Cyborg Feminism

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Hello all!

I meant to write this post yesterday. I just wanted to share with you all some readings I did that was organized by A.I.R. Gallery. Once a month they get together to discuss a few essays/short stories at the gallery space. Monday night was the first time I joined them and was invited through a friend. The texts provided were:

A Cyborg Manifesto, written by Donna Haraway

Four Theses on Posthuman Feminism, written by Rosi Braidotti

Tin Soldier, a short story written by Joan D. Vinge

The first text is available online and so I linked it in the title, if anyone is interested in reading. The first two essays were lengthy feminist theory. I read a sufficient amount of theory in grad school, but somehow this idea of linking cyborgs to feminism got past me. (I made that joke with the two people in my group that we subdivided into and they didn’t seem to think it was funny.) I read all the texts the day before the meeting, but because I didn’t really know what to expect I didn’t make notes or print anything to take with me. I felt a little under-prepared and know better for next month’s gathering. Some people take to theory quite easily and love it. And I am not poo-poo-ing theory. There are some essays that I have loved and shaped my artistic perspective and assisted in the legitimacy of my thesis, etc. etc. Usually though I need an accompanying discussion to fully digest the text. I felt lost in these and only felt slightly better afterwards but not to the extent to sum up my findings to this group.

The short story was a little slow in the beginning, but continued to grow my interest as I stuck with it. I understood by it was chosen in conjunction with the theory and thought the discussion would be more focused on this. It was not. My sub-group didn’t discuss it at all and when we reconvened it was almost mentioned just in passing. There was plenty of feminist ideas that could be plucked out from it though. The narrative was futuristic about a “tin soldier” who was both a man and a cyborg and somehow only aged 5 years for every 100. Then there was this other character, female, who was a space-rider-explorer. Her voyage had her landing on the soldier’s planet once every 25 years. She also has some other timeline of aging, something about being on a spaceship delayed the process. (Can you tell I don’t read a lot of sci-fi?) Only women were allowed on the spaceships and absolutely no cyborgs (male/female/or other). The space riders were like futuristic sailors, going port to port, taking lovers but never a second time around. They explained because of the desire to limit relationships and attachments. Basically, Brandy (the female space rider) and Maris (tin soldier) get together the first time they meet. Brandy continues to see him every voyage but abstains sexually (while taking other lovers). It comes to a point where Brandy has an opportunity to run her own ship, but it means not seeing Maris for another 200 years and possibly never again. It is sad. Then because of her love for Maris, she declines the promotion. They have sex a second time. Yay? On the next trip out in space there’s an accident and Maris hears that Brandy is dead. It is sad. But then it turns out she is alive, but now a cyborg because she lost a few fingers in the crash and has a prosthetic partial hand. Since she is a cyborg, she is not allowed to ride in space and therefore useless (dead) to her field of work. Cue the discussion around emotional attachment being so much stronger than getting it on. Cue the discussion of role reversal, the females get to leave and explore the galaxy, while the  mean wait at home. Cue the discussion of discrimination between able-bodied and cyborg.

I don’t know the point of my post, but I felt inclined to share. I will be attending next month’s reading. I think it’s good to get together with similar-minded people and meet new people in the process.

4 comments on “Cyborg Feminism”

  1. Quite a sentence from A Cyborg Manifesto: “I am making an argument for the cyborg as a fiction mapping our social and bodily reality and as an imaginative resource suggesting some very fruitful couplings.” That’s as far as I got. Then I started to think about the movie, The Stepford Wives, which is the opposite of cyborg feminism, so I wonder about this argument–if there’s any rational way to understand the concept based on what little I know about feminist theory. But then I’d probably have to read the entire essay! Which I probably should do if I want to understand it…Thank you for linking the essay. And what an interesting reading group!

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    1. Daniela, Thank you for bringing cyborgs into the front of my mind. They are not a group I think about often when it comes to feminism (I got your joke and loved it), but we always need to be anticipating where the world will go. And for sure we will treat cyborgs like shit as we do any group that isn’t white men– that’s just the WAY IT IS, amirite?

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      1. Exactly! I mean I hate to make jokes at the expense of academia, because I recognize I am a product of academia, but it just seemed so bizarre that it took me way outside of myself. I do think it’s important people write theory. It’s also important people read and discuss theory. But it definitely made me question MY role in the whole scheme of things. To juxtapose, the very next night was the second meeting of Essential Yarn Craft (the free weekly knitting/crochet workshop I am leading with another artist) at the gallery in Newark I’m working with. THAT experience was/is truly bringing a service to the community, much more light-hearted, interactive, and memorable.

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