Introductory thoughts on Posthumanism and Beauty or Posthuman Beauty

The first time I heard the term Posthuman was Natasha Vita More’s Primo Posthuman. Her figure fascinated me and I thought I understood what the image meant. This was back in 2007. It is now three years later and here I am writing this blog about my own understanding of posthumanism and beauty. To start, the person who has had a profound impact on my understanding has been Donna Haraway. I read Primate Visions and Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature with fervor, along with about 12 other books from a variety of disciplines. After I read these books I was not sure what knowledge I had acquired. At that point I needed to walk away and just let it stew, as my advisor says. What in the world did these books have to do with what I wanted to know? They fit, but how did they fit for my perspective.

Over time, I realized what the key was to my own understanding. On page, 196 and 334 of Primate Visions, there is reference to the tools of early primate females, the baby-sling and the containers for carrying things that these female primates invented to make their lives easier, and these inventions were right alongside male created weaponry tools. These baby-slings and modern cosmetic surgery or other technology adaptations for women were a revelation. I was a converted cyborg feminist or, now I’m thinking, posthuman feminist. I love the liminal space and the intersections.

Now, I sometimes get snide looks or wrinkled faces when I bring up Haraway and I do not care. The understandings of feminism I had held up until my introduction to Haraway left me distant to wanting to identify myself in that way. Now, I embrace it, because what it means to me is a feminine understanding of humans, culture and technology, the key being the inclusion of technology to our understanding of humans and culture. This is posthumanism to me. It is an academic approach that includes technology in various forms as viable variables to understanding society and culture.

My understanding of cosmetic surgery has been opened. Now I see it clearer as a technological choice that we have. The importance in understanding the adoption is the cultural effects. This is important too, not just the ethics, but the ramifications. Cosmetic surgery is nothing new to our society by any means; however are we studying the effects thoroughly? These effects benefit those who choose to undergo the surgery and the surgeons who are willing to offer their expertise.

This is not limited to cosmetic procedures. We have the power to take control of our bodies and we are doing this from the banal to the extreme. I had a great conversation with a dear friend the other day about how we are both really redheads on the inside. Neither of us are natural redheads and we prefer different shades, but on the inside, we are redheads. This color on our heads expresses that person inside us we know is there. Another dear friend loves heels like mad. It could be snowing or raining or she has to walk 10 miles, but she is always in heels. This is an augmentation of her natural structure. She is a taller person and these “foot extensions” are a beautiful, they are an adorable selections of heels, extension of who she is. Look at The Apprentice. On the show, virtually every female is in heels. We all know or are these women, and I do not mean to leave any other human representation out, but I am still beginning this deep understanding and I am starting with what I am, a woman. I will venture out and apply outward from there with due time. To apply a theory it has to be tested and perfected over time, which I will need to do in pieces.

Therefore, this is where I am: the study of posthuman beauty. The wondrous interplay of (wo)man, technology and culture (particularly film and advertising) has me in a flurry to unravel the narrative of what this has to tell us about ourselves and any other sentience we may later introduce.


2 thoughts on “Introductory thoughts on Posthumanism and Beauty or Posthuman Beauty”

  1. Then didn’t feminine posthumanism start much further in the past than simply the invention of hair dye? Heels, cinched waists, foot binding, eyebrow tweezing (while we’re on the banal). You are right, these ARE as culturally relevant and were even more personally and intensively applied as any modern alteration that involves only paying a cosmetic surgeon and choosing the procedure from a menu.

    I believe I know what you’re saying, but I’m a little confused about what new relevancy it has. I look forward to reading much more! Maybe I need to read some Haraway?

    1. Yes, I think this is what Haraway was getting at. It started much earlier than the invention of hair dye. She was referring to primates in the jungle, our ancestors. The idea is that this is nothing new, but merely modern adoptions of the same, but better.

      New relevancy, for me, is that there is in understanding the intersection of media, technology and society. For my own angle it is relevant because if we are afraid of new technologies why? They are nothing new. I am interested in beauty and have been for several years. The importance of Haraway to my knowledge is the knee jerk reaction to cosmetic plastic surgery is that there is something wrong with society that we want to do such drastic procedures. In fact, I literally just finished an article on comparing the pressure for women to conform to a size 6 to the Muslim veil. Although, with my recent takes on the situation I am not sure that I agree in this harsh criticism of size and, alternately, surgery. These are methods of altering our bodies and for those who think a size 6 or the knife are oppressive overkill I would ask if they do nothing that falls under the category of using technology to alter their body, skin, or self to subscribe to some ideal of beauty.

      I need to explore many aspects of this argument much more. However, I think the problem with the understanding is we are too harsh on the technological method of achieving the enhancement and need to refocus on the intersection with society. For example, Heidi Montag. Yes, she underwent a lot of surgery, but this is not the end of the story. There are so many other variables for consideration to get the bigger picture. Does this help?? I will go back through the article and look for any vagaries I wrote.

      And Haraway’s yummy quote “I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess”

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