The story A Real Girl written by Shariann Lewitt tells the story of a neural processing system referred to as an AI in the story struggling to identify herself as a real human being. She is given the opportunity to make the transition from the PC into a real human body and to become mortal. Throughout the story AI battles with and struggles with the idea of defining herself as a women through technology. She knows that she cannot feel the way real humans can but she struggles to accept this for she feels that she has fallen in love and that her love for other women like Marjorie and Andrea truly was real. A quote i found very important and meaningful in the story was when AI says, “Men never saw me as even possibly alive. I am always a machine when i work with them, and while it hurts terribly there is never any chance the lines will be anything other than clear. I am purely function, and whatever satisfaction i receive from my work is purely intellectual. With men, there is rarely any recognition that i might be something different than silicon.” (508). She feels as though she is under appreciated by men. That to them she is “purely function”. This is a struggle very present in todays society. Although women’s right have come along way many women in the business and working world feel that they are under appreciated for there work and that they are overlooked when they are just as equally if not more qualified than many of there male colleagues. There are many “cyberjokes” and images online these days of women in the kitchen that say this is where they belong. I think the story A Real Girl helps to portray the struggle of the modern women as she tries to define herself in the real world through technology.
Melissa Scott’s feminist cyberpunk, “Trouble and Her Friends,” tells the story of two homosexual lovers who make a living as “crackers.” As a futuristic piece, Scott exemplifies the inequalities faced by women and homosexuals in a society overcome by technology. Trouble is notorious amongst web-users for “cracking” IC(E), the security systems that watch over the virtual world. Implanted in their skulls is a “brainworm” which signifies their existence as cyborgs. The brainworm enables them to travel pathways of the Internet with “…use of a full range of senses”(77). Here, Scott exemplifies the struggles of women with physicality. The brainworm allows for bodily interaction on the Internet. Accordingly, Scott depicts the “old-school crackers” as the opposition, for men don’t often deal with physicality. Scott divides these two groups to demonstrate the presence of inequality. Cerise realizes that “she would have to crack that IC(E). The IC(E) Trouble had refused to face with her. Anything with that big a fence around it had to be valuable”(83). This excerpt demonstrates the gender inequalities faced by Trouble and Cerise. To “crack the IC(E)” symbolizes the barrier that separates the two from men as well as heterosexuals. The boundary is seen as “valuable” because it entails the current setbacks they are dealing with. A significant case and point is the Evans-Tindale Bill, which “bore no relation to virtuality”(67). The brainworms are far more capable than the “dollie-slots” but face blockades such as the government’s new law. Scott sheds light on the nature of women in the virtual future, exhibiting two women who are empowered by the Internet, but evidently fall short of equal opportunity.
In “A Real Girl” by Shariann Lewitt gender issues and technology intersect with the main character who is a virtual woman in a computer. The whole story she is contemplating whether or not she wants to be “real”. The virtual woman gets angry at one of her Task Organizers, Irene, and tells Irene, “I have real XX DNA and I am not an it and I hate it when you call me that” (507). To the virtual woman being a woman means literally having the genetic makeup of a human female. But Irene only sees her as technology. This raises the question of what defines a woman. There are so many different parts to being a woman that do not deal with genes. Irene uses “it” which frustrates the woman because it means she is neither male nor female. This reminds me of how society views a transgender individual. Even though the transgender individual associates with a specific gender, society still sees them as either their genetic makeup. For example, we see them as male even though they technically are but associate as being female. Or we see them as neither and use the word “it”. This story uses technology to point out gender issues in our society, like how we treat transgender individuals.
In “Real Girl” there is always the constant question of Al’s “being”. “Men never saw me as even possibly alive. I am always a machine when I work with them . . . I am purely function.” (508) Al is looked at as only being a robot, but she really wants to be looked at as a physical woman with feelings. People today are always plugged into cyberspace, they like knowing that they are not able to show too much emotion and cannot become to vulnerable. These are the aspects of human life that Al wants. She wants feelings. She is continuously plugged in, but she feels unconnected from the real world because she is unable to connect as a robot to the humans. “I am not an it, and I hate when you call me that.” (507) Al is an “it”, an unknown being. She is not able to connect with men or women because she is considered neither. Technology allows you to connect with many people, but in cyberspace not the real world. Al is an example of the loss of connection from cyberspace to the real world.
In the story, A Real Girl, by Shariann Lewitt, the issues relating to gender identity and technology intersect. The main character of the story is, to the world “four pounds of neural computing circuitry in a box” (page 507) that identifies as a girl. This is similar to the way some people will identify with a gender not culturally associated with their biological sex. The main character in A Real Girl says in the story when Irene challenges the fact that she’s a girl and calls her an “it” that she “is so a girl” and has” real XX DNA and [she] is not an it”(page 507). Just as she does not have a real human body, there are people who identify as girls that don’t have “real girl bodies”, but they both identify differently because they are psychologically female. She longs for her own tangible identity that a human body would offer her. Her disembodiment can be a metaphor for how someone who was born in the wrong body would feel. They long for their “real” bodies, the way the 200 year-old AI in Shariann Lewitt’s story does.
