive way. Armitage hired Molly as a brute, yet when Molly questions Armitage’s motives and sources, she goes behind his back and deviates from her mission. She also embraces her violent roots as a cyborg, as Haraway describes their history in military applications.
While Haraway’s work describes Molly correctly on the surface, it fails to see the struggles Molly endured to become this strong, androgynous force. In the second half of Neuromancer, it’s revealed that Molly was once a prostitute, and while it was merely her fleshly body present during the act, it has made her more callous and less empathetic. She also reveals that she’s had her heart broken by a man named Johnny, which only furthers her less than human personality. While Haraway highlights the points of Molly’s being that are admirable for woman, it lacks the depth to show the terrible path by which Molly arrived there. Only Molly’s final exterior should be celebrated by feminists and other advocates for oppressed groups.


Scott Sauter said...


While I thoroughly enjoyed your essay, I am required to evaluate it critically.

The lack of quotations within the essay leaves the reader with a sense of uncertainty. Incorporating at least one or two quotes from Haraway would give your essay and argument a stronger foundation. By "showing rather than telling", the reader is given the ability to connect more objectively, as well as directly with Haraway's text. By failing to include quotes, you have also fallen into the trap of a summary-heavy essay, which seems surface level to those familiar with both Haraway and Gibson's works.

Adam said...

Is the cyborg an allegory? I don't think Haraway would say so at all. The cyborg is an image, I would argue, or possibly a way of thinking or being. You might argue that it's really an allegory, but I'd like to see that argument made, rather than simply assumed, if it's important to you.

Your reading of Haraway seems to be rooted more in secondary sources (not cited!) than in Haraway herself. I think you were inspired by some dubious material. Fighting harder with Haraway probably would have been more productive.

Your discussion of the novel is more interesting. Even if you aren't really grappling much with Haraway's actual text, you have some very interesting (but abbreviated) things to say about Molly's relationship with Armitage. This relationship, together with Haraways's claims about the cyborg and patriarchy & militarism, could have been a great start for a more solid essay - it's a good idea for a revision, even if most of the material here isn't really work keeping.

Scott's observations are all accurate - the tendency toward hasty summarization here overwhelms the genuine insights we find at the end of the essay.

Brian Moeller said...

Sorry, you're right, I had two other sources, but I forgot to copy my easybib works cited when I copied this from Microsoft Word. I meant to cite these two:

but since they're apparently not an accurate interpretation, I'll just take their parts out if I decide to edit this one.