On The Hyper Real
Is anyone a feminist anymore?
The revolution is not molecular; rather, movement resides in the interstitial shuttling—“the ruptural moment in which to intervene”—between intensive multiplicity and its most likely recapture. — Jasbir Puar, The Right to Maim
All I really wanted, I think, was an excuse to dream, to get away from my family, to get taken care of in that neutral, uncomplicated, transactional and tenable way that the exchange of money goads to promise. I wanted spontaneous pettyisms. I wanted the blasé simultaneity of sharing space with strangers. I wanted detachment. — Tiana Reid, “Getting Done Up When You’re Coming Undone”
We are faced once again with a dilemma: What must be done? Our reply is: Violence is not the monopoly of the exploiters and as such the exploited can use it too and, moreover, ought to use it when the moment arrives. — Che Guevara, “On Guerilla Warfare”
Is anyone a feminist anymore?
I am, probably, about three years too late on this question. It’s been done to death, albeit at times indirectly, and now feels almost tasteless. Of course we’re feminists, you could say, duh. And true, how manly it is of me to even bait the question this way. But the unfortunate result of being so online is that the speed of interactions and new events sometimes forces you to move too quickly from one subject to another. I talked about this the other week with my friend Vince Rozario, who actually reads and cares about art or whatever, and they mentioned a man name Jean Baudrillard (who I immediately went home and did not read— I’m different!). In Vince’s words, we’re experiencing a kind of hyperreality, wherein different models of or ideas about what constitutes the observable, experiential world are generated somewhat a priori, sans tether to an actual observable, experiential reality. Wikipedia, my bashert, frames it thus: “hyperreality is a representation, a sign, without an original referent.”
Digging in, I brought up another contemporary theme: conspiracy. In these unprecedented times (a phrase I have borrowed from about a thousand March 2020 emails and now sprinkle generously into every conversation), conspiracy is fabulously in vogue. And why not! “Conspiracy theory boasts an impressive lineage in the settler politics of this continent,” I wrote not too long ago; COVID-19 has only crystallized it, entrenched its hold. That, compounded with right wing fear-mongering and the very real, very present danger of infiltration and surveillance by the state, has made us all a bit conspiratorial, and certainly suspicious — to ourselves and to others. The hyperreal of the internet allows such theories to flourish, popping up in WhatsApp chains and Facebook groups, Twitter threads and Discords. I do not like to think about the Internet as having qualitatively changed how and why politics and culture move the way it does; what-could-have-beens are sad fantasies, plus my social sciences background scoffs at the notion of any kind of predictive capacity). Instead, the term I prefer is acceleration. Everything is moving very, very quickly, and climbing much, much higher than our monkey brains can reasonably imagine. We are living in a parabolic culture. Whatever niches might form organically have been turbo charged into dense pockets of extremophilic politics, the Platonic cave as echo chamber. Part of this means that certain ideas and tropes have become redundant, almost blasé, before they are even dealt with in any meaningful way. Certain truths are just accepted. Connections are formed before they’re fully baked. The discourse speaks for us, even when we are not aware of what we speak.
For me as a writer, it is unsettling seeing how the productive logics of venture capitalist media have forced my hand in participating in a hot take economy for which six months feels like 10 years, where everything must be remarked upon, where newsworthiness is a constantly shifting terrain upon which I must maintain even footing, churning out new work on new topics in order to stay relevant, whatever that means. Laid out diagrammatically, imagine ill-advised investors as the “base,” and all your favourite anxiety-ridden writers rushing to discern the political weight of a new music video or politician’s tweet or piece of ad copy as the “superstructure.” The means of production shape the forms of culture in which we live, and in turn, the ideological conditions that appear to naturalize this culture, even among those old enough to remember a time before it.
Back to my initial question. Is anyone a feminist anymore? I mean, on some level, yes, obviously. But also, I’m not so sure. In November 2019, on the subway on my way to a protest at a Toronto university campus that would overnight become infamous for the outright lies told about it by politicians who were not in attendance, I read a BuzzFeed essay about “dissociation feminism.” It sucked. But I was struck by the plethora of examples the author found for a kind of ostensiblefeminism defined by the lackadaisical, almost bored affinity of female protagonists, real and fictional, for their not-entirely subjugated circumstances. Nihilism, for girls!
