Case responses cyborgs bad



Download 0.66 Mb.
Page1/12
Date conversion22.02.2016
Size0.66 Mb.
  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   ...   12

[File Title] [khirn]

Michigan Debate 2015-2016 Page



case responses

cyborgs bad

1nc cyborgs bad frontline

Cyborgs imagery has been coopted by white posthumanism --- the aff forecloses the establishment and spread of existing counter-narratives otherwise capable of transforming cultural mythos


Dinerstein 6 [Joel Dinerstein is an assistant professor of English at Tulane University, where he also teaches in the American studies program, “Technology and Its Discontents: On the Verge of the Posthuman,” American Quarterly 58.3 (2006) 569-595] //khirn
Judgment Day: The End of Progress

I will conclude with Sturken and Thomas's most important question of all: "How is it possible to think about technologies outside of these frameworks?" 59

Nearly a generation ago, Haraway recognized the need for a more "imaginative relation to technoscience that propound[ed] human limits and dislocations—the fact that we die, rather than Faustian . . . evasions." Yet as popular culture and well-funded GNR enthusiasts have more influence than academic theorists, they have commandeered cyborg iconography; the necessary corrective of conceding the "human limits" of biological processes has yet to occur. Haraway has since called for new metaphors—such as trickster figures (e.g., Coyote)—to "refigur[e] possible worlds" by thinking outside of techno-science; this hasn't happened even within the humanities. Instead, we have seen the rise of the posthuman Adamic. 60 [End Page 589]

For Nye, the "technological creation story has long remained dominant" because questioning it required a reassessment of history, social justice, and ethics—as well as the demystification (and demythification) of every keyword in the techno-cultural matrix. Here's Nye's assessment of why the nineteenth-century "second creation" narrative remained dominant until the 1960s:

Rejecting the foundation story . . . meant recognizing historical injustices to the first inhabitants, accepting environmental limits, and acknowledging the ideological nature of the free market. Rejecting the foundation story implied the loss of white entitlement to the continent. Discarding second-creation stories required acknowledging cultural conflicts and listening to counter-narratives. 61

Such counternarratives of the frontier now exist: Nye points to ecofeminism and Native American accounts, the works of wilderness advocates and borderlands scholars. Perhaps there is long-term potential for the trickle-down of such counternarratives to transform the national mythos, but the techno-cultural matrix remains strong.

To become conscious of the underlying mythology guiding their utopianism, GNR enthusiasts would need to acknowledge the cyborg's white body, their ideal of white progress, and the historical conflation of technology and religion. Many scholars have traced the social construction of the white body as the normative, ideal human body (e.g., Richard Dyer's White), but only recently have nonwhites begun to answer back from an empowered cultural position. In White Theology: Outing Supremacy in Modernity (2004), religious scholar James W. Perkinson claims that if Euro-Americans aspire to maturity, "the white body must be returned somehow to its history, [and] white identity reincarnated in local community and global cosmology." To do so, Perkins claims, Euro-Americans must specifically leave black bodies alone: "blackness can no longer be erected as a buffer against the demands of maturity, a screen against which to play out fear and fantasy, despair and desire." 62 An interesting claim, but such a separation is impossible due to hybridity at every level: cultural, social, genetic, artistic, intellectual, philosophical.


Otherwise, that mythos of technological domination ensures the perpetuation Euro-American superiority and whiteness


Dinerstein 6 [Joel Dinerstein is an assistant professor of English at Tulane University, where he also teaches in the American studies program, “Technology and Its Discontents: On the Verge of the Posthuman,” American Quarterly 58.3 (2006) 569-595] //khirn
Immediately after 9/11, a Middle East correspondent for The Nation summarized the coming war on terrorism as "[their] theology versus [our] technology, the suicide bomber against the nuclear power." 1 His statement missed the point: technology is the American theology. For Americans, it is not the Christian God but technology that structures the American sense of power and revenge, the nation's abstract sense of well-being, its arrogant sense of superiority, and its righteous justification for global dominance. In the introduction to Technological Visions, Marita Sturken and Douglas Thomas declare that "in the popular imagination, technology is often synonymous with the future," but it is more accurate to say that technology is synonymous with faith in the futureboth in the future as a better world and as one in which the United States bestrides the globe as a colossus. 2

