Masthead CMC Magazine / March 1, 1996
 Gender Without Bodies, by Mindy McAdams

In ideas about bodies, mind and body are difficult to separate.

It is not true that the only kind of body you can discuss is the kind you have.

Men can, and do, defend women's bodies, both online and in real life. It is not, should not be, the sole responsibility of women to speak for the integrity, protection, and autonomy of the female body.

Donna Haraway says that we now must be neither woman nor man, but cyborg. "Any objects or persons can be reasonably thought of in terms of disassembly and reassembly; no 'natural' architectures constrain system design.... The cyborg is a kind of disassembled and reassembled, postmodern collective and personal self. This is the self feminists must code." Haraway urges us to transcend boundaries (including bodies), to reconstruct them in accordance with a kind of social systems theory.

The parts of a system are not separate from and independent of one another, and neither are women and men.

Our desire to be gendered online stems from our near-inability to be un-gendered in real life. In a discussion about reproductive rights, for example, it should not matter whether a point is made by a woman or by a man. The point must be judged on its merits, not on the gender of the person who made it. In real-life discussions, the speaker's gender cannot be disguised. Online, the gender of the participants in such a discussion may become an issue, but there is no need for it to be so.

In the end, it is up to each disembodied entity online to choose its own gender, or absence thereof. The decision to be un-gendered will be countermanded by the assumptions of others, which we cannot control. These assumptions can be exploded only by the ongoing existence of truly un-gendered entities (or intelligences), who will constitute a growing number of Netizens until the day when surveys routinely ask:

-- Female -- Male -- Other


CMC Magazine Index
Contents Archive Sponsors Studies Contact