In a world where our dreams become realities, and cars start to fly, and light sabers start to emerge, society often finds itself manipulating and changing stereotypical gender norms. Social media, newscasters, filmmakers, and even political propaganda all contribute to a way society formulates viewpoints pertaining to gender norms. It is not until the 1980s when we see not just literature, but also films start to defy popular adopted gender norms. Leia Organa in Star Wars is not only seen as the Princess of Alderan, but also an amazing shot with a laser, and a strong leader in the resistance against the Empire. Back in the 1980s, a women would not be as easily considered a hero, and for a lack of better words, a bad ass in the eyes of danger. Similarly to Leia in Star Wars, Molly: the main protagonist in Neuromancer, by William Gibson is portrayed defying typically accepted gender norms. Gibson’s book Neuromancer, is a commentary on the effects advancements in technology can have on the transformation of gender norms, and stereotypes.
Molly’s first appearance in Neuromancer personifies her not as ladylike character, but rather rough and edgy. She states that she is “collecting” Case for her employer and that no one wants to “hurt” him implying that if it is necessary she will use brute force to do just that (Gibson 44). Right from the beginning, Molly is depicted as a character atypical to that of a “normal women profile” and Gibson shows that Molly is no average gal. Gibson portraying Molly as something other than ladylike is a comment on the way in which he thinks women could be like in the future, under the enhancement of technology. It is evident that in a time like the 1980s, this idealistic viewpoint of a woman is further from the appearance and actions for a typical women in the time the book was published. As a women protagonist, throughout the novel, Molly is constantly being described with using brute force and physical skills to get the characters through different situations. On one of their many missions together, Case reflected that he “doubted the three security men Molly had encountered in the corridor would live to talk about it” (Gibson 105). It is apparent that the characters acknowledge Molly’s particular skill sets. Gibson’s characters are reflection of his viewpoint on the way technology will improve humans and their capacity to see apart from gender.
Gibson not only comments on the effects technology will have on gender norms pertaining to women, but he alludes to the fact that technology can affect human’s perception of gender as an entity. The people in Neuromancer are all so self-absorbed and consumed by this cyberspace way of life that leads main male protagonist, Case to view his body nothing more than just “meat” (Gibson 15). Although this passage of the story is mainly commenting on the fact that without his ability to hack his body is useless, another hidden message lies between the lines. The fact that Case views his body as nothing more than a shelter of some sorts shows his disengagement with himself as a whole. Since gender is a standard or way to identify yourself, Case lacks the necessary mentality to classify himself without the help of cyberspace. This concept of not being able to identify yourself as a gender is often seen in the present day through the plethora of different genders and sexualities that the twenty first century fosters. Currently, it is fascinating to realize that Gibson accurately predicted through his literature that technology could impact gender norms. Through current day social media, it is so easy now to simply spread different ideas throughout a community of people. Neuromancer, as far fetched as its readings can be at times steps figuratively and representatively into the present, and therefore the future.
Going along with the allusion that technology affects human’s perception of gender, body enhancements and the roles they play in Neuromancer compliment Gibson’s viewpoint of atypical gender norms the future may hold. From the very beginning of the story, we are introduced to a plethora of different characters all with different body enhancements that indirectly contradict stereotypical gender norms. Ratz tends the bar “with his prosthetic arm” (Gibson 11), Molly’s enhanced eyes, the Wintermule/Neuromancer complex, and a handful of other enhancements throughout the book hold many truths to a complex viewpoint of gender roles. Molly’s eyes giver her physical advantages over the men around her, which is contrary to typical gender norms where women are not as physically adept as men. Exploring Molly and her enhancements even further, may prove that Gibson believed that the future for women’s rights and opportunities could be greatly improved with the advent of new technology. However, it should be stated that Molly is also looked as “meat” (Gibson) at points in the novel, and shows that the men in her life only look at women for sex. A gender norm in today’s term is that many men are interested in women for pure sexual purposes, and that is something that it appears Gibson believes will not go away, even with the advancements of technology.
Whether it is Princess Leia fighting the stormtroopers, Molly being a tough, brute warrior, Case’s inability to perceive himself as an entity outside of cyberspace, it is clear Gibson’s ambiguous view of technologies potential societal affects are clear. Utilizing the two main protagonists of the novel, Gibson comments on the one potential future and how gender roles can easily change in the blink of an eye. Technological advancements, and body enhancement modifications may just be the determinant of the transitions that gender norms go through. Neuromancer, although science fiction, portrays a possible outcome technology can have on gender norms.
Gibson, William. Neuromancer. Ace trade ed., e-book, New York, Ace Books, 2000.