Technology has long been the unacknowledged source of European and Euro-American superiority within modernity, and its underlying mythos always traffics in what James W. Carey once called "secular religiosity." 3 Lewis Mumford called the American belief system "mechano-idolatry" as early as 1934; a few years later he deemed it our "mechano-centric religion." David F. Noble calls this ideology "the religion of technology" in a work of the same name that traces its European roots to a doctrine that combines millenarianism, rationalism, and Christian redemption in the writings of monks, explorers, inventors, and NASA scientists. If we take into account the functions of religion and not its rituals, it is not a deity who insures the American future but new technologies: smart bombs in the Gulf War, Viagra and Prozac in the pharmacy, satellite TV at home. It is not social justice or equitable economic distribution that will reduce hunger, greed, and poverty, but fables of abundance and the rhetoric of technological utopianism. The United States is in thrall to "techno-fundamentalism," in Siva Vaidhyanathan's apt phrase; to Thomas P. Hughes, "a god named technology has possessed Americans." Or, as public policy scholar Edward Wenk Jr. sums it up, "we are . . . inclined to equate technology with civilization [itself]." 4 [End Page 569]

Technology as an abstract concept functions as a white mythology. Yet scholars of whiteness rarely engage technology as a site of dominant white cultural practices (except in popular culture), and scholars of technology often sidestep the subtext of whiteness within this mythos. The underlying ideology and cultural practices of technology were central to American studies scholarship in its second and third generations, but the field has marginalized this critical framework; it is as if these works of (mostly) white men are now irrelevant to the field's central concerns of race, class, gender, sexuality, and ethnic identity on the one hand, and power, empire, and nation on the other. In this essay I will integrate some older works into the field's current concerns to situate the current posthuman discourse within an unmarked white tradition of technological utopianism that also functions as a form of social evasion. By the conclusion, I hope to have shown that the posthuman is an escape from the panhuman.

This is an important moment to grapple with the relationship of technology and whiteness since many scientists, inventors, and cognitive philosophers currently hail the arrival of the "posthuman." This emergent term represents the imminent transformation of the human body through GNR technologies—G for genetic engineering or biotechnology, N for nanotechnology, and R for robotics. "The posthuman," as N. Katherine Hayles defined it in How We Became Posthuman (2000), "implies not only a coupling with intelligent machines but a coupling so intense and multifaceted that it is no longer possible to distinguish meaningfully between the biological organism and the informational circuits in which the organism is enmeshed." To be reductive, the posthuman envisions the near future as one in which humans are cyborgs—in which the human organism is, for all practical purposes, a networked being composed of multiple human-machine interfaces. Underlying cultural beliefs in technological determinism matched with the inalienable right of consumer desire will soon produce what even cautious critics call "a social transformation" at the level of the individual body, as consumers purchase genetic enhancements (to take one example). In other words, steroids, cloning, gene mapping, and surgical implants are just the tip of an iceberg that, when it melts, will rebaptize human beings as cyborgs. 5

William J. Mitchell calls this new self-concept "Me++"—a pun on the computer language C++—and claims this future is already present. When Mitchell claims to "routinely exist in the condition . . . [of] 'man-computer symbiosis,'" or that he "now interact[s] with sensate, intelligent, interconnected devices scattered throughout my environment," who can argue with him? An eminent design theorist and urban planner at MIT, Mitchell breezily [End Page 570] describes a near future of "high-tech 'wearables'" with implanted computers (e.g., clothes, eyeglasses, shoes) that extend our sense of self over an increasingly permeable body surface. If each person is "jacked in" to dozens of computers within a "few millimeters" of the human shell, will that transform human nature (as many GNR enthusiasts claim)? As Mitchell declares, "increasingly I just don't think of this as computer interaction," but as something like an expansive self. "Me++" is a consumer gold rush: the evolution of the fragile human body into a silicon-based cyborg with superhuman capacities. Here's a complementary—and unexceptional—claim from Rodney A. Brooks, the chair of the Artificial Intelligence Lab at MIT: "We are about to become our machines . . . [we] will morph into machines." Brooks admits this process may bring short-term metaphysical confusion, but he assures readers in Flesh and Machines: How Robots Will Change Us that GNR technologies will bring long-term progress. 6

