More Woman than Woman

Patrick Nagle '10, English 65, The Cyborg Self, Brown University (Fall 2006)

Many of these texts also construct cyborg bodies as female. The mix of masculine, rational, mechanistic technology with the feminine, conflated in the Western imagination with nature, emotion, and sentimentality embodies the cyborg's transgression of the human/machine distinction. The manipulation and ownership of these female bodies by masculinist Western science and patriarchal corporations and governments places this constructed femininity in a subordinate order.

These texts also objectify female bodies and treat them as sexual objects. Female cyborgs are endowed with hyperfeminine, sexualized traits. Gibson's Molly is given long, razor-sharp fingernails. Major Kusanagi and the Knight Sabers have large, feminine breasts that are often the focus of the camera's gaze. Zhora from Blade Runner is an exotic dancer, supposedly taking "pleasure from the snake that once corrupted man."

In Ghost in the Shell , Major Kusanagi and the puppetmaster engage in a dialogue which idealizes sexual reproduction as a difference-generator, ensuring the survival of certain organisms, resisting invasion from foreign bodies and strengthening the species. Heterosexual reproduction is figured in this way as an escape from Major Kusanagi's constructed identity and is coded in the tropes of capitalist competition and race survival. The puppetmaster, despite being a disembodied artificial intelligence, is given a male voice and called "he," and he casts Major Kusanagi as his female counterpart, recalling heteronormative and sexist ideas of the complementarity of the sexes: the hot man and the cold woman, the active male and the passive female, the breadwinner and the homemaker. Major Kusanagi's ability to bear organisms into the net is directly conflated with an ability to bear offspring. Indeed, the new Kusanagi/puppetmaster entity is given a child's body at the end of the film, further paralleling heterosexual repoduction.

Related Material

Course Website cyborg Body & Self Literature Last modified 31 October 2006