Feminism, Technology and Information in the posthuman society of the Crakers

December 1, 2014


Sally Wyatt introduces the five definitions of an information society: technological, economic, occupational, spatial and cultural. Wyatt’s essay explores the role that technology plays in constructing and either constraining or liberating gender and other social relations with response to various manifestos and feminist waves.

With the advancement in technology in the framework of material production, or ‘machine automation’ Wyatt emphasizes the capitalist relationship between technology and its ability to perhaps liberate women from “the tyranny of biology; for economic independence” from men.

Division of Labour

As information replaces material goods as the commodity for exchange and value, it allows more opportunities for individual/personal development across all sects of society. However, male’s dominance of technical skill still remain to create a gendered division of labour; according to Wyatt, “technology embody the patriarchal values of domination and control of both women and nature” This theme of a gendered labour division and the male as the oppressor whilst females the oppressed is a driving narrative in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake. As explored earlier in the living compounds as a container technology for containing wealth, power and social standing for the pharmaceutical corporations, scientific and technological knowledge further genders the dystopian posthuman society. In the narrative, people were often described (and prescribed) into two categories: “number people”, namely Crake, or “words people” like Jimmy/Snowman the narrator. The networks/infrastructure, especially of education and urban planning, in this society allows for the “numbers” people to advance into better educational instutions, get offered better jobs, live in healthier and better areas, and acquire more wealth. This segrefation of educational backgrounds is explored earlier in the divide between the science nad engineering school and the arts and humanities institution. Crake believed that words, art, religion and humanities are not vital to the survival of the world while “numbers” and scientific advancement are necessary in his vision of the Utopian environment inhabited by Crakers who would achieve immortality.


Wyatt analyses the SCUM manifesto by Solanas and the idea that “technology created by men will ultimately lead to their destruction”. The technological advancements in medicine and bioengineering in Oryx and Crake is in fact what leads to the destruction of humanity. Crake marketed a pill that would prolong youth and protect against sexually transmitted diseases in form of the BlyssPluss but in fact, used it as a tool to contain/carry a time-released virus to wipe out and destroy the entire population. Ironically, Crake’s marketed immortality wiped out the humans who craved it the most.


While ICTs could liberate identities and free social and gender constraits, Atwood in Oryx and Crake brings out an important contributing factor in the construction of gender: media. Gender stereotyping is propagated through media representation or culture in promoting the image of women as body. Readers are introduced to Oryx via a child porn movie; a sexual commodity or an object of sexual consumption made possible through the advancement in ‘communication technology’ of the porn site/internet. Oryx is ‘trapped’, not liberated by this character of a sexual commodity throughout the entire book, an object of desire for both the narrator Jimmy/Snowman and Crake.

Does gender exist in Crakers’ posthuman society? 

Wyatt questions if Technology and gender are socially produced. With machines playing a bigger role in cognitive construct, how does it affect or construct gender?
What ‘makes’ a gender, if material essence is no longer a boundary as explored earlier in Katherine Hayle’s essay, what relations define male/female? Is gender a performance? These questions of social construct, not only in gender but also with race and labor division are explored in Crake’s design of the posthuman Crakers. The Crakers were designed with skin that resist UV rays, resulting in skin the ranged from every shade between the ebony and the whitest white. Each craker has smooth skin, no fat or body hair, “they look like retouched fashion photos, or ads for a high-priced workout program” (Atwood 100) Crake has eliminated the human traits that determine race and social hierarchy. In addition, Crake redesigned the human mating ritual to remove emotional attachment and abolish any sense of parenting and therefore the family institution: “a female’s genitalia turned a dark shade of blue once every three years… The female then chose three males in which to fornicate with, in order to abolish any sense of parenting in the child-to-be” (Atwood 164-165) This establishes a planned reproductive system for the community without relations of gender, sex and society. Despite Crake’s efforts in eliminating all social constructs, the division of labour based on sex and gender is still evident in the posthuman environment. The craker men accompanied the narrator/Snowman for protection, which shows that perhaps there is an innate understanding of themselves as the stronger beings in comparison to women crakers. In addition, the women crakers without prior knowledge of the ‘roles of a woman’, naturally assumed the task of caring for the children crakers and per Snowman’s encouragement, the task of cooking the produce acquired by the Craker men. Thus in the crakers, we see a division of labour being perhaps not forced by social construct in gender roles, but by natural instinct and biological traits.


One Response to “Feminism, Technology and Information in the posthuman society of the Crakers”

  1. lovisawallgren Says:

    Really interesting text, but hard to follow if you have not read the book. But after reading a short explanation of the book on internet your text became more understandable and even more interesting. A fully analysis of the book, good!
    You mention both the role of media in gender stereotyping and the female body seen as a sexual object for men: “Readers are introduced to Oryx via a child porn movie; a sexual commodity or an object of sexual consumption”. /Lovisa Wallgren

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: