Graduation Year

2013

Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Intercollegiate Media Studies

Reader 1

James Morrison

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Rights Information

© 2013 Kathryn A. Nichols

Abstract

This thesis problematizes early cyberfeminist claims that heralded the Internet as a liberating space for women. Cyberfeminism emerged in the early 1990s, at the dawn of the “Internet Age,” and is heavily influenced by Donna Haraway’s 1985 “A Cyborg Manifesto.” Haraway theorized a new way of looking at the nature of female identity, using the figure of the cyborg found in science fiction literature and films. Traditionally, women have been explained in terms of sexual difference and have been forced to uphold a gender binary that privileges men. By contrast, Haraway argues that the cyborg, a hybrid of human and machine, escapes binary logic, thereby resisting categories and hierarchies, and embraces a more fluid understanding of identity. This model contains powerful ramifications for women. Every day, we become more like Haraway’s cyborgs as our physical bodies become increasingly intertwined with modern technologies, specifically in our ever-growing relationship with the Internet. In online interactions, users are no longer confined to their physical bodies and are free to play with identity. Early cyberfeminists believe that this leads to a more fluid understanding of identity and, more importantly, allows for the deconstruction of gender. These claims, however, do not apply in practice as well as they do in theory. From the anonymous text-based spaces that early cyberfeminists describe to social networking sites like Facebook, Internet spaces tend to polarize the gender binary rather than blur it, and women are now colonized on a new front. This becomes increasingly dangerous as the boundaries between our virtual and real lives continue to blur.

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