Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cyborgasmic (that was too easy)

This is Amber Case. She is a cyborg anthropologist. Apparently that exists now. I don't know if I am allowed to disagree with the usage of the word "cyborg." I'm fine with "cyborgization," "cybergenetics," and "cybergenics." But "cyborg" poses almost as much of a problem for me as "human" does (where "human-like," "humanize," and "humanism" don't put as much of a knot into my own fluidity of thought...all of these concepts make me think of something at least almost definite; "human" and "cyborg" do not).
I mean, this blog is a form of women's rhetoric, is it not? One of the reasons I have chosen this medium for this project is because the blog itself, and whatever personality I have that is coming off of this screen, ties into the cyborgization of myself, and of whoever is reading this. This is human communication and interaction via a computerized bubble of existence that serves as an alternate to the "natural" world. Me writing a paper, e-mailing it to myself, printing it, and turning it in would just be too "natural." So. Blog. My own rhetoric. Feel free to trample it through your own glowing one-sided screen containing the depths of a whole other universe. The point I am making is I think that language is powerful, language moves quickly, and language can potentially misrepresent. I think that calling "humans" who have I-phones, Facebooks, or lips that have been plumped with the fat from their asses "cyborgs" is damaging to the word itself and what it conveys. But to say that these things are proof of our "cyborgization" as a society I think is fair. But the "cyborg." What all that entails...I just don't think the word should be thrown around the way that it has been. To me, it feels kind of like calling someone who shares their funnel cake a "communist." It's getting general. Cheapened. Although I admire Amber Case's studies, I wish she would stop referring to so many different non-cyborg entities as "cyborgs" (I know a lot of other totally brilliant people do this, but this blog is the means that I'm using as an undergraduate girl to assert that I think that this is wrong, and it is kind of terrifying to see how quickly words get picked up and inflated just enough to stay afloat, but not enough to hold true to the original concepta anymore). Maybe cyborgization itself is crying out for the creation of a new vernacular. Perhaps it will need to be the actual cyborgs themselves who one day need to create it.
When I was initially so enraptured by the idea of the cyborg, it was because, at times, I don't have a particular attachment to being human. I feel that our society only artificially criticizes its own artifice (when it is aware of it) but keeps perpetuating artifice nonetheless to sell, and to control - right down to our very own assignment of gender roles - that the idea of a cyborg not serving to oppose the natural human, but to expose the artifice of the "natural human" by demonstrating its similarities was intriguing. I found myself caring more about the cyborg than the human, because at least the cyborg is programmed internally rather than socially as we are. I do not know why this is so much less frightening to me than the idea of being programmed socially, but it is. Anyway, with this over-intellectualization of the human experience, a few things do get in the way when I am the most honest with myself about my own feelings surrounding the loss of the "natural" "human" (which, I know, I've said that I believe that the human is nothing more than a construct). One of those things is that I am not a mother. In this young and academically-focused point of my life, becoming a mother is not something that I want for a good long time, but eventually, if I am honest with myself, it IS part of the "human" experience that I want eventually. That I crave in a way. To be a mother. It is in thinking about mothering that I feel like I am maybe able to see a little bit more into the human than I was before. That want. It's a want that I can only intellectualize and make go away about half of the time. The other times, my intrinsic programming forces me to want to create my own cynical little green-eyed Another one of these experiences is the urgency surrounding the desire for sex, and the urgency within the act of sex itself. Won't get into too much detail, but sex in actuality is a return to the primal. Although you might find yourself tripping over a Macbook charger, or trying to ignore the ring of your I-phone, sex allows the human experience to fully manifest.
Can a cyborg come? I suppose the answer is "if he or she is programmed to." With the technological advancements made in recreating nerve systems with connections to the brain, of course programming a cyborg to climax is possible. But what good is that? Cyborg foreplay? Is the cyborg going to practically faint if you make it wait too long? I'm serious. Although this is likely a fantasy for many. What about love? Affectionate love, passionate love, best friend love, the kind of love that you can starve for, lose your body for, transcend the machine for? What about the ability to lose your mind completely through music? Through dancing? Through the creation and experience of art? Through the transcendent potentiality of poetry? Through a really fantastic communal experience? A drum circle at Venice Beach comes to mind, where people dance partially if not mostly nude fireside to a drum beat that never pauses, only changes. What about being drunk, sweaty, and hot in a basement of people you have only just met knowing, somehow knowing, that a togetherness, a humanness exists. Is that programming? Is all of that programming? It all very-well could be. But is it replicable in cyborgs? At my most "human," of times, also my most emotional and least-intellectualizing, I would say no. But ask me on a different day when I have a hard time even finding the actual signifieds of the signifiers in today's cesspool of images that seem to be put in place only to keep oppressive systems afloat. I may then say, "Yes. Of course this ridiculous inorganic system is replicable, but why the hell would you want to replicate it?" Right now though, thinking about love, about dancing, about friendship, about poetry, I am saying no. I do not think the human is replicable. Not entirely.
But pretty freaking-close.

