International Journal of Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Vol. 11 No. 3, (2020), pp. 3104-3112

From to Other: Reframing Identities within the dystopian world in Marge Piercy’s He, She and It

1.Dr. Syrrina Ahsan Ali Haque Assistant Professor, Department of English, The University of Lahore, Pakistan. Email: [email protected] 2.Asia Saeed Lecturer, Department of English, University of Sahiwal [email protected] (Corresponding author) 3. Naghmana Siddique. Assistant Professor of English, Govt. Postgraduate College for Women. Sahiwal. Email: [email protected] 4.Hina Iqbal PhD Scholar at English Department, The University of Lahore, Pakistan. Email: [email protected]

Abstract This research strives to investigate the ambivalent status of Cyborg and reframing identities within the dystopian world portrayed by Marge Piercy in her novel “He, She and It”. A cyborg is the combination of an and a machine. The main objective of this study is to analyze the impact of science and on the twenty-first century. ’s framework discussed in Cyborg Manifesto is employed in this research. In her essay, Haraway tries to comprehend the existence of within a biased society. The feminist concept of “Otherness” and the “dystopian world” in the perspective of the cyborgs has not been much discussed in the previous research. This research will provide new dimensions for researchers to critically analyze cyber literature.

Keywords: Cyborg, Dystopian World, Identity, Otherness


Cyborg is a short form of two words i.e. “Cybernetic’ and ‘Organism”. Nathan Kline and Clynes in 1960 used this word in their research paper (Gidding1). They presented this paper in a symposium (Law and Moser 3202). Cyborg is the combination of both beings and machines with such skills and abilities which are not possibly available in human beings alone. Cyborg can be characterized as the hybrid mixture of Science fact and fiction. These creatures are proliferated to know about the possible skills of human and nonhuman hybrids. The era of the 1950s and 1960s was the period of modern films and fiction in which the producers tried to present either a utopian or dystopian world in their movies (Law and Moser 3203). They highlighted the impact of science and technology by presenting the multinational capitalism, nuclear energy, and menacing in the modern world. This imaginary picture of the invasion of machinelike aliens and others was too threatening. But in the postmodern era, the concept of otherness is reduced in the fiction, and cyborgs and aliens are presented as friends than aggressive trespassers (Law and Moser 3203). But still, the status of cyborgs remains ambiguous in the twenty-first century.

Cyborgs have distorted the distinctive line between fact and fiction, real and virtual, body and brain, and and machines. Cyborgs’ actual identities are ambivalent. Concept of identities is also very

3104 ISSN: 2005-4289 IJDRBC Copyright ⓒ2020 SERSC International Journal of Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Vol. 11 No. 3, (2020), pp. 3104-3112 important in superhero comics (Ruge 4). Mostly authors not only misrepresented or underrepresented the female characters but cyborgs also. This misrepresentation, the patriarchal and stereotypical image of females and cyborgs resulted in the multiple identities of both. The metaphors of cyborg and are used to indicate the cultural, temporal, spatial shifts and displacement of postmodernism (Wolmark8). Wolmark argues that “They allow us to explore the new critical contours of postmodernity, in which alternative constructions of difference and identity become possible” (Wolmark9).

The main aim of this research paper is to highlight the impact of development in technology on the 21st c by discussing the dystopian world presented in Marge Piercy's “He, She and It” (1991). This is the continuation of Piercy’s another novel “Woman on the Edge of Time” (Neverow16). Both of her novels are considered as “Optimistic Tragedies” (Khouri58).The female character in the novel is an ordinary woman who learned to fight against oppression (Neverow16). Another important character in the novel is a masculine cyborg “Yod”. Avram created Yod as a dangerous weapon but due to the interaction with a female character Shira, Yod transforms his masculine killing identity into the soft perfect lover (Smith265).

The objective of this research is to analyze that how cyborgs are reframing their identities in the novel “He, She, and It” (1991). Male writers and female writers have differently portrayed the cyborgs in their writings. Males’ writings presented cyborgs to add up the values that constitute the stereotypical gender roles in the western society while female writers used cyborgs to question the gender identity (Smith 1).