I was struck by it, mostly because I found it utterly unrelatable, and frankly, way too generous. The feminists I know are hardly the off-white dissociating deadpans of Fleabag or Red Scare; they are engaged, pithy, exuberant, coordinated, and if they dissociate, it is because they are inundated with trauma are overwhelmed by the lifelong project of its healing — they are, as the kids say, doing the work. Feminism is in the streets, literally right now as you read this. Feminists are putting themselves in danger for liberation from police violence and the anti-Black carceral state and its attendant technologies of surveillance. Criticism is valuable, sure, and it’s what I have to offer, but I don’t pretend that my exhaustion and frustration constitutes a feminist program, nor that any petty, stupid hostility I may bear to other women is defensible on the basis of “feminism.” The question of “what is to be done” is not just a good line. It’s an incitement, a call to action, awaiting real response.
I will freely admit that it is kind of uncool to be so earnestly concerned with the future of feminism. But I can’t help it. Feminism is too easy a target, for no fucking reason, and the stakes are too high. Men are too emboldened. The high-speed simulacra of the digitized having conversations industrial complex, desperate electoralism, tumblrified ad-speak sloganeering, and outright grifting by weird white women with memeable misogyny have both produced and been produced by this space; an unsettling state of affairs. We have given ground, and it means we are losing. What we are witnessing, I believe, is a recursion to models of womanhood mired in blood and offal, or else, in a kind of post-feminist abandon, a willing submission to the senselessness of the hyper-real, a sign without an original reference. It has generated a sort of frantic politics of what feminism “thinks” that women “should” do, the politics of being a feminist subject — someone who is good or bad for feminism — rather than fixated on the goal of becoming free. This is a problem.
It is boring and tacky to turn personal gripe into polemic. So read me generously. I am asking not to simply block and report, or any such pettiness. Rather, I want us to be able to recognize infiltration when we see it.
As feminists, as communists, as women, as lovers, our enemies are everywhere. How do we overcome these obstacles, and build livable worlds for one another even in their midst? How do we develop programs and politics that speak to and with each other, across difference, towards common goals of liberation and equality? How can we step outside of the constricting culture of criticism, reaction, what gets passed off as “discourse” or “debate” by forces openly hostile to women’s freedom to enjoy meaningful lives beyond the threat of patriarchal violence, whether that violence is intimate or at the hands of the state?
If I can be expansive: How do we win?
I’m almost done. Keep reading.
Combat Liberalism, Mao Zedong
To let things drift if they do not affect one personally; to say as little as possible while knowing perfectly well what is wrong, to be worldly wise and play safe and seek only to avoid blame. This is a third type.
The Case For Facial Feminization Surgery, Alex V Green, BuzzFeed
Calls for gender-affirming care like FFS are therefore not mere recursions to individual choice. Instead, they represent a demand for an entirely new and better way of life, including a healthcare system premised on bodily autonomy and opposed to austerity. There is nothing diversionary about this. In fact, it is exhilarating in its revolutionary breadth. And this, I believe, is why we must recognize that the over-politicization of transition does not exist in a vacuum. Political and cultural attacks on our access to gender-affirming care in the name of women’s rights, public safety, and financial responsibility are occurring now alongside the militarization and privatization of public life, expanding regimes of tracking and surveillance, and the spiraling descent of feminist politics into electoral euphemism and commercial brand strategy. These events are not only coincident, but contingent — they enforce and entrench one another. They are all symptoms of fascism, liberalism’s twin sister, and must be fought as one.
Mounting 008, Harron Walker, The Mounting Series
Melanie saw how Delilah had figured it out, and wondered, amidst pangs of jealousy and regret, whether she should drop out of her content gig and try to do the same. But she’d already invested so much of herself trying to make it as a writer—to make it like Natasha. Success like Natasha’s was nearly hers. She knew it. She could feel it. She could graze it with her fingertips—just reach out and grab it if she wanted to. Something was going to give sooner or later, and it wasn’t going to be her.