Thursday, February 23, 2012

Prompt 1, Essay #5

***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***

Caia Caldwell

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).


Adam said...

You have a good initial focus. Question: are "cyborg" and "woman" truly mutually exclusive? That depends partially on how we read Haraway, and that's a question you probably ought to engage with if you revise.

There ought to be a way to compact the first three paragraphs; maybe combining the first and the third would offer an easier way into the essay, together (perhaps) with a somewhat expanded version of the 2nd. Nohting here is bad, I just think the structure is less than optimal, and leads to a slightly slower development of your argument than you might ideally have.

One way of understanding the way they easily fall together sexually would be to think of her as a bodyguard and him as a scared client, perhaps in a western film (if you've ever seen movies like Stagecoach, that's what I have in mind).

The question you ask in the 2nd to last paragraph is obviously of critical importance, but I think you consider it answered when really you're asking it. To use the metaphor of western movies again, Molly is a prostitue (common in westerns) who becomes a gunfighter - a transition which simply doesn't exist in western movies.

So do we emphasize her history, her present, or the process she took from history to present? You emphasize history (Haraway, I think, would emphasize process, but you might argue against that), but don't really say way. In other words, we could argue that Molly cannot exist in a genderless world because she rebelled against gender through selling her gendered body - or we could argue that she represents, in her own body, the twisted path that the transition to a genderless society must take.

To put it simply: despite the value of your earlier material, the last paragraph is really a beginning, not an ending.

Kira Scammell said...


I liked that you used both points where Molly rejects her femininity and points where she used it to her own benefit. You are trying to make the point that Molly is genderless, but towards the end of your essay you open up a whole can of worms when indicating that she actually uses her femininity to become less feminine and get her job as a razorgirl.

If you choose to revise this, one way you could maybe clear up the discrepancy would be to present her job as a “meat puppet” in a way that the characters in the novel view the profession rather than compare that situation to our western ideas of prostitution.

I do very much like the argument you are presenting in the first half of your paper, but it does seem to get watered down by the end.