“Automating Genders: Bodies, Media, and the Posthuman” Panel, PCAACA 2017, San Diego, CA

While at the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association (PCAACA) 2017 Annual Conference, I was also part of a panel “Automating Genders: Bodies, Media, and the Posthuman” with friends and colleagues Stevi Costa and Timothy Welsh.  The panel description reads:

In “Automating Gender,” Judith Halberstam describes gender as “an electronic text that shifts and changes in dialogue with users and programs . . . we are already as embedded within the new technologies as they are embodied within us.” Halberstam’s point illustrates how imbricated we are in our relationship to technology. As Rosanne Alluquere Stone notes, technologies like the telephone or the internet are prosthetic extensions of our bodies, linked to Donna Haraway’s image of the feminist cyborg as a “fiction mapping out social and bodily reality” in a manner that is “resolutely committed to partiality, irony, intimacy, and perversity.” As we move closer toward total intimacy with our technological prostheses, the borders of nature and machine become inextricable. It is precisely this mangle of the “natural” and the “machine” that Haraway views as productive for getting beyond binary constructions of gender (among others), yet Halberstam offers that our machine selves are just as bound up in questions about gender as our natural selves are. How, then, can gender be a posthuman construct? Is it possible to imagine a posthuman world that is also post-gender?

My paper was entitled “Better, Stronger, Furiosa: Bionic Women and Postfeminist Posthumanism.”  My abstract reads:

In the fall of 2007, NBC debut its remaking and reimagining of Bionic Woman with the promise that the show will be “Better.  Stronger.  Faster.”  The “woman power” message of Bionic Woman reveals the ways, in the words of Angela McRobbie, the “spectre of feminism is invoked so that it might be undone.”  In other words, the show presents the posthuman body as “better, stronger, faster” but ultimately recuperates the hero back into normative femininity and ability.  This paper will first take up close readings of the title characters of Jaime Sommers and Sarah Corvus as postfeminist, posthuman bionic women and end with a more radical response to this bland feminism through the mechanical arm-wielding Imperator Furiosa from 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road.

Here are my slides:

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