Donna Haraway’s presented her cyborg theory in her essay “, Science, Technology and Socialist –Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century” (1985) is employed in the research. Concept of Otherness and identity has been much discussed from the feminist perspective but not much research has been done from the perspective of the Cyborg. Therefore this research will open new dimensions to explore the representation of cyborgs in science fiction novels. Cyborgs’ identities are questionable and dynamic also. They are no more considered as ‘other’ in science fiction. Their importance and roles are becoming vital not only in fiction but also in real world. Cyborg can be considered as more open and honest figure due to its , simulation and artificiality (Ihde 83).

Literature Review

In the a scientific discourse is used that connects machines with the human beings (Hayles84). This research tries to highlight the ambivalent status of cyborgs and analyzes the concept of ‘otherness’ in the perspective of male and female cyborgs and their struggle to reframe their identities in “He, She and It “by Marge Piercy. Some French and Russian writers also contributed in cybernetics such as Renard’s “The Altered Man” (1921) and Alexander Beliayev’s “Invisible ” (1938). Some writers discussed artificially adapted men in science fiction such as John J. Pierce in his book “Foundation of Science Fiction” in 1987.

In American Science fiction this trend of the human-machine constructed body was started after World War II. Some writers such as Nobert Wiener and David Serlin tried to give scientific reasoning for the creation of Cyborgs. They explained the phenomenon of increased human-machine capabilities. According to their findings of the research, human-machines have enhanced capabilities (Lestienne 2020). Nobert Wiener was a mathematician. “A Life in Cybernetics” (2018) is the combination of his two earlier books “Ex-Prodigy” and “I Am a Mathematician” published in 1953 and 1956 respectively. He was considered an expert on human-machine interaction. He calculated the time of response between a human

3105 ISSN: 2005-4289 IJDRBC Copyright ⓒ2020 SERSC International Journal of Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Vol. 11 No. 3, (2020), pp. 3104-3112 and a machine. He produced military hardware such as guided missiles (Hayles 86). At first, human- machine was used in cybernetics to enhance the wartime modern prosthetics. In “The Other Arms Race” (2004), Serlin tried to present a positive human-machine relation. This positive image of rehabilitated bodies was an attempt to make such amputee’s bodies a human and gendered norm of western culture (Serlin 52). This human-machine friendly figure opened a new horizon in cyborg literature and these rehabilitated bodies are only represented as men who are doing their best to save humanity (Smith 9).

Some writers also presented the gender biases in their work and presented cyborg’s subjective experience (Allman 2020). Some writers presented human beings especially males as dominant figures in their stories. In comparison to male writers, female authors are marginalized in writing of (Smith 32). The science fiction of the 1940s and 1950s was not only admired the reproductive power of women but also feared it. The authors portrayed the female alien as enlarged ugly beings. Female aliens were only presented as biological females while male protagonists as masculine superior beings. That protagonist was presented as superior to feminine ‘other’, inferior, weak, and incapable being. So, there was also stereotypical patriarchal supremacy over female alien (Robert 44).

Many novelists such as C. L. Moore, Henery Kuttner, Bernard Wolfe, Poul Anderson and Robert Heinlein wrote stories about cyborgs’ identity and subjectivity during the 1940s to 1960s. “No Woman Born” (1944), “Camouflage” (1945), “Limbo” (1952), “Call me Joe” (1957), and “Starship Troopers” (1959) are some examples of such novels. In Moore’s short story a female cyborg protagonist named Deidre was presented who was disfigured due to fire. Through the character of Deidre Moore tried to represent the limitations which are imposed by a human male upon a female cyborg, due to her ‘Other’ identity. Her human-machine identity challenges the male identity because she was no longer a human.