What do claims for "man-computer symbiosis" have to do with whiteness and religion? Brooks and Mitchell are technological determinists for whom the blithe morphing of the human organism into cyborgs recapitulates the Western tendency to universalize its own perspective. Their works consider the coming of GNR technologies as inevitable, progressive, and beneficial, and their rhetoric assumes universal, equitable distribution of such changes. Moreover, their disregard of social realities perpetuates an unspoken racialized (white) narrative of exclusion that treats technology as an "autonomous" aspect of cultural production illuminating the road to a utopian future that will not require social or political change.7



Technological progress has long structured Euro-American identity, and it functions as a prop for a muted form of social Darwinism—either "might makes right," or "survival of the fittest." Here is the techno-cultural matrix: progress, religion, whiteness, modernity, masculinity, the future. This matrix reproduces an assumed superiority over societies perceived as static, primitive, passive, Communist, terrorist, or fundamentalist (depending on the era). The historian of technology Carroll Pursell points out that "the most significant engine and marker" of modernity is "technology ([which is] almost always seen as masculine in our society)," and that only the West invokes modernity as "a signal characteristic of its self-definition." 8 In Machines as the Measure of Man: Science, Technology, and Ideologies of Western Dominance, Michael Adas traced the rhetoric of technology as it became the primary measure of intelligence, rationality, and the good society, supplanting Christianity for nineteenth-century colonial powers. Weapons, mass production, and communication networks became the fetishes of colonial dominance and racial superiority, which were [End Page 571] disseminated (for example) in numerous British best sellers through binary opposites of dominance/passivity: "machine versus human or animal power; science versus superstition and myth; synthetic versus organic; progressive versus stagnant." 9 Such oppositions still inform contemporary theories of Western superiority (e.g., "the clash of civilizations," "the end of history"). Casting preindustrial (or premodern) peoples as risk-averse and enslaved to obsolescent ideologies—that is, as not progressingsentences them to second-class status with regard to the future.

Sturken and Thomas ask two crucial questions about the role of technology in the American cultural imagination: "Why are emergent and new technologies the screens onto which our culture projects such a broad array of social concerns and desires?," and consequently, "Why is technology the object of such unrealistic expectations?" I extrapolate the following two answers from the field's critical framework, by way of Leo Marx, Kasson, Nye, Carey, and Noble (among many others). New technologies help maintain two crucial Euro-American myths: (1) the myth of progress and (2) the myth of white, Western superiority. 10



In a given society, a myth functions as "a play of past paradigm and future possibility," according to Laurence Coupe's study, an act of "remembering and re-creating the sacred narratives of the past." Progress secularized the idea of Christian redemption by inventing (and instantiating) a near-sacred temporal zone—the future—to contain its man-made utopian dreams. A myth cannot be declared in rational terms; it "resist[s] completion" in order to keep up its "dialectic . . . of memory and desire, of ideology and utopia." For a myth to have cultural force, it must be unarticulated; it works as "a disclosure rather than . . . a dogma," an opening into unspoken systems of belief. 11

Technological progress is the telos of American culture, the herald of the future, the mythic proof in the nation's self-righteous pudding. "Nowhere . . . can we find a master narrative so deeply entrenched in popular imagination and popular language as the mythic idea of progress," notes the historian of technology John Staudenmeier, "particularly technological progress." Yet at the intellectual level, historians Carl Becker and J. B. Bury deconstructed the myth nearly a century ago. Becker even identified progress as a covalent religion at the 1935 Stanford lectures: "the word Progress, like the Cross or the Crescent, is a symbol that stands for a social doctrine, a philosophy of human destiny." For both Bury and Becker, the myth of social progress emerged from the Enlightenment idea of the perfectibility of man through the application of reason. That man-made future would be "a more just, more peaceful, and less hierarchical republican society based on the consent of the governed." Instead, over two centuries, technology has piggybacked onto social progress by creating the rush of change without social improvement. 12

