wSex, Tech(s), and Cyborgs
This course is an introduction to feminist approaches to the study of texts including (but not limited to), novels, satire, film, and theory. This class examines how gender intersects with sex, class, sexuality, and technology in shaping authorship, reading, and representation.


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wSaturday, May 24, 2003


I would like to comment on what Tory said about the patriarchy fearing female bondings...this was why the new "regime" was formed...the commander states at one of his meetings with Offred that the world changed because men had nothing left to do...so basically this take over was in response to feeling subordinate to women...the women didn't necessarily need men anymore...they saw the power as having shifted, and revolted...I found that interesting...

posted by Eileen at 5:58 PM


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I've been finishing up the Handmaid's Tale and I have found its reading to be stifling...maybe I'm the only one...but whenever I take a break from reading, I feel almost as she would...I have this semi-fear that I'm doing something wrong...it's like the sensation that you get when you step off an elevator...you feel as if you are still moving, even though you aren't...Am I the only one who is getting this sensation? I'm also interested in how the men of the class are feeling as they are reading this...do you feel sort of set back as well? Just curious....

posted by Eileen at 5:53 PM


wThursday, May 22, 2003


I cannot put HTM down,yet I am very disturbed by the situation as well as some other things. I want the main character to tell more about her past and what else is going on in the world now. I really want to know where her daughter is. I am frustrated that the women are not reaching out to one another to at least form a small community within the household. It makesme think of Haraway's article, when she says that, "There is nothing about being female that naturally binds women"(155). It seems that this whole new way of life is full of hatred and command. I am only to the section that we were supposed to read up to so I am not sure what will happen with the women, but I wish they would form a bond. There is nothing positive about a society without choices. The commander does not even seems happy with the circumstances. I don't understand how the women can feel animosity toward each other when none of them want the roles that they have anyway.

posted by Abby at 12:16 PM


wWednesday, May 21, 2003


Amy poses an interesting point when suggesting that a need or desire for community helps the patriarchs hold power. In what ways can we disrupt this? Or, in what ways is this idea already being disrupted? This might entail constructed, assembling, deconstructing a new definition of community. In the HMT the women create a sort of community even though they are prohibited from having friendships. I think that this shows the power of communities--specfically female communities in this case. Because the patriarchy fears the bonds of friendship among women, it can be assumed that they fear what may result from those friendships--i.e., an uprising, retaliation, networks, etc. However, it is interesting that these communities find a way of being created even in oppressive circumstances. It is almost like a human survival mechanism. The presence of these communities in societies like the one explore in HMT demonstrate the power that can be accessed through communal efforts.

posted by Tory at 3:44 PM


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i agree with amanda when she talks about the hypocritical society in HMT, it's disturbing and should make us look at the hypocracy in our own patriarchal society.

something i thought of in class yesterday: we discussed the human need for community, i think this need really helps the patriarchs hold power. the patriarchal family unit is the basic unit of our society so it makes sense that our government should be patriarchal as well since we value family. in HMT the family unit as we know it is disrupted. women are expected to be machines, bearing children only to have them taken away, the childrens future rests on their sex. trouble arises in this first generation of handmaids when they resist being machines.


posted by amy at 12:56 PM


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What Balsamo has done in "Reading Cyborgs, Writing Feminism" is to expose the history of the constructed gendered body of the female in the 18th, 19th, and the contemporary world. Her most significant message is that the physical part of the female body always figures at the center of the culturally constructed symbolic part of women's body (Balsomo 24). In the 18th century, the female body was interpreted as the object of scientific biopower (Balsomo 26). In the 19th century, the female body became object of medical control (Balsomo 26), but the fact that the female body always needed control paradoxically attested to its power of consistently exceeding control (Balsomo 27). In the contemporary era, male postmodernist theorists have deconstructed the female body as "an always silent/silenced conceptual placeholder in hysterical male discourse" (Balsomo 30). In their discourse, the material body of the female becomes absent. The objective of the male deconstruction of the biological identity of woman is to "deconstruct the organic foundation of feminist thought" (Balsomo 31). The counter-strategy of feminists resides in claiming the female body by reading and writing cyborgs.
I consider the recovery of the female body from male postmodern theorists a crucial achievement of Balsomo. In canonical contemporary American fiction, we only discussed the knowability of history. Male postmodern theorists like Jameson preaches the death of history, that is, it is impossible for humans to know history in this fragmented world. By that, he not only denies women their subjectivity, but also the history of feminist struggle. The impossibility of knowing the history of feminism cuts women from their root. And the danger is well presented in Atwood's novel. Through recovering the female body, Balsomo at once rescues women's subjectivity from the hysterical despair of the patriarchal culture, the revealing history of feminist struggle, as well as the organic foundation of feminist thought. Without the anchoring biological foundation, it is hard for feminists to find a common object to fight for. They must fight for the female body, both physically and spiritually.



