The Mechanics of Engenderneering

  • Roy Schwartzman


THE MECHANICS OF ENGENDERNEERING: CYBORGS AND ALIENS AS MANUFACTURED EVIL IN SCIENCE-FICTION FILM This essay examines a process called engenderneering, which can be understood as personification with a twist: the investiture of non-human entities with a gendered identity. Science fiction films, despite their futuristic settings, often associate gender markers with assignments of moral value. Manufactured life forms such as robots and cyborgs highlight the extent that gender markers serve as necessary or sufficient determinants of an entity's value. Aliens, although not bound to human gender constraints, still tend to retain explicit, conventional signs of gender. To avoid projecting the negative associations of femininity into the future, perhaps science fiction narratives could transcend gender as a two-valued concept. The american novelist Ursula LeGuin raised a question whether gender was necessary to define an entity as human. To answer this question, LeGuin created in The Left Hand of Darkness the hermaphroditic...