Some writers highlighted the cyborgs’ ambivalent identity during the 1960s to 1990s through their writings such as Anne McCaffery’s “The Ship Who Sang” (1969), Damon Knight’s “Masks” (1970). A cyborg can also be identified as ‘alien’ or ‘other’ as a woman, a marginal figure in society such as “The Stepford Wives” (1972) by Ira Levin and “Cyborg” (1972) by Martin Caiden. These two texts present the adjustment and suppression of women to restore the dominance of males and how technology was used to alleviate the gendered social role. On the other hand, some writers presented the image of monstrous selves in the feminist fiction such as Joanna Russ’ novels “The Female Man” (1975) and “The Adventure of Alyx” (1976). Samuel Delany, McIntyre, and Butler presented the same concept in their novels “Tales of Nevèrÿon” (1979) “Superluminal” (1983), and “Dawn” (1987) respectively.

Regoer Zelanzy’s “The Engine At Heartspring’s Center” (1974) presents an ambivalent attitude of humanity towards science and technology. On one side, human beings are celebrating the fascination of science technology on the other side they are fearful of cyborgs that may supersede the human race. Cyborgs are presented as the merging of flesh with machinery. These are the reminders that the human body has its limitations such as diseases, frailty, and death. These limitations can be trounced only by the amalgamation of science and technology. In this text, Zelazny challenges the western psyche to retain boundaries that make human beings a pure, uncompromised, and organic self. Cyborgs were considered as human compromised with technology. In “The Engine at Heartspring’s Center” (1974), the author presents a cyborg ‘Bork’ who proves that he is still a humanitarian. He shows his masculine dominance and control over technology, women, and the bureaucracy. Another text of Joan D. Vinge named “Tin Soldier” (1974) was about romantic narrative. This novel was a love story of a Spacer woman with a male cyborg ‘Maris’.

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William Gibson’s ” (1984) is the first novel of his trilogy. He presented the concept of the dystopian world. Most of the 1980s and 1990s sci-fiction movies such as “Robocops” series and a recent film by named (2009) present human beings having masculine identity only, and therefore consider masculine gendered.

The feminine identity of cyborgs remained ambiguous in science fiction novels (Donawerth 67).

However, some women writers of science fiction try to change the gender stereotypes by confronting and transforming them (Donawerth 107). Such experiments in science fiction literature allow female writers to separate social roles from gender (Lefanu 20). This literature review of the cybernetics and cyborg literature shows that cyborgs are discussed in the perspectives of male cyborgs or female cyborgs. They are also considered as ‘Others’ in science fiction writings but cyborg and female protagonist are not analyzed in the perspective of reframing identities and projecting iconoclastic image of cyborgs in the cybernetics. This research analyzes the novel “He, She and It” (1991) by Marge Piercy in the perspective of the dystopian world, cyborgs, and reframing identities. For the further explanation of this concept I will discuss the Cyborg Theory of Donna Haraway.

Research Methodology

To understand the shifting of identities from cyborg to other and how ‘Yod’ a cyborg and ‘Shira’ a female protagonist are reframing their identities in He, She and It, this research employs the Donna Haraway’s Cyborg Theory discussed in “A Cyborg Manifesto, Science, Technology and Socialist- Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century” (1985). Haraway (1944-present) is a feminist, a cultural theorist, and a well known scholar of science and technology.

She defines cyborg as, “A cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction” (Haraway 149). Cyborg is a figure to identify the best possible advancement can be achieved in the field of science and technology. It can be a human being mingled with a machine to enhance their abilities or maintain their normal functions (Smith 4). Haraway claims that we all are cyborgs (Haraway 150). She argues that cyborg is a metaphor for all the human- machine interactions. They range from human- machine hybridization to and reproductive . Science and technology has totally changed the human experiences. The development of science and technology has diminished the distinctive line between human from its ‘other’ (Haraway 151-153). ‘Other’ of human beings means a creature that disturbs the boundaries that define the humans. American scientists have even broken down the distinction between human and animals. In Haraway’s point of view, “, tool use, social behavior, mental events, nothing really convincingly settles the separation of human and animal” (Haraway 152-153). Similarly there is no difference between organism and machines.

