The Feminism behind “Big Wheel”

When first reading Global Frequency by Warren Ellis, the chapter “Big Wheel” immediately grabbed my attention. Within the chapter we face the topic of feminism in technology.

In “A Manifesto for Cyborgs,” Donna Haraway writes, “a cyborg is a cybernetic organism…a creature of reality as well as a creature of fiction. Social reality is lived social relations, our most important positional construction, a world changing fiction. The international women’s movements have constructed “women’s experience,” as well as uncovered or discovered this crucial collective object. This experience is a fiction and fact of the most crucial, political kind” (Haraway 7). I apologize for such a long quote but I feel as though Haraway’s idea and Ellis’ chapter “Big Wheel,” hold a great deal of parallelism. Before I dive into Ellis’ let us first unravel Haraway’s statement. Haraway claims that a cyborg is a creature of reality, as well as fiction. Then, Haraway goes on to explain that the “women’s experience” is also a work of fiction and fact. This makes me wonder, is Haraway eluding to the idea that women and cyborgs are not so different, and possibly even similar? The reason I find this relatable to “Big Wheel” is because in the chapter we see a woman who is a member of The Global Frequency who is part cyborg, due to the fact that she has a mechanical arm.  Although this moment in the text may not be of huge significance to the theme of women and technology, I felt as though it was definitely an interesting moment of similarity between the two texts.

Another example of the relationship between women and technology in the chapter “Big Wheel” are the graphics used to depict the women on this given mission. Before I go into explaining this idea, I would like to go back to Haraway’s text. Within her essay she refers to a phrase “radical feminism.” In her text she explains how radical feminism pushes the idea of sexism by explaining how women are objectified for their sexual allure, and being thought of as sexual objects. Haraway writes, “MacKinnon argues that radical feminism necessarily adopted a different analytical strategy for Marxism, looking first not at the structure of class, but as the structure of sex/gender and its generative relationship, men’s constitution and the appropriation of women sexually,” she continues by this known concept by saying, “sexual objectification, not alienation, is the consequence of the structure of sex/gender. In the realm of knowledge, the result of sexual objectification is illusion and abstraction…she owes her existence as a women to sexual appropriation” (Haraway 18). In my opinion Ellis uses graphics which

In "Big Wheel," one of the female characters is part machine, or how Donna Haraway may describe her--part "cyborg." Furthermore, this scene shows two strong female characters, and two hesitant weaker male characters.

In “Big Wheel,” one of the female characters is part machine, or how Donna Haraway may describe her–part “cyborg.” Furthermore, this scene shows two strong female characters, and two hesitant weaker male characters during the given mission.

push away this concept of radical feminism and the idea of a women’s worth being defined by sexual objectification. Ellis does so by showing the women as strong-minded, muscular, aggressive, and bold. Two of the women specifically–one having short hair, and the other having her hair slicked back, and both their bodies are drawn to look similar to some of the men, rid these characters of virtually any femininity. Furthermore, they also appear to be stronger than some of the men in this chapter. I found this to be and interesting aspect. I feel as though Ellis is pushing the gender boundaries immediately in this book by removing the ability to sexualize the female characters. Showing that women too can be strong and authoritative. For me these were two examples of how the topic of feminism in technology has already appeared in Global Frequency.

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3 Responses to The Feminism behind “Big Wheel”

  1. raddishspirit says:

    One thing I particularly liked about this chapter as well is that the woman with the bionic arm has now blurred the line between the two genders even more. No longer is man the stronger gender. I would say that this is a continuation of Harroway’s work in that increasing technological development has put both genders and all people in general on a more equal standing. Ellis appears to agree with this thought as he makes the only two recurring characters in the comic both female.


  2. aminoacid2020 says:

    I also saw this parallel between Donna Haraway’s manifesto and Big Wheel and their relationship between the female and technology. I thought it was such a vivid comparison and although I also wrote about these two pieces, I didn’t gear my attention toward the feminism aspect (I think it was out of fear that I didn’t completely grasp or pull a strong enough argument between the two) yet I loved your analysis of the two! I really enjoyed your attention to how the women in that chapter were drawn compared to the men. I didn’t even notice until you pointed out in your picture caption of how the men look timid and weak compared to the female characters. My favorite part was when you said, “I feel as though Ellis is pushing the gender boundaries immediately in this book by removing the ability to sexualize the female characters.” To me this sentence really stood out especially compared to Haraway’s manifesto and her ideas toward feminism and technology. To me, I also saw this strong feminine presence in the mere fact that the top positions in the Global Frequency were held by women. However, I wonder though if the idea to portray the women in this muscular physique was directed by Ellis himself or if that was the artist’s own perspective/interpretation of the character. I only mention this because I keep recalling the dramatic physical change to Aleph’s character throughout the novel and how that correlated to Ellis’s perspective, although I completely agree with you about Ellis pushing the female boundaries.


    • danwillisdan says:

      Absolutely. There are certain times when the collaboration between Ellis and his illustrators seems to fall back on tired, oversexed comic book art-style. But there are still so many characters whose demeanors and appearances are unusual by comic book standards, which all too often require that they be attractive and powerful and brooding and American, man or woman. Simon Bisley’s interpretations of Mr. Grushko and Ms. Lau in Detonation is so interesting. His scarred face and tiny glasses seem to morph between panels. He’s menacing and formless, pockmarked by shadows, overweight but still so bold and confident. Lau, on the other hand, is tiny and mysterious (referred to by Miranda Zero only as a specialist). She wears a Diane Keaton-esque outfit and derives her power from her cunning and negotiation skills. They’re really unusual heroes but they fit so perfectly into Warren Ellis’s apparent ideas about representation.


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