The Cyborg Man (a.k.a. the Useful Beefcake)

Like the cyborg woman, the cyborg man also tends to be absurdly hot:
Although it is less commonly addressed than female objectification, male objectification is steadily gaining prominence within the media, with such pop phenomena as Twilight, the Backstreet Boys (if you're in your early 20s), and Justin Bieber.
^^^Gross. Men are not exempt from the capacity to become a product, an object, a mindless somewhat more-solid version of the blow-up doll, wanted for nothing more than his sexiness, his ability to "love," and his companionship. Does any Twilight fan really give a shit that Edward Cullen is entirely one-dimensional? I can't imagine they would. Even if women don't think they want to use men as sex objects, they may want to use men to cuddle with, listen to their problems, and maybe give them cunnilingus for a few hours each evening after she watches True Blood. It's still objectification caught up in fantasy that trickles down to the men you know and love.
It is impossible to not focus somewhat on physical beauty, but the problem arises when we assign unrealistic ideals to both men and to women. While a thin woman may look in the mirror and think "not thin enough," a fit and muscular man may look into a mirror and think "not big enough" or "not cut enough." Whatever. Umm. Crap. That's sort of a side road I don't want to go down, and I'd rather keep talking about cyborgs. And sexual division. Not gonna lie, I'm kind of sick of even thinking about contemporary society's body obsessions. It's boring and lame.
But the objectification of men. What does this do for women? It further separates us from men is what it does. The male cyborg too, must fit a mold as the female cyborg does. In order for him to exercise his supreme intelligence, his cunning, and his physical strength, he must come packaged attractively, as the female cyborg (also usually white with European features), otherwise his superhuman attributes would, to our current cultural mindset, be undermined.
The cyborg has many definitions, but the two that I find myself adhering to the most are: 1. an artificial being made to resemble a human, who is created rather than born, and "expires" rather than dies ("More human than human is our motto" - android production corporation from Blade Runner, based off of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) and 2. a human being who internally, as well as externally relies on technology for personal advancement, life preservation, health benefits, etc.
What I'm really getting at, I suppose, is that the cyborgization of humanity is often further separating men from women. In my own personal construction of feminism, I feel that the only route to equality is an integration of male and female attributes, rather than having a firm binary in place (which we do have, and are immortalizing constantly as is evident by our consumptive habits). To have emotions, thoughts, professions, and bodily ideals that are strictly male and female keeps us apart from one-another, and also gyps us all from aspects of ourselves that may be beautiful and present, but are washed out in society's constructions of what defines male and female.
Still, through all of this, I do not think cyborgization is the problem. The cyborg is a projection of the "natural" human. I think the original human is the problem perpetuating its own fallacies and its polarization of the sexes in construction onto the cyborg (also, sidenote, but a very HUGE sidenote in terms of personal identity and social relevance - what about individuals who do not identify with being male OR female? What about transgendered, transexual, and asexual individuals? I feel like I have sourly neglected these individuals from my arguments, much as contemporary society has, by relegating them to the end of a post, and in a parenthetical no less). Maybe the cyborg can surpass us. Maybe the cyborg can figure out OUR artifice and create an inadvertently more real reality than the one in which we currently believe. Maybe.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Paradox of the Cyborg Woman