According to Haraway, due to its hybrid nature cyborg is different from human and is gendered feminine. She theorizes that women are mistreated in the society due to binary structures of our society that empower the patriarchal power (Smith 5). He discusses the feminist political organizing in the light of cyborg politics. She argues that there are nothing special traits which identify women as female. Traditionally, cyborg is considered as a feminine gender and subordinate to human males but Haraway believes that cyborgs do not have human forefathers therefore Cyborgs’ secondary status should be changed. Haraway considers that capitalist society is responsible for the domination of one class (males)

3107 ISSN: 2005-4289 IJDRBC Copyright ⓒ2020 SERSC International Journal of Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Vol. 11 No. 3, (2020), pp. 3104-3112 from other (females). Cyborg is an important figure because it elucidates the contradictions present in the capitalist society (Haraway 168).

Therefore, Haraway argues that development of science and technology has confused the traditional gender binary opposition and creation of cyborg is an opportunity to overcome these gender hierarchies. She says, ‘High-tech culture challenges these dualisms in intriguing ways. It is not clear who makes and who is made in the relation between human and machine (Haraway 60). Haraway concludes that cyborg can be considered as a feminine identity but that may be the strategy of feminists to empower women, question the identities of other marginal subjects and challenge the patriarchal discourse of science and technology. The next part of the paper deals with the analysis of novel “He, She and It” (1991). Analysis

This research employs the cyborg theory of Donna Haraway (1985) and tries to analyze the ambivalent status of cyborg. In this essay she talks about the White Capitalist Patriarchy and the inequalities caused by this capitalism. She argues that cyborg which is the creature of science and technology may end these inequalities.

In this section of paper, novel of Marge Piercy “He, She and It “(1991) will be analyzed in accordance to the Haraway’s Cyborg theory. This novel has been discussed in feminist perspective, motherhood, masculine identity, and odd heteropatriarchal values (Smith 267). This research focuses on the reframing identities of cyborgs in the dystopian world presented by Marge Piercy. She is an American Jewish writer. This novel won the Arthur C. Clark award for the best science fiction literature. It is a story of a human woman (Shira) and a cyborg (Yod).

Haraway discusses that cyborg is a creature without any gender. Cyborgs came into being from patriarchal capitalism, militarism and state socialism (Haraway 151). “He, She and It” is a dystopian novel. It represents the negative effects of science and technology in 21st century. It seems that with the development of science and technology world has become dystopian rather than utopian. Piercy presents the image of damaged future world that has been ecologically destroyed after Nuclear World as Piercy mentions in novel, “A terrorist had launched with a nuclear device that had burned Jerusalem off the map…….. destroyed the entire region” (Piercy12). In the novel, the nuclear war remained for the two weeks and millions of people died. The remaining people had to convert themselves into cyborg to survive in such hostile environment. As Nili explains Shira about her existence, “I can walk in the raw without protection. I can tolerate levels of bombardment that would kill you…. We have created ourselves to endure, to survive, to hold our land. Soon we will begin rebuilding Yerushalaim” (Piercy 198). This world is ruled by obscene multinational companies named as ‘multis’. These conglomerates indicate the patriarchal capitalism which has destroyed the center of human essence and destroyed the women autonomy over their bodies and lives (Mies 2).

Haraway discusses the concept of fractured identities. She argues, “Identities seem contradictory, partial, and strategic” (Haraway 16). These identities are problematic for women because they prefer some women over other. It is the story of three women; ‘Malkah’, her daughter ‘Riva’, and her granddaughter ‘Shira’, and a male cyborg ‘Yod’. These women are also cyborg figures in one way or other as Malkah and Shira have plug in their skull to connect with a computer and Rive is a woman with a protective gear to remain safe in war.

