Simply put, "carnephobia" is the hatred and fear of the flesh. It presupposes that humans' minds can be split from their bodies. Though such a split is biologically impossible, since the mind is an artifact of the brain, a very physical organ, most western philosophy treats the male human being as free of a body (projecting onto female human beings (and subordinate ethnic groups and races) exclusive possession of flesh-- otherwise known as "immanence"-- so necessary to life, but that males are allowed to imagine they can escape from the moment they see themselves as different-- and superior-- to the mothers and other women who nurture them). Nicola Griffith's essay, "Writing from the Body" addresses the consequences of this dualism. (The essay can be found in Science Fiction Eye #15, Fall, 1997. It is also posted at Nicola Griffith's website.) A lot of science fiction aims to free humans literally from the burden of flesh. The most explicit fantasies of this can be found in cyberpunk-- not in the cyborg fiction written by women, but in the macho side of the subgenre. In the paradigmatic fiction of male cyberpunk, Neuromancer by William Gibson, one finds repeated expressions of disgust for "meat-existence," repeated insistence on the ecstasy of "jacking-in" (not an accidental term), and the fantasy that there's a better life for "cowboys" in cyberspace after death, as constructs. ("Cowboys," of course, are always male in Gibson's trilogy-- an essentialist notion contingent on possession of a penis, despite the wish to be free of flesh-definitions.) The fiction by women with strong cyberpunk elements either ignores this attitude, negotiates with it, or outright disputes it. This is likely because the body is something that is not as easily dismissed by women as by men (though Griffith's essay shows that women will on occasion fall into this attitude, too). Candas Jane Dorsey's "Machine Sex" and my own "Bettina's Bet" are examples of work by women writers that challenges the carnephobia underlying cyberpunk.

I think this disgust for the physical-- biological-- aspects of life harkens to a life-long longing for freedom from maternal power-- the first great power each of us, as humans, encounters in our lives. If only we could be human without flesh, and the history of flesh, and the back brain and hormones and above all mothers... In the old days, back when de Beauvoir was hot, this was referred to as the wish for "transcendence." Gibson's trilogy seems to place all hope in the belief of a better life after flesh-- proposing cyberspace as heaven, where permanent residence is granted only after the body has flat-lined, and therefore ceased to weigh down the mind and the soul.

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