It's really difficult to know where to begin with this. I kind of want to launch right into unrealistic American ideals now becoming attainable through technology.
I kind of want to talk about how our ideas of beauty have been influenced by colonizing forces, and how the cyborg seems to be nearly-always represented as a busty, slender white chick with European facial features.
But, I also kind of want to talk about the perpetuation of women as subjects. As things. As constructs. As machines. And how the cyborg is simply representative of who we are becoming, rather than just an extremely sexy figure utilized in science fiction. The female cyborg does not present an opposition to the female human, but is rather a reflection of who she is and who she strives to be based off of global, social, and sexual relations.
Conversely though, the cyborg does make one advancement in terms of feminine liberation, and that is that generally, she tends to kick ass. She can and does kill men (between her thighs no less, as seen with Pris in Blade Runner) and other cyborgs, blows people away with her intelligence, and often asserts a deep dimension of character that goes beyond what her sexiness would suggest. While her body is usually, if not always, incredible, she does not appear useless and weak. Her biceps would take an extreme amount of reps at the gym to achieve, but appear and are extremely capable.
The female cyborg is useful. The female cyborg is brilliant. She is complex, strong, ass-kicking and neck-crushing. She is not helpless, and does not appear to be "made of porcelain" (umm, Eli said that). Although she comes across as a sexual object and carries an attached fantasy with that objectification, at least she can beat the shit out of her objectifiers if she so chooses. Though her mouth is often agape and moist, like the Spearmint Rhino billboards lining the freeways of Los Angeles, the female cyborg can potentially still be seen as its own kind of advancement in the representation of women in pop culture. We are trading one impossible extreme ideal for another, but at least this type of female is not defenseless, silent, and weak.
BUT in order to fit into the strong, ass-kicking female cyborg category, the female cyborg must have a perfect body (no flat-chested, overweight, or eight-toed cyborg women) and a beautiful (European) face. She still has to fit an ideal before she can go on the ass-kicking sprees that defy a more useless model of idealism. (Eli and I also talked about this. Citing Eli.) I was really surprised to even find this image: Now I feel way more conflicted than when I began writing this. Let's watch Pris crush Harrison Ford with her thighs: Pris in Blade Runner; and a bitchin preview for Blade Runner

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Cyborg

This is post number one of what is to become my final project for Dora's English 324 course, the Rhetoric of Women Writers. For this assignment, we are allowed to do basically anything we'd like, as long as it relates back to women's writings and the topics we have discussed in class. Being in a maddeningly-short three-week semester, we sadly were not able to get to the material concerning cybernetics. Since I am hopelessly stuck on ideas surrounding cyborgization and post-humanism (after reading Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), I thought I would use this as an opportunity to explore a dimension of the cyborg that I am possibly the most interested in: the cyborg woman.
First, I think it is necessary to provide a definition of the cyborg. The following is from Donna Haraway's "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the Twentieth Century": "A cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction. Social reality is lived social relations, our most important political construction, a world-changing fiction" (Haraway 291). Here's Donna, with doggie:
This definition, to me, naturally screams that each of us in contemporary society must be a cyborg in some capacity. Who cannot say that we are not in some way a "hybrid of machine and organism"? Do we have cell phones adhered to our back pockets, Facebook accounts with second selves accessible by the second selves of our "friends"? Do we rely on technology in order to remain alive? Healthy? Functional? I would be seriously lost without my contact lenses. What about using technology for cosmetic self-improvement? How much of us are we allowing to become machine, rather than human? But above all, why does it matter? Is there necessarily anything to be lost? If human organs, limbs, bodies, and even thoughts and emotions are replicable and improvable through implicating technology, why does it matter if the finished product is innate or created? This is a really sticky bunch of potentially-irritating and uncomfortable questions, and what I tend to do with sticky uncomfortable questions is dig deeper to come up with even more sticky, uncomfortable and irritating questions, such as: "Then what is a 'machine'?" "What is a 'human'?" "How much of being human is innate, and how much is constructed socially?" Uhhh. Fuuuuuhhhh.
I wrote a paper last semester for a Postmodern Lit course that reveals the human as a social construct, rather than an intrinsically-constant being of biological determination. Now I find myself too thinking about the word "machine." Lemme look it up... Holy crap, yes. Merriam Webster's online dictionary (http://www/ defines a "machine" as "a constructed thing whether material or immaterial," "an assemblage of parts that transmit forces, motion, and energy one to another in a predetermined manner" and then a little further down "a living organism or one of its functional systems." Wait. What?
It becomes clear that the lines drawn between human and machine are becoming, or already are, blurred and even non-existent - that the cyborg does not exist as an inverse to the human, but exists within the current concoction of what constitutes modern humanity. "By the late twentieth century, our time, a mythic time, we are all chimeras, theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism" (Haraway 292). What does this mean for women? How has our social construct of the "woman" changed with the integration of technology into our lives? Into our bodies? Into our own perceptions of our self and collective identities?
What am I going to do after I finish this blog post? Probably go on Facebook and see how my second self is being received by everyone else's second selves while my "real" self was away. ___________________________________________________________________________ Haraway, Donna. "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the Twentieth Century." The Cybercultures Reader. Ed. David Bell and Barbara M. Kennedy. New York: Routledge, 2000. 291-324. Print.