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Cyborgs are the opponent to all the Western dualism, as she suggests “systemic to the logics and practices of domination of women, people of colour, nature, workers, animals - in short, domination of all constituted as others, whose task is to mirror the self” (Haraway 177). Cyborg is symbolic for the reconstruction of identity. It is an important linguistic intervention in patriarchal language also. In the beginning of the novel ‘Yod’ was ‘It’ for Shira but he himself corrects Shira that referring to me as ‘Him’ is more appropriate. He says that “I am anatomically male” (Piercy 72).

Novel starts with a court scene where Shira is waiting for the decision of court for the custody of her son ‘Ari’. This scene perfectly indicates the patriarchal capitalism when Shira loses the case and her ex-husband wins because he has “higher tech rating” (Piercy 13). Shira is presented as a weak feminine character who gets married to Josh regardless of the fact that her grandmother does not like him. Malkah says, “Those poison belchers. I told you not to marry him. You’re the first in our family to marry in four generations. It’s a bad idea” (Piercy16). She weeps like a normal woman for her son when her grandmother asks her to come back home.

Malkah is presented as strong woman in the novel who has expertise in communication technology. She tries to diminish the physical and cultural differences of the cyborg women and unites them. Her mother Riva also criticizes Shira for unable to resist. As Riva says, “I guess I'm having trouble figuring out who you are …., [Don't] see much of myself in you” (Piercy 202). But at the end of the story Shira changes her identity from a weak feminine cyborg to a confident one. These three women fight for their small Jewish enclave, Tikva (Smith 267).

Shira’s mother Riva also shows resistance against patriarchal binary opposition and reframes the identity from a spy to the dangerous warrior. In her childhood she was against privacy and she believes, “we should all know everything…. what we don't know that makes us stupid” (Piercy 85). In her young age she sifted her identity from the “industrial espionage” to “pure data piracy to something more political and even more dangerous” (Piercy 85). She started a campaign to liberate information from the ‘multis’. Riva with her lover Nili tries to reverse the trend that many know less and less know more (Piercy 202). She trespasses the boundary of human by accesses the knowledge instead of getting it.

Yod is another important character in the novel. He is a male cyborg. Yod also reframe his identity with the proceeding of the novel. Instead of Malkah’s friendly dealing with outer world, a close friend of Malkah and a scientist ‘Avram’ build Yod as a weapon and as a perfect masculine figure. As Malkah describes Yod as, “Avram made him male – entirely so. Avram thought that was the ideal: pure reason, pure logic, pure violence” (Piercy 142). He is not having any interaction with human beings. When Yod meets Shira, she notices curiosity in his eyes (Piercy 68). Malkah asks her granddaughter to alter the programming of Yod and when he meets with Shira, he changes from a deadly weapon to a perfect lover. He transforms his masculine identity to positive feminine identity. In the novel, Yod represents identification with many other characters such as Joseph (a 16th c Golem), Gadi (Shira’s first lover) (Neverow 23). He also shows resemblance with lesbian ‘Nili’. Yod is biologically enhanced machine while Nili has cybernetically enhanced body. Both have almost same roles as Yod is to protect and Nili has to serve. Both cyborgs are considered as servants to their masters. Yod and Nili both transform themselves from servants or deadly weapons to lovers. They reframe their identities.

This research analyzes the ambivalent status of cyborgs in cybernetics. As Haraway says, “The cyborg is a creature in a postgender world; it has no truck with bisexuality, pre-oedipal symbiosis,