Cyborg imagery reinforces hegemonic depictions of masculinity


Walton 4 [Heather, “The Gender of the Cyborg” Theology Sexuality 2004 10: 33] //khirn
Cyborgs appear in many forms today. Their ubiquitous presence is felt whenever the boundaries that separate the human from the machine are breached and the conventions of ’ontological hygiene’ (Graham 2002: 3335) are compromised. Many feminists would claim that these cyborgs are not only present everywhere but active and working to sustain the representational practices through which gender is enduringly inscribed within our culture. Anne Balsamo argues that cyborgs are in fact the ’postmodern icon’, produced within a culture which is saturated by a technological male imaginary and that ’the dominant representation of cyborgs reinserts us into the dominant ideology by reaffirming bourgeois notions of human, machine and femininity’ (1999:154). There are many arguments that can be made to support this argument. On the most basic level it is clear that our most mundane experiences of cyborg practice, when we reach beyond our flesh through the computer keyboard, are gendered. Research indicates that boys enjoy losing themselves in the world of virtual reality and see the machine as a quasi living entity with which they can form a passionate relation. Girls are more likely to see their computers as tools aiding them in better interpersonal communication. Perhaps more worrying than this differentiated experience is the fact that the virtual worlds to which our computers provide access have become yet other sites of violence against women. In the ubiquitous availability of pornography on the internet the ’real time’ violation of girls and women is transformed into a virtual commodity. This can be purchased, swapped or secretly traded in an unholy exploitation of an elision between human flesh and screen image. There is also a growing awareness of the sexual harassment that is routinely experienced by women in online discussions, fantasy games and via e-mail. The chatroom can be as much a ’male space’ as the boardroom and the dangers this presents to girls and women are becoming increasingly apparent. If we begin to look beyond the interface with the computer and turn to popular cultural representations of the cyborg, we find that many of these also extend into our imagined futures the dominant gendered forms of today. From the comic book to the screen mediums, we are all familiar with representations of cyborgs that exaggerate and heighten, pleasurably and creatively or crudely and violently, the representations of gender already in circulation. From Metropolis to James Bond, from Stepford Wives to The Terminator gender representation are the means through which the significance of human identity in a technological future is experimented with, tested out and retransmitted. Male and female figures play familiar roles in these productions. To be sure, as Jenny Wolmark has argued, feminist science fiction has created cyborg images that ’reorder boundaries and demolish polarities’ (1999b: 237). And yes, as she has argued further, the strong women characters in some cyberpunk fictions and film owe much to these feminist interventions (1999a: 142). We might even concede that male cyborgs through their hypermasculinity do queer themselves - or as Lois McNay would have it ’fetishised images of masculinity bear within themselves traces of the feminised man transvestite and thus point towards their own constitutive instability and displacement’ (2000: 55). It is nevertheless the case that gender stereotypes are more likely to be reaffirmed than challenged by the majority of cultural depictions of the post/human. As Mary Doane writes: Although it is certainly true that in the case of some contemporary science fiction writers - particularly feminist authors - technology makes possible a destabilisation of sexual identity as a category, there has also been a curious but fairly insistent history of representations of technology which work to fortify sometimes desperately conventional understandings of the feminine (in Balsamo 1999 : 148).

Turns case – replacing human flesh with machines allows for the elimination of those who have not assimilated enough


Dinello 5 [Dan, “Technophobia! Science Fiction Visions of Posthuman Technology” http://shockproductions.com/technophobia/technophobia.html] //khirn
Chapter Five: Rampaging Cyborgs extends the science fiction argument against techno-obsession to the bionic fusion of cybernetic device and biological organism which may produce a new and improved cyborg body but may also produce a weapon. The replacement of our flesh and blood with mechanical augmentation subtly blurs the definition of what constitutes a human body and encourages a dream of immortality. While technoscience projects a bionic vision of posthuman perfection, the cyborg was born as an astronaut and a weapon. The earliest imagining of the cyborg, in the 1960s, involved a never-implemented military plan to surgically and pharmaceutically modify the bodies of astronauts for space travel. At the same time, the military evolved the cyborg in the development of man-machine interfaces, such as between pilot and jet, that structure modern weapon systems. This helped set the stage for the cyborg’s earliest fictional incarnation in the novel Cyborg (1972) by Martin Caidin - which centers on a crashed test pilot whose damaged body gets machine replacement parts.

By the 1980s, the science fiction cyborg had become a ubiquitous icon of pop culture, reflecting its increasing importance. These machine people ranged from the scarcely organic Terminator and the castrated, mostly mechanical Robocop to the tough virile Bionic Man and sexy gal pal Bionic Woman; from the alien/human/machine cross-breed Ripley in Alien Resurrection to the human-hating Borg of Star Trek; and from the plugged-into-virtual reality savior of humanity in The Matrix to the genetically enhanced Valids of Gattaca. The melding of the organic and the mechanical, the organic and the alien or the engineering of a union between separate species, cyborgs also include American Iraq-War pilots integrated into a cybernetic weapon systems as well as suicidal terrorists who merge with technology to transform themselves into human bombs.

