A Cyborg Manifesto was written by Donna Haraway in 1986 with the original intent of examining the future of socialist feminism at a time when the Reagan Era was just beginning and leftist politics were on the declineº. The guiding principle of this essay is the idea of the “cyborg” as an entity removed from and unconcerned with the rigid boundaries that exist in society- like those between human and animal, and human and machine, and man and woman. She urges people instead to move towards what she called “coalition through affinity” rather than basing allegiance on traditional boundaries like gender, sexuality, and politics°. For the purposes of this essay, I will be looking specifically at Cyborg Theory as it applies to gender and societies progression away from a gender dichotomy and towards a gender spectrum and ultimately towards what Haraway has described as “a monstrous world without gender.”
Historically gender has existed as what Haraway refers to as an “antagonistic dualism” that has been integral in the subjugation and exploitation of women under the regime of Western patriarchy°. Today, however, the line between male and female- that which is masculine and what which is feminine, has been blurred substantially and created a precedent of acceptance for androgyny. Rather than rest complicit in the othering of one gender versus the other, gender has become a spectrum that displays fluidity and flexibility. This spectralization manifests itself in a variety of ways in the physical, societal, and virtual spheres of existence. This has been made possible through two primary means: technology and feminism.
Aligning Cyborg Theory with modern feminism may seem peculiar given the original criticisms of Cyborg Theory as being distinctly anti-feminist, with opponents to the piece citing that Haraway rebukes the significance of shared experience between women°. Beyond that, Haraway specifically and deliberately criticizes 1980’s feminism for its over-generalization of the sexes and romanticisation of the notion of women as “earth mothers” and feminine embodiments of nature. Despite these early contradictions, as feminism has evolved with technology and society it has been central to dismantling the antagonistic duality of gender and instead offering a spectrum of masculinity and femininity. Feminism today has many facets, faces, and categories, and it is important to clarify that the type of feminism that is most crucial to this spectralization, is intersectional feminism. Intersectional feminism can be defined as feminism that pushes for equality for women across all social demographics whether those women are people of color, white, transgender, straight, poor, gay, or rich°. This distinguishes itself keenly from what some refer to as “mainstream feminism” which focuses primarily on issues relevant to middle-class, white women. Intersectional feminism’s inclusivity of transgendered individuals and emphasis on dismantling harmful gender norms is what makes it a key catalyst for the spectralization of gender.
Feminism has made progress in erasing the dichotomy of gender by invalidating preconceived notions of what it is the be a man or a woman and fighting for the rights of transgender and agender individuals who to this day are marginalized, oppressed, and excluded by the male/female dichotomy. Technology has been crucial to the spectralization of gender by allowing for flexible notions of gender in the physical and virtual world thanks to advancing medical technology and the proliferation of virtual experiences and community.