posted by xianfeng at 12:33 PM


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Lillian Liang
Professor Blackmon
English 360K
May 21 2003
From the two articles we have read so far, we have already gained an understanding that female body is interpreted and constructed as a cultural text. The current essay will elaborate on how this process “subjects to a determinate system of power” (Balsamo 23) and how Michael Foucault’s theory about workings of power contributes to or relates to such an understanding.
What place has the female body occupied in the Western imagination, and in the symbolic
productions of Western culture over the past two thousand years? Foucault would have us
believe that “she” was hardly present, marginal and uninteresting. The female body is not
an essentially unchanging, given-in-nature, biological entity, but rather is symbolically
constructed within different cultural discourses situated within different historical
conjunctions. (Balsamo 22)
Therefore, different from the essentialist idea that there is a single “she”, female body is claimed as a “discursive construction, and therefore can be read” (Balsamo 20). This naturally relates to the contemporary deconstruction theory. The “natural posture” (Balsamo 20) of the female body is deconstructed. The natural female body no longer exists. Along with layers and layers of the onion being peeled off, meaning of the body is corrected, redefined, corrected again, re-re-defined finally or ends up to nothingness.
Crucial to this transformation process is the power relations, which manifest themselves not only in the disintegration and reestablishment processes, but also control the direction of the transformation, provided that there exists a direction of this change or the female body can be controlled. Foucault delineates “the means by which power is exercised. He suggests the term ‘apparatus’ and later ‘technology’ to name the process of connection between discursive practices, institutional relations, and material effects that, working together, produce a meaning or a “truth effect” for the human body” (Balsamo 20). According to Balsamo, “apparatus” produces knowledge of the female body. However, not only “apparatus” and “technology” take on the job here, “cultural beliefs” (Balsamo 23) take part in this as well.
But it is disheartening to notice a paradox that, along with the sound and fury of defining, redefining, controlling the human body, female body doesn’t have a way to articulate itself; it loses its voice. And regaining the lost voice is not an easy task; at least it needs patience and time. Indeed Foucault often identifies “the gendered identity” (Balsamo 21) as “docile bodies” (Balsamo 21). “Foucault evades direct consideration of gender as an “effect” produced at the level of the body. Make the body meaningful, gender often functions for him as a natural given” (Balsamo 21).
“In this sense, the female body functions as a border case; it is at once defined as part of a natural order and as intensely fascinating and yet threatening object of cultural control. … As such it is a site of potential transgression against the boundaries of social order” (Balsamo 28). Balsamo believes that “reading the body” (18) is a way of constructing a framework for “reading cyborgs” (18). And if “Cyborg, a shorthand term for ‘cybernetic organism,’ usually describes a human-machine coupling, most often a man-machine hybrid”, the female body historically was constructed as a hybrid case, thus making it compatible with notions of cyborg identity” (Balsamo 18).
I remember Dr. Blackmon said the three novels not necessarily create a direct dialogue with the theory we learn over the course. But I find HMT obviously create a direct and interesting dialogue. Or, may be that is why we work on this novel first. The novel can be read, absolutely in terms of body politics theory, and the concepts we have or will touch upon over the course, find ample expressions in the novel and these include gender, sex, female body, voice, women’ s community, social conventions, stereotypes, otherness, language as a social tool, freedom, women’s room, pride and dignity, etc, etc.

Works Cited
Balsamo, Anne Marie. Technologies of the Gendered Body: Reading Cyborg Women. Duran:
Duke UP, 1996.

posted by lillian at 12:30 PM


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I noticed a few ironies in "The Handmaid's Tale". Like this society is supposed to be uber-religous, conservative, and modest. And one would think that such a religous culture would think that the bond of marriage is extremely sacred. And by bringing a Handmaid into the relationship breaks that bond. This society makes all of this seem alright based upon that small passage in the Bible about how Rachel couldn't give Jacob and children, so he had him sleep with her servant (Genesis 30:1-3). But why did they choose this particular passage to base their religous views on it? You would think that this modern civilization would have come up with a better way to deal with the infertility problem, like artificial insemination or something as simple as adoption. Another irony I found, at least I found it ironic, is the groups of people they're fighting this war with. The enemies mentioned so far are the Baptists and Quakers. I consider the Baptist and Quaker faiths to be conservative, traditional, and strict, much like the faith of this society in "The Handmaid's Tale". But I guess even the Baptist and Quaker faiths are considered heathen and immoral almost by these people.

I also see the resemblances of this society to the way women in Afghanistan are treated as well. In both cases the women have to wear long dresses/burkhas to cover their bodies, women aren't allowed to get an education or to read, they can't work, women must have escorts when they're out in public, etc...But in both cases, it's like the preachings of each faith is skewed to fit the demands of the government and needs of men. The Islam faith doesn't intend for women to be treated that way. It's skewed. Another example would be how the Bible says that homosexuality is wrong. Many people use this as an excuse to have hatred towards homosexuals. But the Bible also states such things as women aren't allowed to work while they're menstruating, or like a woman who cheats on her husband can be stoned to death. Obviously, most Christians don't follow those rules of the Bible still. But they use the Bible as an excuse to find homosexuality wrong. So what can a person take from such religous texts as the truth and what is right and wrong?

