Theoretical Influences of Cyberfeminism

Theoretically, Cyberfeminism was originally situated in various strains of post-structuralist feminism. As Julianne Pierce of the VNS Matrix says, “In 1991, in a cosy austrialian city called Adelaide, four bored girls decided to have some fun with art and French Feminist theory…with homage to Donna Haraway they began to play aroudn with the idea of cyberfeminism.” Looking closely at the “Cyberfeminist Manifesto” the influence of both Haraway and French Feminists is Clear. By using terms such as “jouissance” and “abject” and then declaring “We are the virus of the new world disorder/rupturing the symbolic from within’ the early conception of cyberfeminism clearly links itself to French Feminists such as Julia Kristeva, Luce Irigaray, and Helen Cixous. Not French, but equally important the movement also draws from Donna Haraway’s “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century.”

cyborg manifesto

Cyborg Manifesto. Image by Lynn Randolph

Haraway’s manifesto, published in 1985, came at a time when the second wave was transitioning from raidcal and cultural feminism to post-structuralist feminism, with Haraway’s piece straddling the two.While cultural feminists valued and beleived in the natural, innate qualities of women, Haraway posits a different move for feminism in the form of the cyborg. For Haraway, the cyborg is “…a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction,” and ultimately an entity that can bridge binaries (Haraway, 149). Thus the cyborg is posited against the essential goddess figure celebrated in second-wave works like Mary Daly’s Gyn/Ecology. As Haraway states clearly “I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess” arguing for a partial, hybrid model rather than an essentialized one.

For Cyberfeminism, the cyborg has most often been used as a figure to understand the relationship between women and technology, and to theorize cyberspace as a location where women can realize a cyborg identity. The Cyberfeminist movement particularly adheres to Harway’s call that “The cyborg is a kind of disassembled and reassembled, postmodern collective and personal self. This is the self feminists must code,” (Haraway, 63). Various strategies have been utilized by cyberfeminists to literally and symbolically code a palce for women in an increasinly technologically dominateed world. Through art, research, and activism cyberfeminists have striven to understand and forge new relationships between women and technologies, on and off line.

Post-Structural Influences

Laugh of the Medusa by Helene Cixous

Laugh of the Medusa by Helene Cixous

Cyberfeminists have relied on more than just the symbol of the cyborg to formulate the movement other pos-structuralist feminist theories such as those of Julia Kristeva, Luce Irigaray and Helene Cixous can all be found wandering through the theoretical matrix of cyberfeminism. Using the theories of Lacan and Derrida, these French feminists believed that inscribing female existence into language and text could offer women an alternative to the symbolic order. Embracing their position as “the other” thse feminists believed that as outsiders, women were perfectly positioned to imagine a new language, and a new order outside that of patriarchy. For Helene Cixous, this idea, commonly referred to as écriture féminine boldly states that “I write woman: woman must write woman” and “She must write her self, because this is the invention of a new insurgent writing which, when the moment of her liberation has come, will allow her to carry out the indispensable ruptures and transformations in her history (Cixous, 877, 880).

Luce Irigaray develops an idea of what this language might look like in her piece “This Sex Which is Not One”. For irigaray, women’s language is connected to female sexuality and the fact that “woman has sex organs just about everywhere” (Irigaray, 326). This is significant, for it allows women to embody multiple locations and produce multiple meanins in opposition to the single location (related to the single sex organ) that men inhabit. Women can produce a new language, which, when listed to produces “…an ‘other meaning’ which is constantly in the process of weaving itself, at the time ceaselessly embracing words and yet casting them off to avoid becoming fixed, immobilized” (327). Cyberfeminists have strive to create this new language through their use of art and writing in conjunction with the tools that technology has additionally added to their repertoires.

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