Posts Tagged ‘ power ’

Gender role critique in ‘Neuromancer’ [short version]

Set in a future that is arguably dystopian and not too far fetched, the representations of power, race and gender within William Gibson’s Neuromancer (1984) can be seen as a reflection on and critique of the state of those that were current at the time of writing. As LeBlanc (1997:2) points out, ‘cyberpunk, as a genre, it is not only about the near future— it is about our own time.’

Donna Haraway, whose Cyborg Manifesto (1991:2) posited that the ‘cyborg is a creature in a post-gender world’, also claimed that Neuromancer offers a radical critique of current gender roles. In arguing where Gibson is implicitly criticising, accepting or ambivalent in this respect, this essay will examine his representation of men and women and search for underlying bias in the characters’ descriptions and fates and their adherence or subversion of the gender roles assigned them.

Case is a traditional —if unwholesome— [anti-]hero that Gibson wants us to like. Someone who has paid harshly for a mistake, Case’s killing of three people in Chiba is glossed over as part of his downward spiral and not dwelt on. It is in relation to Molly, however, that differences emerge. In a reversal of traditional roles, Case is the passive, non-violent, controlled one, though he has to ‘will himself to passivity’ (p.72) to receive Molly’s simstim sensorium. Despite the contention that Molly is just a vehicle for him (Stockton, 1995), Gibson portrays the power and control as belonging to her.

The few named female characters include Molly, Linda Lee, 3Jane, Marlene, Michèle and (Flanagan, 2000) the Matrix itself. Women are depicted as sexual objects, from the ‘free’ Linda Lee and Molly to the ‘forced’ wives of the sarariman, who are required to wear sackcloth and sport artificial bruises (p.154) and the meat puppets who endure sexual (ab)use, though technology can cancel-out their conscious awareness of it.  Molly’s recollections of her ordeals are possibly a reminder that no matter how they try to fix it, actions such as these always leave a mark somewhere.

Conversely, the reader is meant to like Molly. She is portrayed as good, strong and independent. She is not a sexual trophy for Case, she is his bodyguard. This is a major contravention of the protection and safety role that men traditionally occupied in relation to women. Molly is the one who initiates the first sexual encounter with Case and in another transgression of generally accepted gender roles, it is Molly who leaves Case at the end of the novel.

She would not have the ability to truly break away from the female stereotype, however, without her body’s enhancements. To become a street samurai, a ‘working girl’ (p.41) she first had to be another kind of working girl, a meat puppet, in order to be able to afford the expensive surgery (Cavallaro, 2000). Molly sacrifices and utilizes her body in order to attain the power and status generally afforded only to men. This kind of trade-off had been the norm for decades at the time Gibson was writing.

All of these factors seem to suggest that Molly is a strong new type of woman, however she can be perceived as a cautionary tale, i.e. be like her and become isolated. Therefore, although Gibson seems to be criticising women’s various sexual or abused roles and celebrating their liberation from them, he nonetheless includes a corollary.

Overall, Gibson seems to criticise current roles such as the militaristic macho man and the sexually abused woman and encourages subversion in liked characters, i.e. Molly and Case. However, subversive but unliked characters are punished and as Kamioka notes, even though Gibson ‘hates’ the status quo, ‘his balancing act accepts [it] … as inevitable and unchangeable.’ (Suvin 1991 in Kamioka, 1998:65).

© 2009 Geo S. Willis

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Video: ‘The art of corporate mind control’… Paranoid?

Some of you may have seen this video before. It presents what could easily be described as a paranoid* view of the world we live in today. Let me know what you think. Is this how it is? Partly? Or is this all preposterous nonsense?

* some might say, just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. Just a thought.

Evolution, creationism, intelligent design & the huge lack of proof for any of it.

Or more accurately:

Evolution, creationism, intelligent design and the huge lack of proof —as far as any layman can understand— for any of it.

I recently read a Guardian article by Oliver Burkeman about how the way we live our lives now may have an effect on the longevity of our descendants. However, the article was interestingly couched in the Evolution versus Creationism debate and it sparked my interest. Burkeman describes the incident in 1960s Maryland, at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in which, having found a day missing, thousands of years in the past, one of the astronomers remembered a passage from the bible where Joshua asks God to stop the world for a day, which God —being the thoroughly good egg that he is— obliged. This, of course, proved the existence of God and his omnipotent powers of creation and, indeed, cessation.

