Myth granting sense and meaning as a carrier of cultural belief often places humanity in finite time replete with a pre-established origin story and a telos which one is projected towards. Haraway particularly critiques the Western humanist myth of originary unity and wholeness. This origin myth identifies with the unity of sameness and the unification with nature as ‘phallic Mother’. From sameness, difference must be wrested, individuation and freedom reliant on the construction of boundaries of difference. Labor and differentiation begin to tame the Mother Earth and the feminine associated with the origins of sameness resulting in a “drama of escalating domination of woman/nature.”[1] Psychoanalytic personal development, Marxist formulations of history, and the contemporary recalling of icons such as the Androgyne of Plato’s Symposium owe to this larger Western humanist mythos described by Haraway.

            The myth of origin that Haraway describes she associates with goddess is both pejorative and nevertheless necessary in the history and continuance of feminisms and is bound to cyborg thought in a ‘spiral dance’. The goddess motif which has been retrieved by feminisms past and present uncovers two symptoms of a phallogocentrist history making and enframing. Firstly, as Chicana Feminist Cherrie Moraga and others have explicated, the pristine garden of unity and purity before writing privilege dominant colonizing languages, dispelling the salience of marginalized cultures. Mestiza stories, histories and languages, Haraway writes, point towards the spliced chimeric nature of the cyborg; and also that the indelible and subversive act of writing alone “affirms Sister Outsider not the Woman-before-the Fall-into-Writing”[2] that is associated with Derrida’s critique of privileged speech.

            Secondly is the phallic vested interest in descent. With the myth of initial unity in ‘the garden’ of idyllic sameness, phylum, class, and order emerge terms of difference which is tamed, known, and seen. The taxonomic control aligns with that which subdues nature. This cultural technoscientific myth solidifies women’s identities, banishing ambiguity. This is, as Susan Suleiman identifies, a matter of rectifying alterity.  However, while the Western humanistic myth idolizes the one, Suleiman states that feminisms propel past the two of oppositional alterity. Anne Balsamo writes that there is no recourse to an essential unity to grant fixed sense to “woman, feminine identity, lesbian identity, black identity, or even cyborg identity…Identity can only be studied as it shifts, skips, and stutters in different utterances or evocations.”[3] Alterity, through the integration, liminality, be-coming, and overlap of ‘natural’ and ‘technological’, ‘individual’ and ‘social’, associated with Cyborg Feminism becomes a vision of ‘the other’ that is increasingly ambiguous and arbitrary.

            Andreas Huyssen states in Mapping the Postmodern that Modernism’s pivotal exigency is the problematic of alterity. The hybridization of the cyborg troubles formulations of the Other and keeps a strong vision of corporeality and bodies that are the medium for the expression of power in difference. If alterity is the shortcoming of modernity, as Huyssen states; the weakness of postmodernism, says Balsamo, is the loss bodies in consideration. The cyborg, short for cybernetic organism, recalls that it is bodies that are being inscribed upon and constitute the informational and social networks of the cybernetic system. In opposition to the masking, illusory, and oppressive Machenshaft possible in Heidegger’s technological mode, the cyborg unveils the body, its humanness, and the apparatus of gender. In correlative effect, when technology is lifted from the misrepresentation of being solely the physical machinations of gear-works and internet ether and found that it “also fundamentally embodies a culture or set of social relations made up of certain sorts of knowledge, beliefs, desires, and practices”[4] people are extricated from abstraction and revealed in their embodied existence. As bodies have been covered over in postmodernism, writes Balsamo, so has gender been obscured from discourse and thus the technologies that construct gendered bodies.  

            Susan Suleiman and several contemporary feminists have identified and created projects out of the elision of the body and the means and effects of gender inscription. Through in part Elizabeth Grosz’ corporeal feminism, Teresa se Lauretis’ ‘technologies of gender’, feminists have demonstrated how the discursive construction of the body is preeminently directed by the apparatus of gender. The representation and imagination surrounding the feminine as eros, death, and the Other are revealed as ideologies expressing the management of and dominion over women’s bodies. One example of women’s bodies experiencing a lacuna postmodern thought identified by Francis Bartkowski and others is that of the critical theory of Foucault. By his treatment of gender as a ‘natural’ occurrence in bodies, Foucault avoids granting gender as a ‘truth effect’ or constructed apparatus of control or biopower. That is, gender escaped Foucault’s analysis of systems of differentiation, power relations, and forms of institutionalization.[5]


[1] Haraway, Donna. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (London: Routledge. 1991),                151.

[2] Haraway, Donna. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (London: Routledge. 1991),                176.

[3] Balsamo, Anne. Technology of the Gendered Body: Reading Cyborg Women (Durham: Duke University Press. 1999), 156-7.

[4] Wajcman, Judy. Feminism Confronts Technology (University Park: Pensylvania State UP. 1991), 149.

[5] Balsamo, Anne. Technology of the Gendered Body: Reading Cyborg Women (Durham: Duke University Press. 1999), 20-22.

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