Science fiction cyborg stories dramatize our fears as we become targets in the world of cyborg weapons, while anticipating the demise of the flesh and blood body and the gradual extinction of humanity. "There is, underlying these works, an uneasy but consistent sense of human obsolescence," writes Scott Bukatman in Terminal Identity (1993), "and at stake is the very definition of the human."While the machinic replacement of lost body parts enhances the lives of disabled people, the sheer number of monstrous cyborgs reflects a pervasive anxiety that our technological lust will propagate grotesquely deformed, superhuman techno-creatures that will ultimately extinguish us.

2nc cyborgs bad – race

Cyberfeminism is essentialist and fails to analyze the intersection of race and gender


Daniel 9’ [Jessie, Writer on race, sexism “Rethinking Cyberfeminism(s): Race, Gender, and Embodiment” Women's Studies Quarterly, Vol. 37, No. 1/2, Technologies (spring - Summer, 2009),

http://www.jstor.org/stable/27655141 .LM]

Yet it is exceedingly rare within both cyberfeminist practices and critiques of them to see any reference to the intersection of gender and race (Fernandez, Wilding, and Wright 2003, 21); instead both the practices and the critiques suggest that "gender" is a unified category and, by implication, that digital technologies mean the same thing to all women across differences of race, class, sexuality. In her book Zeroes and Ones, Sadie Plant is exuberant about the potential of Internet technologies to transform the lives of women. Plant conceptualizes cyberspace as a liberating place for women because, as she sees it, the inherently textual nature of the Internet lends itself to "the female" (1997, 23). Her title refers to the binary code of zeroes and ones that constitutes the basic programming language that computers use. Plant symbolically ren ders zeroes as "female" and ones as phallic and "male," predicting that the digital future is feminine, distributed, nonlinear, a world in which "zeroes" are displacing the phallic order of the "ones" (Gill 2005, 99). Plant is perhaps the leading figure in popularizing the ideas of cyberfeminism beyond the academy While Plant has been justifiably criticized for reinscribing essen tialist notions of gender (Wilding 1998),Wajcman (2004) writes that Plant's optimism about the potential of gender equality in cyberspace must be understood as a reaction against previous conceptualizations of technology as inherently masculine. In addition to essentializing gender, Plant's binary of "zeroes" and "ones" leaves no conceptual room for understanding how gender intersects with "race." In this way, Plant's writing is characteristic of the field, as there is relatively little discussion of the intersections of gender with "race," except in cases where "race" is included in a long list of additional variables to be added on to "gender." Thus, when cyberfeminists explicitly engage both gender and race it is both conspicuous and instructive. In their edited volume, Domain Errors! Cyberfeminist Practices, Fernandez, Wilding, and Wright highlight cyberfeminist practices that eschew the exclusionary aspects of earlier forms of feminism, and they remind us "the lives of white women and women of color are mutually reliant" (2003, 25). Yet, as Fernandez and Wilding point out, cyberfeminist writing often assumes an "educated, white, upper-middle-class, English-speaking, culturally sophisti cated readership," which ironically ends up replicating the "damaging uni versalism of'old-style feminism'" (Fernandez and Wilding 2003, 21). Given the "damaging universalism" of some forms of cyberfeminism, what, then, do we make of claims for the subversive potential of the Internet?



The 1AC speaks in a positon of power and fails to recognize it- creates whiteness and silences women of color


Schuller 9’ [Malini Johar, PhD from Purdue University “Analogy and (White) Feminist Theory: Thinking Race and the Color of the Cyborg Body”, University of Chicago Pres, http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/431372 LM]