So the Adam & Eve thing—and I understand this may be opening a can of worms here so feel free to correct my patchy knowledge. God creates a man (simples) and a woman (no mean feat) and everything’s wonderful until Lilith (the woman) wouldn’t ‘lie beneath him’. I’m lead to believe that this is both metaphoric and literal. So she gets packed off for having to much free thought and possibly a more exciting view of sex than St. Peter (the alcoholic woman-hater responsible for the transcript of some stories passed down orally—chinese whspers, anyone?— for 200 years that regular folk call ‘the Bible’). So God, not wanting the only man alive to be lonely or possibly for the purposes of procreation, makes Eve from one of Adam’s ribs, conveniently giving Adam the option to blow himself should Eve decline (at her own peril, evidently). Anyway, skipping to the end part, Eve persuades Adam to eat the apple of knowledge, God throws his toys out of the pram and exerts his almighty autorita to kick them out of Eden. At which time the only man and woman created stumble ashamedly into a village full of people, who probably also had clothes on.

‘Nough said.

Now, the Big Bang Theory (which is explained in great yet understandable detail here), that’s science, right? (As opposed to psyience perhaps). We’ve all heard of e=mc2,but to the lay person, the average joe who is not so good at maths or algebra, let alone physics or astrophysics, it’s about as much mumbo jumbo as Adam & Eve. Of course, there’s Evolution too. Dinosaurs and such. But seriously, for the layperson, that too is a lot to get your head around. A rather amusing video regarding what is termed ‘the Atheist Delusion’ is here. It puts in perspective the whole debate, assuming it doesn’t offend you first.

Natural selection is simpler. As Oliver Burkeman puts it:

In the way it’s generally understood, the whole point of natural selection – the so-called “modern synthesis” of Darwin’s theories with subsequent discoveries about genes – is its beautiful, breathtaking, devastating simplicity. In each generation, genes undergo random mutations, making offspring subtly different from their parents; those mutations that enhance an organism’s abilities to thrive and reproduce in its own particular environment will tend to spread through populations, while those that make successful breeding less likely will eventually peter out.

…From two elementary notions – random mutation and the filtering power of the environment – have emerged, over millennia, such marvels as eyes, the wings of birds and the human brain.


Not any more, apparently. Research has now shown that the relationship between genes and the environment is not actually one-way, i.e. genes produce random mutation>  the mutation is either suited to the environment and stays or unsuited to the environment and gets the boot. As David Shenk points out, according to new research, it is two-way. Environments can shape genetics too, such as the viruses that make up part of the human genome.

And here again we have a lot of confusing evidence that as laypeople it becomes hard to understand. It comes down, perhaps, to who you trust, what makes the most sense to you, the individual. After that, it’s just getting on with it. However, in the light of the studies mentioned in the Burkeman article, it’s worth remembering that the effects your environment has on you does not extend just to you. Stressed chickens whose abilities are impaired breed chicks with those impaired abilities, even when they’re raised without stress.

In the words of David Shenk:

If a geneticist had suggested as recently as the 1990s that a 12-year-old kid could improve the intellectual nimbleness of his or her future children by studying harder now, that scientist would have been laughed right out of the hall.

Not so now. Although on the brightside, your grandchildren won’t have these traits/impaired abilities as they are only affective of the first subsequent generation.

So think happy thoughts:):-

The European Dream

Found an interesting article while researching for a Literature presentation on Death of a Salesman (Arthur Miller).

The European Dream: How Europe’s Vision of the Future is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream is a book by Jeremy Rifkin that was published in September 2004.

The book describes the rise of the EU, illustrates key differences between the visions of America and Europe, discusses Europe’s opposition to the death penalty,

According to Rifkin, the “European Dream” is one in which individuals find security not through individual accumulation of wealth, but through connectivity, sustainable development, and respect for human rights.

He goes on to explain the many ways in which he regards the European Dream and Europe’s ‘soft power’ (financial, humanitarian and diplomatic strengths) as more suited to 21st century living than the American Dream and America’s ‘hard power’ (military strength and economic dominance).

An interesting thought, but how true it proves to be has yet to be seen.

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