***Note: Haraway’s Essay is divided into numbered sections that I will be using to reference the location of the quote. If the quote is from an unlabeled section such as the beginning, no number will be given***
Molly is not a woman, but a cyborg —“a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction” (Haraway). In the world of Neuromancer, the men and women are not humans, but can be broadly categorized as cyborgs. Using Haraway’s thoughts on feminism and cyborgs, we can examine Molly to find out if she is truly genderless. Has she been able to escape the traditional Western confinements of women and gender, thus being the ‘dream woman’ of feminists? We will find in some ways yes, Molly is a feminist character, but in ways no, she still falls victim to societal roles on gender and “patriarchal capitalism” (151).
It is necessary to define Haraway’s thoughts on cyborgs and Western patriarchal culture in order to understand Molly through Haraway. For Haraway, the cyborg represents a clean break from ‘Western’ science and politics and puts men and women on an equal footing. Haraway has become frustrated with the feminist affiliation with “nature/woman” and claims that the goddess is dead, and that “the cyborg skips the step of original unity, of identification with nature in the Western sense” (151). Haraway is suggesting that the cyborg will erase all Western ideals: “the cyborg is a creature in a post-gender world, it has no truck with bisexuality, pre-oedipal symbiosis, unalienated labour…” (150).
The aspect of Molly’s character that will be analyzed is her work as a ‘Razor Girl.’ Molly appears to the reader as a bold, confident, violent cyborg equipped with fitted lens, deadly razorblade equipped hands, and artificially enhanced reflexes that made her into a fighting machine. Every detail about Molly increases her ability to successfully engage in combat—her short cropped hair, protected eyes—save for her burgundy painted nails, a feminine touch. There is nothing about Molly that is maternal, or nurturing, because “the cyborg does not dream of community on the model of organic family” ( Haraway 151). In regard to her immediate profession, Molly can be seen as a classic female warrior interested in combat, and completely uninterested in having babies.
The way Molly mixes work and her personal life is also fascinating enough to be analyzed. Sexually, Molly is dominate, and practically rapes Case the first time they are together. Molly and Case fall into an unorthodox relationship along side of their professional relationship. There is no talk of whether this is acceptable or unacceptable, and it seems Molly never asked their employer, Armitage, for permission. Thus, it could be argued that Armitage expected this to happen, and causal sexual relationships are normal for the situation. A stereotypical Western gender role would find this relationship unusual, as well as perhaps irresponsible and unacceptable. Molly would have first flirted with Case, expressed interest, and then perhaps there would have been questions of a work/romantic relationship, and then maybe Molly would have made a cautious move. But maybe, a more likely scenario is that Case would have seduced her.
So we see that Molly is assertive and confident in her work and sex life, seamlessly mixing the two, and breaking through female gender characteristics that attribute women as being docile, domestic, and sexually apprehensive.
Yet the problem with calling Molly a completely genderless character living in a utopian-feminist world is her past. To become the fierce woman she is in the novel, Molly reveals to Case that she had to be a prostitute, or “meat puppet” as she calls it, to pay for her expensive artificial upgrades. “Costs to go to Chiba, costs to get the surgery…You know how I got the money, when I was starting out?...Renting the goods, is all” (Gibson 147). So how can we honestly say that Molly is living in a feminist, genderless world if she paid for her new life by selling her body, and abiding by the rules and boundaries set by a (male) pimp. A male pimp selling ‘his’ women for sex and then taking a majority of the profit is one of the most un-feminist patriarchal, capitalist, institutions that ever existed.
This world of Neuromancer has evolved from the gender-infused world we live in today, but is not up to the level Haraway demands. Molly is trying, and succeeding, in being a feminist character, but the world she lives in still falls back on Western patriarchal ideals, failing to avoid this “patriarchal capitalism” (151).