I have focused at length on the deployment of the category women of color because Haraway’s attempt to articulate an oppositional ontology and politically effective strategy for feminism that includes women of color is to be lauded. Yet if the practice entails a disregard for situatedness and locatedness, it avails itself of the universalizing and unmarked privileges of whiteness discussed earlier. As Abby Wilkerson suggestively points out, it might be worth asking “whether many white feminists have enthusiastically taken up the cyborg myth precisely because of what it does not say about race” (1997, 170). Wilkerson argues that taking up the hybrid identity of the cyborg might well be a way of not assuming responsibility for whiteness while appropriating the identity politics of women of color (1997, 170–71). The same might be said of similar universalizing gestures animating poststructuralist theorists’ use of the East, as I discuss above. We are now in a position to understand the relationship between the cyborg and women of color. At one level there is no relationship, only oneness. Since in the informatics of domination we all cannot help being cyborgs, women of color are cyborgs. But the ultimate relationship is again analogical. Just as the cyborg is a fusion of human and machine, a monstrous and illegitimate fusion, so, the argument goes, is the constituency of women of color, forged as it is without identity. Thus is it not surprising that race sometimes figures in Haraway’s essay in a similar fashion as it does in Rubin’s: “race, gender, and capital require a cyborg theory of wholes and parts” (Haraway 1991, 181); “the causes of various women‐headed households are a function of race, class, or sexuality” (167); and “some of the rearrangements of race, sex, and class rooted in high‐tech‐facilitated social relations can make socialist‐feminism more relevant to effective progressive politics” (165). Cyborg identities, mediated through the politics of women of color, help defuse—or to use Wilkerson’s terminology, deny the responsibility of working with—whiteness and white feminist social location. Haraway’s stated reasons for turning to women of color make this clear. Haraway writes: “For me—and for many who share a similar historical location in white, professional middle‐class, female, radical, North American, mid‐adult bodies—the sources of a crisis in political identity are legion. The recent history for much of the US left and US feminism has been a response to this kind of crisis by endless splitting and searches for a new essential unity. But there has also been a growing recognition of another response through coalition—affinity, not identity” (1991, 155). I argued earlier that analogy functions like a colonial fetish enabling the white feminist theorist to displace racial difference onto a safer notion of similarity. We can now add the following: racial analogy within (white) feminist theory helps whiteness retain its privilege by being uninterrogated.

2nc cyborgs bad – gender

Cyberfeminism creates female subjectivity


Wildling 98’ [Faith, the political condition of cyberfeminism” Critical Art Ensemble. Art Journal57.2, 1998, http://search.proquest.com.proxy.lib.umich.edu/docview/223313079?pq-origsite=summon&accountid=14667 LM]

Cyberfeminism is currently at that unfortunate point where it has to decide who gets to be a separatist cyberfeminist and who does not. The haunting question, "What is a woman?" once again returns. In theory, this problem is graspable, but first, what is the problem? Looking back on any feminist movement, there have always been tremendous problems among women's groups and organizations brought on by attempts to define feminine subjectivity (and, thereby, "us" and "them"). In the second wave, the feminine was defined in a manner that seemed largely to reflect the subjectivity of white, middle-class, straight women. The third wave had to debate whether or not transvestites, transsexuals, and other "males" who claimed to be female-identified should be accepted into activist organizations (and at the same time, women of color, working-class women, and lesbians all still had grounds for complaints). In addition, it was never decided how to separate the feminine from other primary social variables that construct a woman's identity. For example, part of the problem in many feminist organizations, and in WAC in particular, was that the middle-class professional women had the greatest economic and cultural resources. They therefore had greater opportunity for leadership and policy making. The women outside this class felt that the professionals had unfair advantages and that their agenda was the primary one, which in turn brought about a destructive form of separation.

Cyborgs are gendered and perpetuate gender stereotypes


Smith 9 [Nicole R, “Wangechi Mutu: Feminist Collage and the Cyborg”, Georgia State University, 12/1/2009
http://scholarworks.gsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1052&context=art_design_theses LM]

Though Haraway’s ironic political myth of the cyborg remains a powerful metaphor in feminist studies, critical assessments of it provide further suggestions on the most productive ways to consider feminist cyborg figurations. In one of the better-known critical assessments of the cyborg, Anne Balsamo offers an ironic ethnographic reading. Balsamo follows Haraway’s lead in reading the cyborg as a figure that can potentially disrupt concepts of the “other” in terms of human/machine and natural/artificial binaries. However, Balsamo finds that the cyborg of popular culture does not completely follow through on this disruptive promise in terms of gender binaries. She points out that popularized versions of cyborgs in literature and film do not exist in a post-gendered or utopian world but are instead highly gendered entities. On the one hand, female-gendered cyborgs, as fusions of the female with machines and technology, challenge traditional gender assumptions due to the way femininity has historically been associated with the emotional or sexual, as masculinity has with the rational, scientific, and technological. Yet according to Balsamo, “female cyborgs, while challenging the relationship between femaleness and technology, actually perpetuate oppressive gender stereotypes.” Balsamo singles out Rachel in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and Helva in Anne McCaffrey’s science-fiction novel The Ship that Sang as examples of how popular images of cyborgs reinforce the feminine as emotional, nurturing, or sexually objectified. Sara Cohen Shabot adds William Gibson’s cyfwwweberpunk novels and the films Robocop, The Terminator, and Total Recall as examples that further entrench normative views on male and female gendered identities. Ultimately, both Balsamo and Shabot argue that the cyborg of popular culture falls short of Haraway’s vision of the cyborg as a figure capable of subverting patriarchal power structures and essentializing views on gender. In similar fashion, Shabot also finds problematic the hyper-sexualized body found in popular versions of female cyborgs. This body is configured as an ideal body type in its hyperreality.