posted by Amanda at 12:22 PM


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I never cease to be amazed at the way knowledge expands and flows even when you think you have a "solid" grasp on something. Today's discussion and my re-reading of Haraway (I had read her 1980s version of the manifesto years before) has helped me to expand my idea of what it means to be borg. I find it particularly interesting that, while I see the connection between computer technology and the cybernetic organism, I have failed to consider the multitude of other forms of technologies that could be considered part of the combination that is the cyborg. I’m particularly shocked because I understand that technology does not refer simply to computers and other such machines, but that it also includes things such as writing implements (pens, pencils, etc), yet I failed to consider how these other, less recent technologies could come into play. I realize that there are certain things that have become so much a part of my daily life that I fail to see them as aspects of technology/ machines. I had completely forgotten that the watch that I wear every day connects me to technology. This, I think, illustrates how truly cyborg we have become because we have assimilated (no Star Trek pun intended) technology into our beings to such a degree that we fail to notice it any longer.

posted by Cat at 12:14 PM


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my definition of a cyborg still conjures images of a robot, like dot from spaceballs. i find it difficult to understand how i could be a cyborg just because i use a pen and paper. i enjoyed the discussion about erasing history. it really makes me think back at all that has made our world what it is today. i think it is impossible to weed out some events; and who gets to decide that? starting over is an interesting concept. i suggest everyone read 'the giver' ( i could bring it in for anyone interested) because if the definition of a cyborg applies to humans, then i think maybe those characters would be considered cyborgs. it really emphasizes how cultural influences, and lack thereof, affect the body - both male and female. i enjoyed reading "reading cyborgs, writing feminism". the part about troublesome dualisms (25) stood out because we discussed some of them in class. i would like to furthur discuss truth/illusion. i think women have a difficult time differentiating between the two because of all that is thrown at us by mainstream society. a phrase that stood out in the article reads, "Both Woman and Cyborg are simultaneously symbolically and biologically produced and reproduced through social interactions. The "self" is one interactional product; the body is another." (26) that is so true! i would really like to discuss why that is and find out what other people think.

posted by jamie at 10:38 AM


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What it is to be a cyborg.
Based on the discussion from yesterday I think that what it is to be a cyborg can all come down to something as simple as being a human at a certain point in time in which we were able to use tools. This is based on the idea that using something as simple as pen or pencil can constitiute a mechancial extension of ones self. If using a pen can make someone a cyborg then we are able to go all the way back in time and find that first caveman who decided to use the pointy rock to bash some animal on the head in order to eat. This idea would also mean that being a cyborg pre-dates technology by a long time (unless one were to count the rock as technology in which case it pre-dates complex technoogy by a long time). Also, does being a cyborg require the machine to have a little human (as in flesh or bone) in it? I don't think so, and if it doesn't then what are the boundaries that are drawn that separate a cyborg from any kind of machine or appliance or tool that we use? Does it mean that the rock the caveman is using is in and of itself a cyborg?

posted by Nicholas at 8:55 AM


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The blog fairy has posted a list of Blog FAQs under HELP! on the course website. I will print them and bring them to class this afternoon.

posted by Samantha at 8:09 AM


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There have been a lot of interesting points made in the last day or so. I would like to ask questions/make comments/wonder out loud about many of them en masse.

Lauren wrote "no morals due to some things that were stated within the text, Christianity was bad, perversion good. This concerned me, I don't understand why cyborgs must be evil in that way" . What do you think that Haraway means by perversion? Are all things "perverse" and/or non-Christian without morals or evil? Does our discussion yesterday about binaries, cyborgs, norms, et. al blow this idea up or out for any of us?

jamie asked some interesting questions such as "how does the oedipus complex apply to cyborgs? and why does haraway say that "teaching modern Christian creationism should be fought as a form of child abuse"?...the final point is beastiality. how does it fit into the definition of a cyborg and for that matter what is a cyborg that it can couple with an animal?". When I reread this piece before class I wondered how many people would wonder about Haraway's comment about teaching creationism as a form of child abuse. Rather than responding directly to that (yet), or any of jaimie's questions so far. I challenge her (or anyone else) to try to tackle them for a moment or two :-)

amy asked the short but BIG question "can we do away with the problems that come with being outside the norms?". I'd like to respond with an open question. What are norms? Who sets them? Who benefits from them? Who suffers? What are they based on? (Okay that was more than one question, but it may open up the discussion a bit.

loretta blogged about Native American women and literacy. She posted "Haraway notes that literacy and thus writing allow 'access to the power to signify,' (175) a power that until recently was completely controlled by white males. But now women of color as well as Native Americans have learned to read and write and are asserting themselves using this tool.". How about I play devil's advocate here for a moment? Does literacy give us voice? Truly? Does being able to read and write ensure that we will be heard?

Eileen's definition of cyborg "I feel that a cyborg is merely a merging of two units that would not occur in nature, to create a natural unit..." So, once again to play devil's advocate :-) What about Haraway's thought that cyborgs can be those who are an amalgam of their being in nature and in fiction? In a nutshell I guess my question is this Are we all cyborg simply based upon the fact that we are seen as both sexed and gendered (even if we have no connections to mechanical technologies at all)?

