Donna Haraway's Feminist Theory?

Karen Kayfetz '08, English 65, The Cyborg Self, Brown University (Spring 2005)

"A Cyborg Manifesto" by Donna Haraway deals poorly with the connection between cyborgs and feminism but presents many interesting and well justified arguments and observations about feminism alone. In the section entitled "Fractured Identities," for example, she discusses complications in the feminist movement that arise from social differences.

There is nothing about being "female" that naturally binds women. There is not even such a state as "being" female, itself a highly complex category constructed in contested sexual scientific discourses and other social practices. Gender, race, or class consciousness is an achievement forced on us by the terrible historical experience of the contradictory social realities of patriarchy, colonialism, and capitalism. And who counts as "us" in my own rhetoric? Which identities are available to ground such a potent political myth called "us," and what could motivate enlistment in this collectivity? Painful fragmentation among feminists (not to mention among women) along every possible fault line has made the concept of woman elusive, an excuse for the matrix of women's dominations of each other. 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.

The feminist movement has been changing over the years especially as variant gender expression grows more prevalent and becomes more visible in society; thus Haraway's point that femaleness is socially constructed is essential to understanding the challenges that modern feminism faces. She aptly identifies social barriers that fragment women and turn them against each other and later in the essay describes precise historical backgrounds for them. Haraway presents a truly an eloquent and interesting examination of feminist theory.


Donna Haraway, "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century," in Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York; Routledge, 1991. pp.149-181.

Course Website cyborg Body & Self

Last modified 14 April 2005