The Fetishization of Masculinity in Science FIction: The Cyborg and the Console Cowboy

Fernbach, Amanda
July 2000
Science Fiction Studies;Jul2000, Vol. 27 Issue 2, p234
Academic Journal
Drawing on pop-culture images of hypermasculine cyborgs and cyberpunk's "jacked-in" console cowboys, this paper will argue, by foregrounding a fetishized technomasculinity, that these images suggest a critique of the rigid gender dichotomy of orthodox theories of fetishism in which the fetishist is always masculine and the fetishized subject is always feminine. It argues that, despite their differences, these two models of cybermasculinity suggest a technofetishization of the white, heterosexual male body in a discourse of postmodernism were the privilege of that identity is purportedly under siege, experiencing itself as relative, rather than universal, partial rather than complete. In these texts, technoparts function as fetishes by disavowing male lack and the feminization of the male subject in postmodern discourse. Thus these fetishistic fantasies can be seen, to some extent, to recuperate patriarchal authority in a posthuman context. On the other hand, these fantasized fetishized masculinities are transgressive of gender norms. Both fantasies confirm that masculinity is not natural, but is performed and constructed through technological props, and both types of masculinity—one hypermasculine and the other feminized by technological prosthetics—are in excess of traditional notions of masculinity. This paper traces both the transgressive and conservative dimensions of popular images of fetishized technomasculinities and suggests how a postmodern technofetishism might provide new possibilities for breaking down old cultural hierarchies.


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