Lots of people situate their working definitions around the fact that cyborgs are human with some kind of technological interaction/integration. So my big question here is going to be What is technology? What qualifies as technology? That'll be a good segue in The Handmaid's Tale :-)

posted by Samantha at 7:19 AM


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The Handmaid's Tale:

The first connection I made between this book and anything else I've read/heard of/seen is the women who were subjugated under the rule of the Taliban in Afghanistan. A few things brought this to my mind: the use of religious beliefs as a reasoning; the removal of people from their previous occupations/lives and creating an entirely new society in a relatively short period of time; and the actual physical, clothing, and spatial restraints placed on the characters. When the Japanese tourists visit to gawk at the people, I wanted to yell at them to do something and help. I can't help but wonder at this point how the society manages to survive since it seems every one in every position is oppressed and denied freedom of any sort.

On a deeper level, this novel seems to be a sattirical statement about what could happen if the religious right overtook society. All of the names are Biblical, the rules are from the Bible, and many references are made to Biblical passages and hymns. While it may be easy to dissociate one's self from thinking too much about it by saying it is just science fiction, I am reminded again of my correlation between much of the characters' experiences and what has in fact happened to people in other parts of the world such as in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. It seems that much of the character's experiences can be interpreted as comments on organized religion, such as her blind obedience of the rules, the brain-washing classes, and even the use of scare tactics such as the Wall (ie fire and brimstone preaching).

There are also parts which may serve as mini-commentaries about relavent issues. For example, the Aunts force Janine to accept that her rape experience was her own fault. Sexual violence and violence against women in general has been a serious issue within the women's movement. As another example, the main character's flashback to her mother involves the burning of pornographic material. Pornography has been a hot debate among feminists as to whether it is demeaning or just fine.

Another overriding theme of the novel is the measure of a woman's worth by her child-bearing ability. A law has actually been written that lack of pregnancy cannot be the fault of a man, and women can actually lose their lives for not becoming pregnant. While this may seem like an extreme illustration of this concept, it does still apply today. Women and reproduction are closely related. Hot topics include reproductive freedom, equality in the work-place without consideration of the possiblity women may decide to bear children, and the way procreation relates to sexuality.

This seems to be more than just a sci-fi look at some horrific futuristic world and a book about feeling sorry for the main character. Atwood seems to be saying quite a few things about how she viewed the state of her society and the women's movement at the time she wrote this novel. While it was written in 1986, many of the issues are still very relavent today. Instead of Ronald Regan, we have George W. Bush and the religious right seems as strong as ever. People are being appointed and elected to positions of power who have long histories of being opposed to civil rights for women, racial minorities, and sexual minorities. This novel is definitly worth a long, hard look to remind ourselves not to become complacent because freedoms are not to be taken for granted.

posted by Sarah at 2:57 AM


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Cyborg Manifesto & Reading Cyborgs, Writing Feminism:

My definition of "cyborg" will have to remain the simplistic model of human fused with machine. I would have to classify the relationship between cyborgs and the dependence of humans on technology as a simile: "The dependence of modern humans on their machines and technology is like the melding of human and machine into the body of a cyborg."

I have a very hard time with the concept of "cyborg feminism." Using the analogy of a cyborg's complex interconnection of machine and organism to explain or elaborate upon the ideas of welcoming diversity and transgressing identity boundaries is one thing. Speaking in abstract terms and attempting to actually redefine women's bodies or identities as "cyborg" is extreme. We spoke in class discussion about the impact of language, and in my opinion, creating this whole other definition of a sci-fi word like cyborg in order to explain a new theory of feminism is detrimental to feminist goals. It would make much more sense to simply call this new stream of feminism "Hybrid Feminism" or something of the sort. Such a name would also make the concept more accessible by simplifying it as well as using words that don't have completely unrelated dictionary definitions.

As I said already, the use of the cyborg as an analogy to further explain the concepts of "cyborg feminism" is perfectly valid. I am sure there are many other hybrids that would also work to illustrate the concepts both authors are attempting to articulate.

I would say that I agree with many of the main principles in both articles once I get beyond the use of the cyborg language. In Harroway's article, the part that I connected most strongly with was the idea that the diversity of identities and experiences of women across the globe has hindered the feminist movement in the past and present. The "call to action" to embrace our differences and stop attempting to articulate what makes one worthy to be a part of feminism is a very important part of this article. In my opinion, this is another way of saying what many other feminist authors have argued before. bell hooks is one person who comes to mind as very outspoken on the issue of inclusiveness in the women's movement.

In Balsamo's article, I enjoyed reading about the never-ending circular effects of culture and the female body on one another. She also provides a nice summary of the thicker authors such as Foucault and Harroway (thank you to her!!!). It rings very true to me that there is no way to consider the body without cultural influences coming through, from the adjectives used to the implications inferred. She writes extensively about the influences of cultural perceptions on women's health - from early doctors/scientists attempting to gain an understanding of the female body to the influence this has on the way women deal with AIDS. Her analysis of the perception that AIDS in women is simply related to their activity with men in a more passive sense rang very true with me. Just this year, the CDC published a case of female-to-female transmission of HIV for the first time ever. This is not because it is the first case, but because any possible sexual activity with a man in a female HIV patient's history automatically ruled out the possiblity of female-to-female transmission by CDC rules. Because of this, women with HIV have actually been instructed by their health care providers that they couldn't give it to their female parters, resulting in who knows how many preventable transmissions. (Source: Curve Magazine June 2003) This also relates back to Harroway's mention of women being constructions of a men's desire and brings this concept right into the present.

