Topics: Gender, Feminist theory, Feminism Pages: 8 (2557 words) Published: October 3, 2010
In the last three decades or so, referring to the internet as a space that is somehow limitless, full of radical possibilities, an almost class-less space has become a trend of sorts. Especially after Donna Haraway's seminal essay 'The Cyborg Manifesto' - where the 'Cyborg' is an organism whose boundaries of 'human-ness' are blurred with his or her identities achieved via technology - imagining the internet to be a site that can allow for multiple identities, reworking and using fluid and unfixed gender identities and subverting one's notion of gender identity is a very powerful idea. In that vein, information networks are seen as sites for escape from the gender systems of everyday life, a Promised Land of sorts, one especially suited for women and 'feminine modes of communication'. At the same time, the general practice is to think of the Cyborg as an almost benign creature, akin to the fetishist notion of the female robot used in pop culture, which is paradoxically oversexualised and yet has no equipment for sexual intercourse. This notion of a ‘genderless Cyborg’ can be crystallized in Takashi Murakami’s sculpture Hiropon which depicts such a Cyborg: naked, lacking genitals and spurting copious amounts of breast milk; she is a fantasy, able to nurture without the threat of reproductive capacity.

This possessed space the Cyborg occupies in popular discourse is very similar to the position women Gothic writers were allotted in eighteenth and nineteenth century, where women writers encompassed the ‘female’ literary tradition of the time; a convenient label accorded them to contain them in, while simultaneously refusing any kind of radical edge to their writing. Today after many feminist critiques of their works we see Jane Austen as more than just a decorous spinster; she was a subversive and a complex thinker, Ann Radcliffe wrote more than just ‘ghost stories’, Elizabeth Barrett Browning was more than just an opium addicted invalid with ‘cocker spaniel curls’; she was an impassioned feminist and political revolutionary, the Brontës weren’t a trio of lovelorn sisters stranded on the moor with their books but rather Byronically ‘burning rebels’. Emily Dickinson today isn’t “a little home keeping person” as the now infamous literary critic John Crowe Ransom called her, but rather in Adrienne Rich’s words, “(she is) a kind of Vesuvius at home”. Though these writers can be grouped under popular literary practices of the time, they are seen today as agents defying the “dominant patriarchal ideology that presents artistic creativity as a fundamentally male quality”. And as Susan Gubar and Sandra Gilbert have pointed out in ‘Madwoman in the Attic’, behind these outwardly angelic woman lurks a monster that plays off of the male’s fear of femininity as the obverse of male idealization of women and ‘the eternal feminine’. She is the woman who refuses to be selfless, acts on her own initiative while remaining equally “duplicitous”; as she has a story to tell but may choose to not tell it so, or tell a different story altogether. This liminal space that women use to articulate the politics and polemics of repression are fascinating today to see when we examine how they chiseled a special niche for them without appearing to transgress. This madwoman like Bertha Mason of Jane Eyre is, “Usually in some sense the author’s double, an image of her anxiety and rage” This ‘mad double’ or the ‘female schizophrenia’ of authorship is a common condition in all these writers, an early Cyborg of sorts one can almost conclude, as she too had to seek a position that would effectively and deceitfully allow her to break away from the ‘patriarchally endangered plot’ of the times. By its very existence as a flesh/machine, the Cyborg is a hybrid creature; it exists in many realms, not all of which are benign, where again the Madwoman is allowed to exist as a conscious creation of syntax and action. Only perhaps today the Cyborg sees gender...
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