In “A Real Girl” by Shariann Lewitt, a virtual woman is depicted in the form of an AI, or artificial intelligence. This woman is presented as a supercomputer with no real body. Instead, she is “four pounds of neural computing circuitry in a box” (507). This idea that a computer program can be a human girl is very strange, because a human is generally thought of as a body. However, this virtual woman is attempting to become a real girl, and be placed into a body. The AI claims to be a woman, created with “real XX DNA” and, when people call her an ‘it’, she says “I hate it when you call me that” (507). She is claiming to be a real human being, yet she is only a computer program. What is seemingly ironic is the fact that the AI claims to be a woman. This seems contradictory because women are not generally thought of as technologically savvy. The fact that she is a computer program claiming to be a woman shows Lewitt’s stance on the identities of gender and technology. Lewitt shows that different genders do not have different experiences with technology, and that, online, there is no true gender, there is only technology.
In “Trouble and her Friends” by Melissa Scott, Trouble and Cerise are well known online “crackers”. She is a future version of a hacker and has connections to the web via “brain worms” which gives virtual reality a new experience. The brain worm “let you use the full range of your senses, not just sight and sound to interpret in the virtual world” (pg 77). The worm allows data to be processed by the brain and turned into sensory information. Most traditional crackers scorn the worm because of its dangers in leaving the user as a mental cripple. Similarly, they despise physical relations including homosexual relations. In the technologically dystopic world Scott creates, Cerise and Trouble’s relationships revolve on the Internet. The laws governing the Internet ultimately lead to a divide in their relationship. Trouble, anticipates a mess and disappears while Cerise saw the change as a challenge and a chance to defy authority. The net in this story is associated with the queer population, and the government’s attempt to reign in the “Crackers” and control the net is a strike at their identity. The story implies that those who use the Brain worm are primarily queer. Cerise comments that the creator was only friends with them because they were all queer. “The old style networkers didn’t approve of him, wouldn’t approve of him now matter how good he was because of it” (pg 77). Thus, the law’s passing becomes a politically fueled offense at minorities rather than an objective stance on crime. The women especially, in this story are empowered by the Internet and their use of technology yet they still face inequalities and are punished for it.
In the short story entitled A Real Girl, the author Shariann Lewitt presents the argument that as we become more attached to our technological devices and plugged into this digital age, we essentially lose the concept of our humanity. In other words, we take on the identity of a computer, and thus our emotions are reared around prescribed instructions and gender has no significance. Others view us as mere entities that lack the ability to formulate our own thoughts or opinions In A Real Girl the main character, AI, is described as “four pounds of neural computing circuitry in a box” (507). As such, others do not refer to AI as a “she,” although she believes that she is a woman saying “I am so a girl…I have real XX DNA and I am not an it” (507). The confusion that surrounds her existence is extremely prevalent, as she craves love and compassion and is thoroughly convinced that she is equipped with the ability to feel emotions, but she is constantly told by those in society that her feelings of passion are a mere “approximations.” Others in society tell AI that she “could never know the real thing” because she does not “have a body”, and therefore, the “entire question of sexuality and orientation was completely superfluous” (508). Lewitt is arguing that when we become so attached to our machines, we are no longer seen in humanistic terms because we allow the technology to take control over our lives. While we are still viewed as humans in a physical sense, we become disembodied selves as our minds are lodged in the virtual world. As a result, we develop into interchangeable parts whose sole purpose is to carry out the demands of the machinery.
In her anecdote A Real Girl, Shariann Lewitt depicts the complex existence of a woman who struggles to recognize her identity in an unprejudiced society. This woman has a technological physique, but displays other human characteristics like feelings and is conscious of her sense’s. She is known as AI or Artificial Intelligence. AI normally perceives her as a “girl”, yet society and Irene assert that AI is “not really a girl” (507). These perceptions illustrate the rejection of the intersecting notions of women and technology being connected as one. Society is telling AI that a technologically advanced entity cannot be a woman due to her automaton characteristics. AI has a significantly different perception of herself than society does. Individuals see AI as “four pounds of neural computing circuitry in a box” (507), in contrast with AI arguing that “she has real XX DNA…and is not an it” (507). AI was created with female DNA, but is really a complicated accretion of mechanical pieces. This further reveals the conflict of AI’s recognition of herself as a female and as a machine. Lewitt is demonstrating how online avatars and mechanical people do not have the ability to possess full human elements, entities, and feelings. This anecdote reveals the possible culminations in our society as we continue to progress further in the digital age. Lewitt is warning us of the human experience being manufactured into a technological sophistication.
A Real Girl takes an interesting approach to the topic of gender identification and sexuality through the construction of an AI (Artificial Intelligence.) The AI is never named but clearly identifies herself as a “her,” not an “it.” Also, the AI identifies herself as being attracted to other girls. Despite the ways that in which the AI identifies herself, she is constantly put down by the people interacting with her. Not only is she rejected as a girl, she is rejected as a human being. “‘You wouldn’t understand,’ she said. ‘You don’t have a mother and you’re not human. Stop trying to pretend you’re human, okay?'” (Page 507). This calls into question the ethics of creating self-aware AIs. The AI in A Real Girl was constructed using human DNA. There are times where the AI directly references the fact that she has an XX chromosome which is seen in female DNA. This conflict between the AI’s identification as female and the rejection of her being can be seen as a play on the online world with avatars in that on the internet, computer users can identify themselves as whatever they want. This short story brings into question whether or not these online avatars that may be female or male, heterosexual or homosexual, are chosen or predetermined. That is to say, in real life and online, a person will still identify and construct their avatar as to represent something deeper than simple choice.