posted by Sarah at 2:09 AM


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I do not really enjoy reading about theory so this article was not an easy read for me. One idea that seemed to be present in a good portion of the article was the blurring or disintegration of the boundaries between humans and animals and humans and machines. I think the idea of the boundaries between humans and machines is becoming more and more prevalent as we move into the future. While we are creating machines that are more independent (meaning they need little to no humans to run them), we are becoming more dependent on machines. I’ll be one of the first to admit to being in this category. I am very dependent on my computer and my email and my cell phone goes with me where ever I go. This does not even begin to touch on the different types of machines people depend on in their lives. Businesses are starting to depend on machines and technology more and more as well. With new technology and machines being created and improved upon is it really any surprise that the line between humans and machines is becoming blurred?

However, a cyborg is more than just this. The definition of a cyborg can never be completely pinpointed. It will change as technology and society changes. Not only does it involve the merging of humans and machines it also merges with nature (or animals) and combines fiction and lived experiences. There are no boundaries of gender, race, and class. Cyborgs are united by their fluidity. They can merge and be fused with others. While there is no one right definition of a cyborg, these are some of the characteristics that i felt were the most important.

posted by Shana at 12:01 AM


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Definition of Cyborg
-part human, part machine or technology
-part imagination, part experience
-no specific gender
-no sexuality
-we are all technological dependant, it is what technologies we choose to depend on that differentiate us
-can be fiction or illusion
-I do not think a cyborg is part animal, at least in the way society views animals, or are we all animals?

posted by Emily at 12:00 AM


wTuesday, May 20, 2003


Working Defination of Cyborg
My working definition was that a Cyborg is someone who is part machine and part human. However in many ways a Cyborg appears to be someone who is merely technology dependent, which is pretty much everybody, sans a few rare instances like Mowgli in Jungle Book. I think that the purpose of drawing to everyone’s attention to the fact that virtually all people are techno dependant is a good way to show that the differences between people are smaller then the commonalities. People knowing that they are very similar is a good way to help break down things like; sexism, racism, classism, anti-Semitism, ect.

posted by wendell at 11:20 PM


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In response to Donna Haraway
In a literal sense a cyborg is a person that is least part machine. There are of course examples of how people are becoming more and more cyborg like; pacemakers, false teeth, and hips. Rather then are people cyborgs in the sense that they are tool dependent, this document could not be posted with out the ability of tools that in some ways define there user’s existence, so in that sense people are also cyborgs. Then people are also cyborgs in the sense that they are part of the machine, this is clearly evienced by the fact that machines on assembly lines directly replace humans who used to do those same tasks, people are also part of the machine in the sense that people all fall with in the giant social structure panoptic machine, with everyone expecting everybody else to report any transgressions a small part of the machine might make.
A Cyborg Manifesto is the declaration that we are all cyborgs made by Haraway. This essay deals with the idea that we are all machines and then goes so far to say that this cyborgness which in many ways is the result of the government funding and technological growth and the increased presence of women, of all races in the work force, has caused more and more workers to approach a similar existence, where the presence of gender is become less and less defining as a characteristic, things like the home work economy that Haraway mentions are good examples of this. People as machines are valued little by there sponsors, and thus have little security.
What does this all mean to me? Well the idea that we are all part machine, I think is a good metaphor for how our condition is very much restricted by technology. I think that the feminists movement which is something that is of great import to when the welfare of women and children is considered, for example with out the greater homogenizing of the workforce after the inclusion of women into that group has allowed various freedoms for people, an example my mother was free to divorce my father which has made life infinitely easier.

posted by wendell at 10:59 PM


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My concept of a cyborg is basically the same after today's discussion as it was after reading the article. It's basically the merging of two things, typically machine and organism, however it does not have to be a human. It can also range from a binary connection to a multiplicity. (I felt a more firm understanding of this aspect after the presentation today). It's completely obvious that we are in constant contact with machinery and it totally makes sense that we have a yearning to be united with machinery. For instance, I carry a cell phone constantly, wear a watch all the time, go everywhere in my car, utilize my computer for various tasks etc.... I do not think that I could live comfortably without the machinery i am surrounded by everyday. While I think the essay was rather lengthy and dry, there were good points to it's complexity. Each of us must find our own conclusion and probably related to the points that jumped out at us at first. I'm sure a more thorough, repetitive reading is needed in order to fully understand all points in Haraway's essay. Once some of the main points were made more clearly to me in class discussion, such as the idea of ficiton and lived experience and the lack of origin of the cyborg, I quickly realized it all made sense. I'm sure that if I ever read this essay again, I will surely find a deeper definition with many more branches to consider and question again.

