Feelings Were Stirred
Hyperbolic comparisons, grinding misogyny to dust
Useless Moralisms/Cruel Conventions/Pretentions/Disquisitions
Reading “The Bad Feature” (Issue 37) I was frustrated by much but most of all by the solipsistic self-loathing at the heart of the argumentation. For Danielle Carr, the everyday “contradictions” in actually-existing health-care struggles with which any Marxist should be familiar are, for some reason, fascinating, ponderous, and intractable. No horizon of liberated gender, collective biohacking sovereignty, community autonomy, or communist abundance heaves in sight; and, despite many name-checks, there are no dialectics here — biomedical Keynesianism is the limit. The essay is far more akin in this to Andrea Long Chu’s infamous New York Times op-ed “My New Vagina Won’t Make Me Happy” than its author clearly believes. My stance in both cases is that publishing disgusted disquisitions on femininity does not become OK, let alone useful, simply because you’ve made yourself (a trans woman, a cis woman, whatever) the prime target for this hatred. You don’t get a pass for your transmisogyny simply because you allege that all women are trans women. “To be a woman,” asserts Carr, “is to engage in constant revision of our horrific, obdurate bodies.” Come on: think of the myriad women who disprove this. Why did such an insincere, nihilistic definition pass muster, editorially?
Yet prime among the fair number of women who do, lamentably, experience “becoming woman” in this way is, as we learn, the author, a self-trivializing sufferer of something that actually sounds utterly awful: “a dysmorphia too mortifying to describe any further.” Carr never tells us exactly what surgery she had, only describing it as possibly “the dumbest thing I had ever done” — a direct insult to others masked in plausible deniability — in a move typical of a piece that is, after all, centrally premised on talking about the rationing of trans womanhood by extrapolating from cis experience. She confides in us shamefacedly (as though desperation were a cause for shame) that she was “not not desperate,” then quickly follows up with “most women are, if you ask me.” Today’s woman, she sighs, unaware of the gender-liberationist insurgencies taking place all over the world, “seems to use technology only to get a leg up within the game patriarchal capitalism has set up for her. . . . Woman is born cyborg, yet she is everywhere Instagramming.” It is depressing in my view — unedifyingly so — to witness someone being so femmephobically cruel, not only to everyone else but to themselves, over eight thousand words.
In the final analysis, Carr imagines that having it done must necessarily either reproduce capitalist abjection, or somehow subvert it.
Admittedly, the social location in which Carr exists, like her gloss on the “wager” of the welfare state and her reading of Donna Haraway’s cyborg, is not one I recognize. Apparently, Carr “c[a]me out as queer” lately (and this was, she attests, “less personally or politically embarrassing in polite left-liberal society . . . than to admit to having had plastic surgery”). The possibility of solidarity, however, is declared unavailable to her: “It’s every woman for herself out here under the unforgiving glint of the needle, the scalpel, the credit card chip.” Again — no. Though I, too, am no stranger to depression, this hasn’t stopped me from noticing that nothing could be further from the reality of women funding and midwifing one another’s surgeries: the empirical, pragmatic reality of mutual aid and reciprocal enchantment between trans, black, and femme people.
In the final analysis, Carr imagines that having it done must necessarily either reproduce capitalist abjection, or somehow subvert it. In actuality, as Kay Gabriel argues in the pages of Invert magazine, both positions “are moralisms, and both are equally useless.”
— Sophie Lewis