3109 ISSN: 2005-4289 IJDRBC Copyright ⓒ2020 SERSC International Journal of Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Vol. 11 No. 3, (2020), pp. 3104-3112 unalienated labor, or other seductions to organic wholeness through a final appropriation of all the powers of the parts into a higher unity” ( Haraway 8). As Rive ambiguously discusses about the gender of cyborg, “humanity is a matter of definition…..Where do you draw a line?”(Piercy199). But according to Haraway, cyborg is a post-gender creation. In the novel “He, She and It” (1991), Nili and Yod both are androgynous. Nili is, “matrilineal but she has no father” (Piercy 199) on the other hand, Yod, “ha[s] no mother or father” (Piercy 125). Both Nili and Yod behave totally different to their attire, Yod does not behave like a masculine figure and Nili is no more a feminine creature. Shira claims that Nili, “had a way of smiling straight into the eyes…….that reminded Shira of a few men she had met” (Piercy 196). On the other hand, Yod says to Shira that he loves to be touched and Shira says, “[i]n that, you’re like a woman” (Piercy 189). According to Haraway, identities are created in western society to control the power structure. These identities become rigid and people had to restrict into their places on the hierarchy. This system was beneficial for the people higher in rank. According to her point of view, creation of cyborg should have abolished this hierarchal system based on one category or other (Haraway 209). On the other hand, in the science fiction stories, both women and cyborg are presented as ‘Other’. In the cybernetics, mechanical females demonstrate patriarchal mentality to control a perfect woman. This representation of female cyborgs in science fiction literature shows the patriarchal control over the feminine other. The feminine characteristics present in Yod indicate Avram’s desire to control his male cyborg also (Smith 299). Yod is remained ‘Other’ cognitively. He cannot express his feeling like man or woman. (Smith285). Shira asks him about his feelings during lovemaking he admits that, “I am programmed to seek out and value certain neural experiences, which I call pleasure” (Piercy 183). In most of the cybernetics, ‘Other’ is represented as a female figure but in Piercy’s novel a male cyborg is an ‘Alien Other’ to cyborg women. In “He, She and It”, there is incomplete, damaged and less satisfactory man-machine is present (Vlosopolos 61). But in the end of the novel Yod shows his own subjectivity and destroys Avram’s lab also to ensure that no further cyborgs could be created. This novel raises the question whether a machine can be human or not and vice versa. Yod a cyborg is trying to learn humanity in the novel on the other hand many humans have transplanted some machines in their body to enhance their human qualities.

In Haraway’s point of view, a cyborg does not need a birth by woman, it is regenerated rather reproduction. In Y-S enclave an artificial reproductive technology is used to attain a utopian gender-free culture. In Y-S enclave, each baby bore with four parents, father, mother, a does chemistry for him/her and Y-S itself. In the dystopian world presented by Piercy in her novel “He, She and It” (1991), woman is considered as unfit mother by a patriarchal legal system. Shira’s son has been taken from her because she was low in corporate rank. Shira shows resistance against this unfair male dominated society and she chooses to have induced labor instead of sterilization. On the other hand, there are some other mothers present in the novel who leave their children to fulfill their desires such as Riva and Nili. Riva leaves her daughter ‘Shira’ in the care of her mother ‘Malkah’, while Nili leaves her daughter in the custody of co-mothers. These women show resistance towards the traditional role of women at that time. It is also a way of reframing their ‘motherhood identity’. They transformed themselves from helpless, suppressed and dumb mothers to enthusiastic and brave mothers.

Piercy’s novel presents the image of dystopian world and how cyborgs are reframing their identities. Male cyborgs ‘Yod’ rejects his male violent traits and adopt feminine characteristics. Piercy presents three women with different characteristics which are showing resistance to the patriarchal capitalistic society. They have power to change even a male cyborg. All characters in the novel are in dynamic condition and continuously learning new behavior and reframing their identities.

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This research paper analyzes the Marge Piercy’s He, She and It (1991) and Donna Haraway’s cyborg theory is employed on this novel. According to Haraway the exploitation of women is due to the dual structures of the society and these binary structures are due to the patriarchal thirst for the power. Haraway presents the concept of fractured identities and according to her point of view these broken identities can be repaired through the concept of cyborg. Cyborg is the hybrid of nature and technology and does not belong to any gender. Therefore, it can change the narrative of the world and overcome the supremacy of any one group to other.

This research is not free from limitation; in this research only one novel is analyzed in the perspective of reframing identities. The findings of this research cannot be generalized to all cybernetics. The future researchers are required to analyze other science fiction novels in this perspective or how male or female writers are differently conceptualizing the concept of reframing identities of cyborgs.

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