Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Defining Androgynous Characters

(I misread the syllabus and accidentally posted about "A Rape in Cyberspace" last week, so I'm just going to repost it again here, hopefully this time it will be relevant)

The strangest aspect of the story to me, from a perspective gender, is contained in this excerpt: “And thus the woman in Seattle who had written herself the character called legba, with a view perhaps to tasting in imagination a deity's freedom from the burdens of the gendered flesh, got to read similarly constructed sentences in which legba, messenger of the gods, lord of crossroads and communications, suffered a brand of degradation all-too- customarily reserved for the embodied female” Somehow the lamdaMoo became a place (for characters such as Legba and other androgynes, at least) where gender is only defined by its violation. Legba defined herself as androgynous, a god who had no need for a sex in order to exist, and yet was raped as a woman. While this presents a unique and strange situation for gender to exist, it does not occur without some theoretical hiccoups, mostly relating to its inescapable relationship with the physical world.

Even if the internet society of MOO asks us to “behold the new bodies awaiting us in virtual space undazzled by their phantom powers, and to get to the crucial work of sorting out the socially meaningful differences between those bodies and our physical ones,” it is . The case of Mr. Bungle is continually considered in the sense of how its analogues would be found in the physical world (“consider how that wisdom would sound to a woman who'd been, say, fondled by strangers while passed out drunk,” for example). By doing this, the denizens of Lambda require some sort of consistency between the two worlds, and firmly ground their imaginary plane with the rules of the physical world.

Thus, when Mr. Bungle decided to violate androgynous characters such as Legba,
his inaccurate descriptions of their selves would remove the literality of his control over them. If Legba is truly androgynous, and why not, it is a god after all, the nature of Legba implies a physicality that would make the physical descriptions of his “rape” inaccurate, as they assume Legba is a woman (at least I think, I might be mistaken). Thus, the rape becomes a description of rape, rather than the literal act itself.

To be honest, I am not sure where this takes the story. It makes Bungle’s acts no less malicious or violative on a personal level for each of the victims, only making the crime less harsh technically. Perhaps viewing the situation like this confers some sort of “power” on the digital androgyne (which could also just be taken as any digital persona that has decided not to identify a gender, rather than specifically state they have ambiguous gender), in that their indefinability makes them more elusive in a world that relies on the accurate descriptions of each of its aspects to exist. Also, I don’t really know enough about gender theory to make any of these statements about androgyny with certainty or authority, this is just an argument I’ve made off of assumption, so correct me if im wrong.


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