Cyborg imagery reinforces hegemonic depictions of masculinity


Walton 4 [Heather, “The Gender of the Cyborg” Theology Sexuality 2004 10: 33]
Cyborgs appear in many forms today. Their ubiquitous presence is felt whenever the boundaries that separate the human from the machine are breached and the conventions of ’ontological hygiene’ (Graham 2002: 3335) are compromised. Many feminists would claim that these cyborgs are not only present everywhere but active and working to sustain the representational practices through which gender is enduringly inscribed within our culture. Anne Balsamo argues that cyborgs are in fact the ’postmodern icon’, produced within a culture which is saturated by a technological male imaginary and that ’the dominant representation of cyborgs reinserts us into the dominant ideology by reaffirming bourgeois notions of human, machine and femininity’ (1999:154). There are many arguments that can be made to support this argument. On the most basic level it is clear that our most mundane experiences of cyborg practice, when we reach beyond our flesh through the computer keyboard, are gendered. Research indicates that boys enjoy losing themselves in the world of virtual reality and see the machine as a quasi living entity with which they can form a passionate relation. Girls are more likely to see their computers as tools aiding them in better interpersonal communication. Perhaps more worrying than this differentiated experience is the fact that the virtual worlds to which our computers provide access have become yet other sites of violence against women. In the ubiquitous availability of pornography on the internet the ’real time’ violation of girls and women is transformed into a virtual commodity. This can be purchased, swapped or secretly traded in an unholy exploitation of an elision between human flesh and screen image. There is also a growing awareness of the sexual harassment that is routinely experienced by women in online discussions, fantasy games and via e-mail. The chatroom can be as much a ’male space’ as the boardroom and the dangers this presents to girls and women are becoming increasingly apparent. If we begin to look beyond the interface with the computer and turn to popular cultural representations of the cyborg, we find that many of these also extend into our imagined futures the dominant gendered forms of today. From the comic book to the screen mediums, we are all familiar with representations of cyborgs that exaggerate and heighten, pleasurably and creatively or crudely and violently, the representations of gender already in circulation. From Metropolis to James Bond, from Stepford Wives to The Terminator gender representation are the means through which the significance of human identity in a technological future is experimented with, tested out and retransmitted. Male and female figures play familiar roles in these productions. To be sure, as Jenny Wolmark has argued, feminist science fiction has created cyborg images that ’reorder boundaries and demolish polarities’ (1999b: 237). And yes, as she has argued further, the strong women characters in some cyberpunk fictions and film owe much to these feminist interventions (1999a: 142). We might even concede that male cyborgs through their hypermasculinity do queer themselves - or as Lois McNay would have it ’fetishised images of masculinity bear within themselves traces of the feminised man transvestite and thus point towards their own constitutive instability and displacement’ (2000: 55). It is nevertheless the case that gender stereotypes are more likely to be reaffirmed than challenged by the majority of cultural depictions of the post/human. As Mary Doane writes: Although it is certainly true that in the case of some contemporary science fiction writers - particularly feminist authors - technology makes possible a destabilisation of sexual identity as a category, there has also been a curious but fairly insistent history of representations of technology which work to fortify sometimes desperately conventional understandings of the feminine (in Balsamo 1999 : 148).

