gender(n) - gram. the classification by which words are grouped as masculine, feminine, or neuter
Does a virtual environment offer the possibility of an alternative space in which to experiment with and reconstitute the symbolically encoded construct of gender?
With the possibility of deconstructing and reconstructing gender in electronic environments, we must consider the way in which we currently and most commonly equate sex with the biological body in order to differentiate it from the socially encoded construct of gender. Novelist Manuel Puig explores social impositions on the nature of gender in his print text Kiss of the Spider Woman, and theorist Thomas Laqueur examines historical shifts in our constructs of gender and sexuality, or the way in which we read the body. In thinking of gender as performance, contemporary theorist Sherry Turkle similarly discusses the possibility of performing alternative genders (those which differ from what has been associated with our biological bodies) in the anonymous - or masked - communities of cyberspace, particularly of MUD and MOO environments.
In regards to the print text - human body interaction, French feminists Helene Cixous, Julia Kristeva, and Luce Irigaray seek to achieve a uniquely feminine language that breaks through or exceeds the culturally imposed bounds of patriarchy. Yet many of the tenets which they associate with a masculine, patriarchal language (hierarchy, fixity, and linearity) are counter-posed not only in their own feminine writings (which strive for fluidity, connectivity, and cyclical non-linearity) but also in much of the writing which occurs in electronic environments - or electronic hypertext.
When considering cyborgs and the interaction between human and electronic bodies we begin to notice how electronic devices have become both physical and virtual extensions of ourselves and our human bodies. Donna Haraway expands the notion of the cyborg into a feminist utopian fantasy of a post-gender world, a world where the oppositional dualisms of a gendered patriarchal culture become irrelevant or effaced.