posted by Laura at 9:39 PM


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Although I did not vocally participate in today’s discussion (which is something I need to work on) I certainly found it interesting to explore the issues of gender and sex. When Prof. Blackmon asked for our thoughts on a “new beginning” (i.e. erasing what we know as history) the first thing that came to mind was Tracy Chapman’s song on this subject which I happen to love. I agree that it is dangerous to erase history because we need to remember the past so we learn from our mistakes. The problem with history in the Western tradition is that it is written from a patriarchal perspective. But this is changing as women, African Americans, Native Americans, and others are “reinventing” history and rectifying the male dominating view. It takes time for things to change especially what we know as history. What we must do is support and sustain the positive changes and eventually things will be better.
After today’s discussion my idea of a cyborg is an interaction between material objects and biological beings. Before this course started my idea of a cyborg was a being made of machine and biological parts but now I realize it’s not that simple of a concept. Society’s dependence on electronic goods makes us cyborgs. This is something I struggle with. I don’t get any television reception (by choice) even though I own a tv set (and this makes me very happy). I’ve never had a cell phone or pager and dread the day I actually need one. I experience the “stress” Haraway talks about since I don’t yet have a computer at home. Yet I’m still a cyborg. I rely on clocks and their alarms, my cd player and the telephone. Thus my definition of a cyborg is human dependence and interaction with material goods.

posted by loretta at 8:33 PM


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My response to what I feel a cyborg is has not changed much from what I put as my first definition today in class...I feel that a cyborg is merely a merging of two units that would not occur in nature, to create a natural unit...for example--my computer and I have a great relationship...I would feel absolutely lost without it...however, no where in the natural world would I be born with a computer extended from my hand...I feel that being a cyborg deals with what we feel are technological necessities...things that we feel we wouldn't survive withouth...Like (as Dr. Blackmon mentioned at the beginning of class) alarm clocks...I would never wake up in time if I didn't have a machine to tell me to--coffee makers...my roommates would have never have made it through a semester of 7:30's without the use of that one--or something as simple as a telephone...I didn't have any phone or internet access for a week earlier this year and I felt completely severed from everyone since it was Christmas break and no one was here with me...So my working definition of a cyborg is mainly a naturally occurring being fused with an unnaturally occurring being working in a symbiotic, almost necessity based, relationship...

posted by Eileen at 8:15 PM


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I found Haraway’s “Cyborg Manifesto” to be a complex essay incorporating many perspectives on the concept of a cyborg. Although I understood the points she expressed throughout the paragraphs and sections of the text I don’t quite understand her overall message or more precisely how all of the different points she discusses fit together.
The part of the essay I found most interesting was the last section concerning identity. Haraway discussed the “cyborg identity” by using the example of women of color. In her explanation Haraway included literacy, survival, and origin stories as aspects of cyborg identity. What struck me about this section was the relation between her points and the ideas I discussed in a research paper this past spring semester. I took a history course on Native Americans and wrote a paper on Native American feminine identity that included a discussion of literature and writing. Haraway notes that literacy and thus writing allow “access to the power to signify,” (175) a power that until recently was completely controlled by white males. But now women of color as well as Native Americans have learned to read and write and are asserting themselves using this tool. Until I read this section of Haraway’s essay I didn’t think women of color and Native American women could be characterized as having a “cyborg identity.” Native American women exist among fluid boundaries that for example may incorporate traditional religious beliefs (including origin stories) as well as formal university education (which teaches Western constructs). Native American women use English as a tool to relate their origin stories which contradict the Western origin beliefs. For Native American women writing is a means of survival and as Haraway put it “subvert[ing] command and control” (175).
Outside of this revelation into the definition of what it is to be a “cyborg” I found Haraway’s discussion of ‘homework economy’ with its emphasis on feminized labor quite interesting. Also Lillian and Tory’s presentations were helpful in understanding the key points from the reading especially the feminist concepts in the essay and Haraway’s definition of a cyborg.

posted by loretta at 7:53 PM


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The discussion today gave me a much better perspective on what a cyborg actually is. At first I could not see the connection between the cyborg and the real world. Now I understand that it is a part of our daily life. It can be something that we interact with. I do have a better knowledge of the cyborg, but I do not understand the relationship between it and feminism.

posted by Abby at 5:39 PM


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Based on today's discussion, my understanding is that cyborg is a state of existence. It is a kind of extension. Although the concept may be comparatively new, raised by cyborg feminists, people have been living in the cyborg existence since the first time they extended their wisdom and being through concrete tools, like a simple wooden stick, till sophisticated machines like the spaceship, and even the miniature biological implement that can move in a person's blood vessel. A cyborg existence is not only connection between concrete things, but also between abstract ideas. Borrowing an idea from another culture constitutes a connection. The only problem is that the patriarchal culture has chosen to neglect the importance of feminine connection to celebrate its distinction and aggressiveness and to hold women down in its dominant cultural discourse. And the task of cyborg feminists is to recover, assert, and popularize the cyborg discourse, hence cyborg being.
Xianfeng Mou