Cyborgs sustain and reify traditional gender categories


Walton 4 [Heather, “The Gender of the Cyborg” Theology Sexuality 2004 10: 33]
It is not remarkable that cyborg images have become part of the desperate work to sustain conventional gender categories. Popular cultural icons are not only compelling because of their novelty but precisely because they return us via modern vehicles, to classic sites of cultural tension and anxiety. This is made very clear in Graham’s writing on monsters, the golem and the cultural prehistory of the cyborg. These sites of stress are where, what Julia Kristeva (1982) has termed, ’the powers of horror’ and the mechanisms of female abjection are most clearly discerned and reproduced. This reminds us, contra to much of the more optimistic literature on cyborgs, that the boundary territory or border where identity is contested is not always a happy place of delightful confusion. It is also the site where stands a ’victimising machine at the cost of which become the subject of the symbolic as well as the other of the abject’ (Kristeva 1982: 112). This victimizing mechanism is the means through which social anxieties are resolved through the reproduction of subjectivities in conformity with a phallogocentric symbolic order that cannot tolerate the disruptive indeterminacy of the feminine.1 Many of our most enduring cultural anxieties are related to the need to achieve mastery over the threat to social order posed by the baleful forces of the feminine sphere. These primal fears and the mechanisms for their overcoming are rehearsed again for us in cyborg dramas. Many of these are concerned with the ambivalence of maternal power and the necessity to achieve discreet subjectivity through relinquishing the maternal connection. Kristeva has a vivid metaphor for the abjection of the maternal by the subject who seeks individuation through repudiation of identity with the mother. She describes it as vomiting milk (1982: 3-4). This is enacted in The Matrix where the one who is to come is detached from his cyborg continuity with the maternal nexus that feeds him, nurtures him and incorporates his identity and vital force. He spews white fluid. Overlapping anxieties to those concerning maternal power are articulated around issues concerning human reproduction. This is an area where many deep fears are situated concerning personal origins individuation, continuity, familial and sexual authority, ethnicity, the dispersion of property and the continuation of the species - to name but a few! The cyborg bears these concerns into the popular imagination for, as Bladerunner famously illustrates, no cyborg has a mummy but they do possess the potential for endless replication. Once again the threats cyborgs present to our discrete humanity (ontological hygiene) are frequently feminized. The cyborg temptress may seduce the real man or the frail woman may be a less vigilant defender of ontological hygiene than her male partner. This is the case in Stephen Spielburg’s truly awful film, AI, in which the mother character is presented as a source of weakness that may lead to the adulteration of the species. She is more amenable to loving the replicant, the ’mecha’ child, whereas the father’s concerns are for his own damaged but authentic, ’human’ son. It is not only in the popular representation of cyborg characters that gender signifiers alert us to deep social unease. The cyborg sphere of existence, this real-becoming-virtual world, is also commonly portrayed as a feminine space. It is imaged as a place of fascination, illusion, pleasure, loss of self. Here we lose our human freedom, and are confined in a docile servitude. Nicola Nixon, writing on cyber punk, speaks of a feminized universe inhabited by ghosts (1999:199). In the film The Matrix this imagery is striking as human creatures are plugged into their nurturing but destructive captivity. And in Kronenburg’s Existenz we are captivated by Allegra, the dangerous queen of gaming and her organic, fleshly game pod (which Graham has likened to breasts but which I see as placental) that leads us innocents into a place of foul flesh and abasement.
No link turn – widespread opposition – only a risk of the link

Walton 4 [Heather, “The Gender of the Cyborg” Theology Sexuality 2004 10: 33]
However, it is also plain why this post/human figure is an anathema to other women activists. Feminist politics are marked by what Curti has described as a nostalgic ’preoccupation with the abandonment of the real, particularly the political real’ (1998: 1). The reality check of this nostalgic feminism is the figure of the flesh and blood woman in living relation with others and suffering material oppression. It is against the representations of this figure (who is also a cultural fabulation) that all feminist interventions are judged. What is to be feared is that her needs will be neglected by those who are supposed to be dedicated to her emancipation as they are seduced by other, more trivial but superficially engaging, concerns. It is not going to be easy to persuade feminists (particularly religious feminists and feminist theologians) to relinquish this icon and embrace silicon skin. And perhaps the nostalgia Curti correctly identifies within contemporary feminism for the real struggles of real women should be viewed as a legitimate defensive reaction to the illusion that transformed political futures are easily achieved through processes of cultural change and resymbolization. Surely the mechanisms of power which have regulated sexual relations in the past so effectively are not so easily transformed?

  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   ...   12


The database is protected by copyright ©essaydocs.org 2016
send message

    Main page