Thursday, February 23, 2012

Gibson and Haraway (Option 1)

Haraway compares Marxism to social feminism in that the former analyzes the concept of labor to discuss class structure while the latter analyzes the role or experience of women to understand the structure of gender within that system of labor. Gibson uses Molly’s history as a way to inform his audience about the gender structure of the world of the text, essentially predicting the eventual role of sexual objectification integrated into women’s labor in the household and workforce of a capitalist patriarchy.

The society in Neuromancer produces Molly the Razorgirl, a surprise female hero who overcomes her “ignorance of social and personal reality ‘false consciousness’” (Haraway 9) by transcending from victim of sexual objectification as a means of labor, to a position of not only agency, but domination through body enhancement, essentially a gender reversal. Gibson depicts a society in which body modification diminishes the separation between male and female laboring abilities, but access to technology challenges the possibility for women to participate in society. In order for Molly to afford the modifications to exhibit the stereotypical traits of male aggression and production, she works as a “meat puppet”: “You know how I got the money, when I was starting out? Here. Not here, but a place like it, in the Sprawl. Joke to start with, ‘cause once they plant the cut-out chip, it seems like free money” (Gibson 192). Part of the reason we find Molly’s character so dynamic and interesting is her rise up from the tragic, ordinary place of false consciousness, to one of self-awareness and understanding of how to rise above the system.

If the people in Gibson’s world “define themselves by what they do,” then Molly, who worked only to pay for the wiring to do her job well, literally “owes her existence as a woman to sexual appropriation” (Haraway 9). She is specifically seen in Neuromancer as a character of authority because of her complete rejection and reversal of not only gender norms, but also the typical power structure of the book. We see this when she kills the senator for his violent perversities, both rejecting male domination and also taking a position of social power (she is an independent contract killer, so she acts as a symbol of resistance to the collective system and retains her individual consciousness): “So I guess I gave the Senator what he really wanted, you know” (Gibson 193). We also see her poison Riviera by using his drug addition against him. Molly is one of the only stable characters that doesn’t suffer from an addiction, although Haraway would make an argument that her obsession body modification is an addiction; albeit, one that allows her (and Gibson), to “imagin[e] a world without gender” (Haraway 2). Even Molly’s “loner” lifestyle as a razorgirl rebels against society’s “dream of community and the model of the organic family” (Haraway 3). What separates Molly from not only other females, but also other characters in the novel is her complete willingness to only take care of her “own sweet ass” (Gibson 25).

In the end, Molly should be seen as more of a hero than reluctant anti-hero Case. It should still be noted by readers that in order to climb the social ladder monetarily, Molly still needed to plant the chip in her head (an act of submission to sexual appropriation as labor), in order to make this transformation, depicting a reality in which the consequences of domination are the suppressed female, or one willing to regard sexuality as instrumentality, like Molly, in return for a place in society that is not financially or physically submissive. Her use of violence as a position of power, and this sacrifice of her body for the money to attain the means to violence should be startling to readers of this world, and should force them to question any society in which the success of women working in a labor system means that “the end of man is at stake” (Haraway 10).


RJ said...

This is so great! I almost had trouble starting my post because this one seemed to say so much. One thing I wonder about is whether Molly really had "false consciousness" before she started modifying her body - it seemed she explicitly went into prostitution in order to achieve her goals, and knew what they were when she did it. Addressing that as well as clearing up some of the confusing language in the intro would make this even better!

Adam said...

"social feminism" isn't the same as "socialist feminism" - so you're opening on potential confusion. However, your initial claim about Gibson is a fine starting point (although I'd like a sentence or a phrase about why this reading matters, of course).

Your second paragraph is a very nice articulation of an optimistic account of why we find Molly so interesting. Can you demonstrate, rather than claiming, that she transcends false consciousness? There's no doubt that she's powerful, and that she escapes many rules about gender - but what is her self-awareness of this process? Your argument concerns self-awareness, so your evidence should, as well.

Your discussion of Molly's identity with her profession, her killing of the senator (obviously a parallel in some ways to Riviera), etc., is excellent,b tu still doesn't engage with consciousness as such. You're showing that she's a cyborg in Haraway's sense - but does she know it?

the final paragraph, again, is optimistic. She's a mercenary, after all. Is she heroic *as* a mercenary, as "hired muscle"? It's not at all an absurd claim, but good as this essay is, you aren't engaging with the obvious question of how different a mercenary is from a prostitute - especially giving the reasonable questions one can make about her self-awareness.

I also find Richard's question re: whether she really starts with "false consciousness" interesting. Your analysis of Molly is great, but from different directions, and in multiple dimensions, it isn't yet really engaging with the questions we might ask about her awareness of who she is and what she means.