Un-gendered

A trajectory towards a generic view of containment, possibly un-gendered, and described in a language of instrumentality seemingly well suited to a discussion of technology, appears from a certain perspective to be promising. But, is the lure of the generic, as a solution to the problem of difference, a symptom of masculine blindness to that difference, one more gesture of erasure that fails to account for the way that breasts or a womb change the experience of embodiment? Is accusing Irigaray of missing something in her cleaving to woman, equivalent to the phallic gaze which refuses to see her? Or, is there a radical potential in the embracing of a notion of containment by the masculine body — not a containment on the model of the womb, but a containment that cannot hold; not a containment that gives birth to the new, but a containment that grasps and releases, that receives and sends?

One insight that we ought to retain from Irigaray is that the problem of difference is always subtended by the problem of gender. Gender provides such a strong and fraught paradigm of difference that its pull is singularly unavoidable. To gesture at making containment generic does not resolve the issue of a relation between the varied members along the signifying chain. If it is Turing's ass which is to provide the model for the empty square of his machine, his ass is not thinkable separate from the cunt of Lovelace-from which she counted out three children in her short life. This is not to say that the ass is a cunt, or the cunt an ass-to say that would be to commit the error which Irigaray accuses metaphysics of perpetrating. The containment function of the ass is like the containment function of the cunt. And like the containment function of the empty square, these allow a constructive seriality; a conjunction/disjunction machine that does work-not necessarily work as production, but work as change and work as information and analysis.

Cultural construction is certainly not the exclusive domain of masculinity, even if particular and valued domains have historically been sites for feminine exclusion. The history of the last hundred years is inscribed with the work of change wrought by women in those same domains. While containment is sometimes imagined as the carceral-e.g. containment as an exile to the domestic sphere-it is also imagined as the grounds for the possibility of the new: birth/invention. Invention may have a mother, but that mother is not necessarily a woman. Lovelace found her place, the ground from which to extend her desire to write, in the belly of a man. This is not to erase her genius by founding it on a man's project, but to assert that foundation is a function which anything might serve.