posted by xianfeng at 3:56 PM


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Xianfeng Mou
The cyborg manifesto deals with three aspects of the issue: cyborg feminism against the patriarchal society, cyborg feminist theory, and the way of constructing cyborg feminism.
Within the patriarchal society, both in the east and the west, the essence of its culture is distinction and separation. The emphases on distinction comes from the masculine efforts to distinguish and therefore to control women. The distinction between human and nonhuman, organism and machine, and physical and nonphysical celebrated and affirmed in the masculine civilization has all changed in the present era. And that's what cyborg feminism is about. Cyborg feminism sings the fusion of those boundaries. Its message of connection strikes loud in this fragmented world. Unity comes from generation of difference, not elimination of difference. In other words, there exists no absolute unity. And cyborg feminism strongly opposes the tyranny of unity.
Even within the realm of feminist theory, cyborg feminism celebrates difference. The concept of an organic and holistic feminist standpoint is only an illusion. And cultural feminism is problematic, too. White, middle-class feminists of the United States cannot hold their views as universally true, for it is obvious that they cannot represent the interests and opinions of African American women, Asian American women, nor women of other ethnic backgrounds. As is the same, feminists of the United States cannot demand feminists in other countries accept their positions, because women fare different conditions, for instance in China, from their counterparts in the U.S. If Western feminists insist on the absolute truth of their theory, they would be falling into the same mistake of distinction and tyranny of the patriarchal culture they aim to oppose. In one word, there is no grand feminist theory that every feminist shall abide by. The only truth is the dissolution of boundaries within feminist theory.
After deconstructing the masculine culture, the next task of cyborg feminists is to construct. They advocate that such construction can only achieve affinity, not a clearcut identity. For them, any construction is partial, incomplete. The development of science and technology does not bring termination to the world, as the patriarchal culture has feared in certain films featuring the takeover of men by machine, but new sources of power to women. The patriarchal culture is scared of the fusion of boundaries which holds out the dynamics of networking for cyborg feminists. And the purpose of cyborg writing is to control the flow of information so as to mark the world. It is not only a struggle for their unique language, but also a struggle against perfect, controllable communication. The imperfection of communication means such construction of identity aims only at affinity so that there is always room for transformation, for something else.

posted by xianfeng at 3:37 PM


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after reading this assignment (three times), i'm still a bit unclear on the definition of a cyborg. i don't feel too awful about it after hearing from tory that it is really a slippery thing!!! i don't have any insights to provide for this reading, only a question:

as a person who is against the concept of "normal" in our society, in a cyborg society, can we do away with the problems that come with being outside the norms?

posted by amy at 3:36 PM


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when i began reading haraway's article i realized that my lexicon did not include many of the 7+ letter words. so, like lauren, i got bored. second time around i highlighted and referrred to my dictionary. third time around i could vaguely define 'cyborg'. i have always defined it as a creature of fiction with human characteristics, like thought process and mechanics. turns out i'm on the right track but still a little hazy with the technological side of it all because that is not my area of expertise. a few points i found interesting include the whole war is a cyborg orgy thing. i need some explanation. also, the post-oedipal - how does the oedipus complex apply to cyborgs? and why does haraway say that "teaching modern Christian creationism should be fought as a form of child abuse"? that threw me for a major loop. as a christian, creationism has always been a part of my idea of origin, but i am evolving mentally to include a scientific explanation as well. i thought haraway was a bit too harsh in saying creationism is child abuse. the final point is beastiality. how does it fit into the definition of a cyborg and for that matter what is a cyborg that it can couple with an animal?

posted by jamie at 3:32 PM


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Feminist Approach into the Cyborg
“Women in the integrated circuit” (Haraway 149) is an interesting image. I think the author uses this phrase to suggest that whatever kind of social arenas women stay, be it “the home, workplace, market, public arena, the body itself” (Haraway 163), women are “integrated” (Haraway 163) and “exploited” (Haraway 163) into a world system. Among these I am pretty much interested in the topic of woman’s body. Woman’s body as a whole can be formed through parts and so look like an integrated circuit. And I don’t know whether the general belief that the whole is larger than all of its parts combined proves to be true or not in here?
What constructs women’s situation in the world, if we accept that women are situated “in the integrated circuit” (Haraway 149)? If women, women’s bodies, sex, sexuality are “actors” (Haraway 169) in a sense, then, social relations including science, technology, power, social life are directors. On page 159, Haraway talks about women are “constituted by another’s desire”, and if we link this desire issue with the actor issue, I would ask what roles those women can play on the stage if they are full of desires, instead of just being satisfied with being desirable?
Women’s experience is another interesting issue. Haraway said: “The international women’s movements have constructed ‘women’s experience’, as well as uncovered or discovered this crucial collective object” (149). I think one of the key words here is “collective” and my question accordingly is about this term. First, what counts women’s experience? Why it is collective? Second, if cyborgs can refer to “the creatures simultaneously animal and machine, who populate worlds ambiguously natural and crafted” (Haraway 149), then, in terms of women’s experiences, how do we tell natural women’s experience from crafted women’s experience? I mean, all through the article, “nature and culture” is set in opposition to one another, so what is women’s experience in nature and that in culture?
A related concept concerns the notion of women itself. What counts women? “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” (Haraway 155). What is the distinction between woman and female? If woman is a pretty “elusive” (Haraway 155) notion, is female more lucid? Here we see a progress in women’s liberation movement that women acknowledge that we are all different, not only different from men but different among ourselves as well. “Woman disintegrates into women in our time” (Haraway 160). Another interesting thing is that on page 155, she said: “Painful fragmentation among feminists (not to mention among women)”. The unsaid messages could be multiple: first, feminists are necessarily female, second, they are a special breed of women; and third, they are distinct from women in general, in other words, they are what ordinary women are not. And actually on page 157, the author said: “White women, including socialist feminists”, so Haraway goes a step further to limit again the scope of feminists. Also related to the notion of women, why on page 156 the author says: “The category woman negated all non-white women; black negated all non-black people, as well as black women”?

