Sunday, February 26, 2012

"I'd rather be a Cyborg than a Goddess," or, Why Haraway's Cyborg Manifesto is relevant in today's political climate

From what I can tell by watching the news, it seems that the culture war has returned with a vengeance now that the Occupy Wall Street headlines have been replaced by the circus act known as the Republican primary, with candidates spouting outlandish statements about women and sexual politics. As a recent episode of Up With Chris Hayes noted, we aren't even talking about abortion but contraception: plan B, condoms, birth control. We are back to the 'woman question,' and to illustrate it, we can look to a recent article by James Poulos titled "What are Women For?".

Maybe I'm just not understanding exactly what he is arguing here, because at times its not clear exactly what position he is taking. On the one hand, this is not as offensive of an article as the title may seem. But on the other hand, it seems that the suggestion at the end of the argument calls for a soft leftist feminism rather than  more postmodern feminisms suggested by Haraway among others:

Ironically, one of the best places to look for a way out of the impasse is the strain of left feminism that insists an inherently unique female “voice” actually exists. That’s a claim about nature. Much good would come from a broader recognition that women have a privileged relationship with the natural world. That’s a relationship which must receive its social due — if masculinity in its inherent and imitative varieties (including imitation by quasi-feminized males of quasi-masculinized females!) is not to conquer the world.

First problem: the argument is essentialist, claiming that there is some kind of "natural" voice of women that that keeps in check violent men. To revert back to this 'natural position' is basically to set up the woman as a "goddess" rather than a cyborg. Furthermore, as Michelle Goldberg pointed out on Up with Chris Hayes the question "What are women for" brings up "in relation to who"? Of course,the answer here seems that it is men. This sets up women as having, by virtue of their biology, a 'corrective' function to men (this is what I mean by keeping men in check). 

This is a humanist feminism, a feminism that sets up an easy binary between masculine and feminine that Haraway attempts to deconstruct. Rather than offering a "place" or some kind of "purpose" for women (especially women as cyborgs) she argues,

 However, there is no 'place' for women in these networks, only geometries of difference and contradiction crucial to women's cyborg identities. If we learn how to read these webs of power and social life, we might learn new couplings, new coalitions "(Haraway)
These new coalitions will not be based on some original "innocence" that can help correct or curb masculine violence, but rather a feminism that acknowledges that women too are implicated in the world created:
With no available original dream of a common language or original symbiosis promising protection from hostile 'masculine' separation, but written into the play of a text that has no finally privileged reading or salvation history, to recognize 'oneself' as fully implicated in the world, frees us of the need to root politics in identification, vanguard parties, purity, and mothering.

Is not the recent calls for women to have to have a 'transvaginal ultrasound', an attempt of the state to tell a woman "what she is for?" (reproduction/mothering). Rick Santorum even makes it seem that a woman is a conduit for God's sick plan of "be fruitful and multiply" even in the case of rape ("make the best of a bad situation").

I feel like there is more to say here, but I'm not quite sure how to articulate it.

1 comment:

  1. If it wasn't clear before 2012 that much of the GOP views women as objects for consumption, then Rick Santorum has made that fact quite plain. Objectification at its most blatant, really...