by Ceci Kulp
“Whilst capitalism is understood as a complex and ever-expanding totality, many would-be emancipatory anti-capitalist projects remain profoundly fearful of transitioning to the universal, resisting big-picture speculative politics by condemning them as necessarily oppressive vectors. Such a false guarantee treats universals as absolute, generating a debilitating disjuncture between the thing we seek to depose and the strategies we advance to depose it.”
– XF Manifesto by Laboria Cuboniks
Interrupt 0x05 http://www.laboriacuboniks.net/index.html#interrupt/1
The recently published book “Xenofeminism” by Helen Hesteris an illuminating overview on the topic of posthumanism with specific coverage on social reproduction and accelerationism. Her writing expands the discourse of Laboria Cuboniks manifesto “Xenofeminism: A Politics for Alienation”while taking further steps toward a call to action to reengineer the world and how kinship has been defined. Through practical examples she highlights the constraints of the surrounding cultural system inside which technologies are born, and lays a solid base of consideration for a conscious feminist activism.
Starting from the definition of Xenofeminism (XF), “a gender abolitionist, anti-naturalist, technomaterialist form of posthumanism”, Hester’s dissertation outlines very clearly the three main arguments supporting XF movement: technology as an activist tool, nature as the arena of science, gender as an obsolete and laughable concept.
Finally I would say this book is a must-read rational queer-splanation charged with disillusioned accelerationism and cut-the-bullshit call to action. I will go through it briefly with the hope of triggering some meaningful diffractions.
Technology is social as society is technical
The mythological perception of technoas the remedial skill for any imperfection is far beyond a realistic view of the world we live in. Technology is a tool, entangled from its first conception till the moment of its repurposing to the surrounding filth of power and resource distribution. There’s nothing clean and pure about technology, and XF should be aware of this when using it to impact woman/queer life.
Hester’s starting point is a wake up call for the disenchanted minds who believed in a future tech-savior that would free the individualby default. In brief, an activist discourse that considers technological aspects as the subject matter of ‘others’/‘experts’ is not seeing the potential of these tools for political intervention, and is denying its responsibility by stepping out of the socio-technical complexity.
The natural as a space for contestation
In the same line of technomaterialist progress, there’s the importance of eliminating the hypocrisy of a simplistic categorization of lived experience. This resides in the anti-naturalist approach which understands that nothing is sacred, nothing is supernatural, more even so is nature. Hester clarifies this concept by bringing up the problematic argument of some feminist politics which romanticizes the suffering caused by a biological condition (example pregnancy). This kind of political project which frames nature as a limit leads only to the conservative idea of radical difference. The body should be instead a site for feminist techno-political intervention.
Multiply gendered world
The third point of the XF discourse, is the abolition of the binary gender system, or better said: XF is not a call for gender austerity but for a gender post-scarcity. It’s not only gender,that Hester’s referring to, but all structures that act as basis of oppressionincluding the concept of identity itself. It’s immediately clear that hundreds of dropdown menuscannot be the solution and that diversityas it is today in the political discourse is only pretending to cover the spectrum of queerness.
The techno-alien future
After exploring XF fundamentals in the first part of the book, Hester continues her dissertation diving into the social and biological reproduction issue.
She confronts the idealization of the Child (metaphor of a future that needs to be protected) and how this subtle norm consolidates the systematicpropagation of the same. Partially supported by the myth of femininity in the ecofeminist discourse, the vocabulary used by these politics specifically frames as toxic anything that stops the becoming of the Child, and reveals a fear for mutation: queerness as pollution.
Preserving this unmutated future is one of the goals that our society of consumerism has consolidated throughout a copy mechanism driven by repetition/alienation.
For a society that moves on striving for the alterand not the utopian copy of the self, it’s necessary to emphasise XF solidarity and relational reproduction (“make kin not babies”).
Finally with “XF technologies”, Hester concludes the book by bringing tangible examples of how a xenofeminist technology looks like, and what are the dependencies which we can’t ignore when repurposing tech. For instance knowing the importance of an open source healthcare and access to self-help shouldn’t satisfy us as we’re still relying on the medical infrastructure and information system provided.
It’s maybe necessary to move forward into a overhauled hacking mindset in order to rethink and propose a new systemas alternative. This is the factual call to action that leftists can’t ignore, and it is as well an open question for XF techno-political next steps.
Diffracting further from Hester’s thesis, I would like to propose the basis for the possibility for the existence of a gender accelerationismmovement.
While it is under the eyes of everyone that xenophobia towards gender ramifications is not dead, and on the contrary it is proliferating with the rise of far-right movements across the globe, on the other hand we experience a very interesting effort from the many capitalist enterprises towards multiculturality and multi-diverse work environments. A neoliberal perspective that brings a sense of belonging to fellow affiliates.
Most corporations have an anti-drug policy, a no alcohol on the premises policy, dog-friendly policy, free fruit deliveries for the vitamin deficient policy and even directed, ergonomic exercise programs for those stuck hand-jamming at their PCs. But I argue these policies do not go far enough, as gender remains to be the least defined with “only” LGBTQ communities getting the largest slice for consideration in anti-discrimination policies.
That’s why I propose the gender accelerationist movement to jump on board all diversity efforts and push them to full speed.
What is it to bring more women to the workforce with politics of equality? Or to support trans- and homosexuality during civil rights demonstrations (i.e. Multinational conglomerates such as Amazon participated and funded entire portions of Pride Parades in cities across the globe)? These efforts prove nothing if we can’t reach the same for all (im)possible genders.
We should be looking for and move towards a systematic request for more and more inclusion and diversification, “Let a hundred sexes bloom!”, and then require these kantian categorizations to be included in every single political / economic decision.
By creating a spiral of never ending work in progressof political correctness for each newlyborn gender, the pressure towards such efforts will eventually explode into a NaN gender with the only possible acceptance out of the loop being the recognition of gender as an obsolete concept.
There’s a vast reality of everyday actions which can be the starting point for such acceleration. Support and strive for inclusion, with every possible means and I take memes as a great example, algorithmic re-shaping and re-purposing is another one. A double battle on the dialectic side with argumentation to the embracing of an exponential diversification, and on the troll-e-matic spectrum side by creating significance on top of significance in a hyperrealistic strive to mirror the social reproduction.
Let every XF hijack your system and prepare for mutation.
∞ = ∅
Published by Polity Press – May 2018
H. Hester (2018) Xenofeminism, p.7
D. Haraway (2016) Staying with the Trouble, p.55
XF Manifesto – Parity 0x0E http://www.laboriacuboniks.net
Image Credit: Ceci Kulp // Mix of Xenofeminism book cover, Clownfish https://pixabay.com/en/fish-aquarium-nemo-clownfish-sea-959636/, Hermaphroditus Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermaphroditus#/media/File:IAM_363T_-_Hermaphroditus_statue.jpg