Works Cited
Haraway, Donna J. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York,
Routledge, 1991.



posted by lillian at 3:27 PM


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In preparing for my presentation today, I have been thinking about a lot of things. I am fascinated by the cyborg myth--its fluidity, its uncertainty, its shape-shifting ability. I understand why this is such an important image for socialist-feminism. The cyborg myth advocates change, challenges social constructions and boundaries, resists dualities, merges gender, race, and class, and serves as a didactic tool for us to learn from. The cyborg celebrates hybridity and calls for unity in difference.

I am excited to hear how others will define a cyborg--in reading, I have come to understand that it is a concept that resists definition of an kind, and its definition is constantly changing as technology and experience changes. Haraway's definition is just one view of the cyborg, and, like she mentions, we should never view the world through "single vision." Our own experiences will affect and change this definition throughout the course.

posted by Tory at 12:33 PM


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I just entered a post and I don't think it worked! Here is another version of the same thing. This was a very strange piece of work. Something that I lose interest in quickly, due to not really understanding or being interested in such "mumbo jumbo." But I read on, and began to understand precisely what a cyborg is. Something that is above gender, above race, withstands disease, is human, animal and machine. A cyborg is the best attributes of all things in order to sustain death and live eternally. I understand that it is female to some degree, but I am not sure how or why, and believe this established due to a feminist who wanted this being to be female. If she were to make this more believable she would say that it was a mixture of the two races. Cyborgs will cause war due to the confusion humans may have. Chemical warfare can be considered to be a cyborg, wiping out everything but their own kind. I also understood that cyborgs seem to have no morals due to some things that were stated within the text, Christianity was bad, perversion good. This concerned me, I don't understand why cyborgs must be evil in that way, and I believe they are not capable of feelings, emotions.

posted by Lauren at 12:17 PM


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This article was a bit tough to read but I got through it all right. I tried to focus on some specifics that seemed to be a running theme throuhgout the manifesto, one of them was what it was to be a cyborg. Harraway has many definitions of what a cyborg is (a cybernetic organism, hybrid of machine of and organism, creature of social reality, creature of fiction) and she does a good job of explaining her ideas. I thought it was interesting how she connected medicine and contempory science fiction with cyborgs. But it didn't stop there, she connected the cyborg with so many ideas and theories of the world that by the end of the article it seemed like cyborgs were running the socities and that they would soon take over seeing as how they have the ability to be so many things in so many places. She says cyborgs map our social and bodily reality as an imaginative resource suggesting some very fruitful couplings. And of course she says that we are cyborgs. I can see this being true in a very broad way. I remember reading somewhere that we are all cyborgs because of our dependance on technology. This dependance is very real and almost goes beyond the definiton of dependance towards need for survival. But do we really need technology for survival or dependance or are we just so used to it that it becomes us? Either way it is impossible to get rid of technology or avoid it so we are forced to integrate it into our lives. So, I guess, in this way we are all cyborgs. Another interesting quote by Harraway says "Our machines are disturbingly lively, and we ourselves frighteningly inert." This stuck in my mind for some reason maybe because it seems to ring true. When I read it I immediately got a picture in my mind of some of incredibly lifeless, maybe boring, maybe lost, maybe loveless person sitting hunched over a mass of mechanical metals creating complicated cyborgs in which he or she could live vicariuously through. So maybe sometimes the cyborg is an extension of ourselves, for some people more than others. A section that I had trouble with was The Informatics of Domination but one line seemed to capitiulate the point of the whole secton:"we are living through a movement from an organic, industrial society to a polymorphous, information system-from all work to all play, a deadly game." Catergorizing us as a polymorphous information system seemed a little far fetched to me at first but after some consideration I could see that maybe we are just at a stage in time/evolution/humanity where it is crucial for us to understand and before understanding we must gather information about everything and anything able to unlock the mysteries of life that technolgy cannot do. Harraway goes on to talk of how the new industrial revolution is creating a new working class which seems obvious enough, because new things create new thing workers and stem from new thing designers. Overall I will admit to being lost on alot of her theories in the article but I don't think it was utterly incomprehendable. Some sentences that escaped me were---"Cyborg sex restores some of the lovely replicative baroque of ferns and invertebrates(such nice organic prophlyactics against heterosexism). Cyborg replication is uncoupled from organic reproduction(pg 2). "The cyborg incarnation is outside salvation history(pg 2). "Unlike the woman of some streams of the white woman's movement in the US, there is no naturalization of the matrix, or at least this is what Sandoval argues is uniquely available through the power of oppositional consciousness.(pg 5)." "The world is subdivided by boundaries differentially permeable to information.(pg 9)."

posted by Nicholas at 11:56 AM