Piss Gauntlet

I woke up to an insane amount of notifications on Twitter this morning after pointing to the latest attempt at a takedown of Xenofeminism.

Jules Joanne Gleeson has written an article for MetaMute called “Breakthroughs & Bait: On Xenofeminism & Alienation” which deals with The Xenofeminist Manifesto and its “best critics”.

Evidently, there are slim pickings when writing an article like this because all Gleeson seems to deal with is Annie Goh’s glorified Facebook rant and Sophie Lewis’s repetition of her arguments elsewhere (albeit tailored to fit with her book for Verso).

I think the most frustrating thing about these successive attempts to disavow XF is that each writer has in turn acted as if they’re throwing down the gauntlet — here are our challenges, now come at us! But, speaking of breakthroughs versus bait, all that is liable to emerge from any of these critiques is a pissing contest.

The question I’d like to ask of these critical trio is: How can you expect anyone to bother addressing any of these arguments when they betray an embarrassing ignorance of their source material? Are you completely unaware of this? If so, what’s the aim here? Just to protect the boundaries of your academic institutions?

The Xenofeminist Manifesto was an attempt to thrown down the cyberfeminist gauntlet in our present era by a loose collection of para-academics and feminists who wanted to shake up contemporary thought. And they did just that, with an array of references and challenges to be built upon.

This is obvious, you’d hope — it’s a manifesto after all: a form that inevitably comes with various problems and demands regarding its unpacking. So simply declaring that its contents aren’t developed enough is a weird approach to take. (I’ve addressed all this before.)

What I’d like to demand, in turn, of these critics is that they at least do the necessary work to understand what it is they’re trying to pick a fight with, because the holes in their research — never mind their reasoning, as highlighted by @qdnoktsqfr and @Josh86480104 — are nothing short of embarrassing.

If they want to introduce some academic and political rigour to the XFM, that means keeping up with the field you want to critique. Instead, each article feels immediately out-dated, taking a five-year-old text at face value, providing — as Sophie Lewis rightly acknowledged — “a paranoid reading” of a text but not its present environment.

Gleeson’s “response” drives all these previous points home. A response is an answer, isn’t it? A response is a reaction. Gleeson’s reaction seems limited to: “here’s what Goh and Lewis said with a few more details”, and these in themselves are further out of date. As S.C. Hickman rhetorically asked: “Anything that doesn’t reduce to 19th Century Marxist thought becomes ‘fascist’? Spoofy world; bogus thought.”

Personally, I’ve struggled to get past the article’s third paragraph, in which Gleeson argues that “since 2015 a furtive network of pseudonymous Twitter accounts and shortlived cultural spaces have arisen to develop ‘unlimited accelerationism’ as a lively esoteric fascist movement (known as ‘u/acc’).”

U/Acc — unconditional (not ‘unlimited’) accelerationism — is an emerging area of thought that has already been thinking about and dealing with the questions that Goh, Lewis and Gleeson throw out from their respective positions as an attempt at some sort of ‘gotcha’ moment. Most memorably, Goh’s critique was that u/acc is an “appropriation of the alien” — ironically whitewashing the Ccru and its influences based on a contemporary perception of contemporary Twitter shitposters.

Her main issue was with the “xeno-” prefix:

The Greek xenos means ‘strange’ or ‘foreign’, and the prefix ‘xeno’ commonly denotes ‘relating to a foreigner or foreigners’. The name ‘xenofeminism’ is one of the first things people often query and I recall an audience question at the book launch regarding the prefix ‘xeno’, in relation to how the collective negotiated any proximity it might therefore seem to have to the commonly associated word ‘xenophobia’. A somewhat awkward answer came back from the collective to the effect that: ‘among us (the authors), some of us are queer, some of us are trans, some of us are mothers […] we are all white and from the Global North.’ Yet, we were assured that the manifesto’s subtitle, ‘a Politics for Alienation’, associated xenofeminism with the notion of ‘alienness’, but not the ‘xeno’ of ‘xenophobia’. … [W]ith xenophobia being a very real and pressing issue in the context of the contemporary resurgence of the far-right, and with the well-known rise of white nationalist and Islamophobic feminisms, to make this immediate equivalence of ‘xeno’ with ‘alienness’ and attempt to fill it with positive rather than negative content, cannot be regarded as straightforward.

Sophie Lewis summarised her questions as: “Xeno for who? Xeno from whose perspective?”

Such is the question inherently asked by accelerationism and unconditional accelerationism most explicitly. The challenge repeatedly put to equivalences of u/acc-adjacent discourses with the acc of the Christchurch shooter is that the latter is precisely the kind of modern subject that u/acc attempts to critique.

More generally, after the left and right accelerationisms of the early 2010s found themselves limited by subjective biases, u/acc emerged to challenge these assumptions (and so did the XFM itself) asking precisely the question of “xeno for who?” Nyx’s gender accelerationism blackpaper had one answer to this — notably absent from all critiques despite being the most well-known continuation of the XF challenge to now.

This is likewise something I explored in depth in this blog’s U/Acc Primer, which I’m proud has become this site’s most viewed post and is frequently shared on imageboards to counter the prevailing alt-right acc appropriation.

XF’s critics are unaware of this, of course. They lump everything in together betraying an total ignorance of their own subject matter. They focus entirely on Nick Land, doing more to limit the perspective of acc-adjacent discourses than the people they supposedly critique. And what’s worse is it’s not like any of this other stuff is hard to find.

It begs the question of who their critiques are for. They only embolden the anti-intellectual, unengaged and clout-seeking. They are preaching to the converted. If they’d like to be taken seriously by those in their crosshairs, maybe even change the minds of those who think xenofeminist is pretty cool, the least anyone such expect is an actual engagement with the arguments on the table, rather than a superficial paranoid appraisal of art world buzzwords.

Do better, then each might get the sort of responses they mistakenly think they deserve.

UPDATE #1: Gleeson has responded to this post with the dismissal that it’s “1100 word blog saying I’m not worth responding to, lol.”

It’s not that I don’t think she shouldn’t be responded to but simply can’t, because the inaccuracies undermine everything she has to say. This post isn’t intended as a response but a nod to everything written since the XFM that extends its questions and has already dealt with many of the badly formed questions posed in her article, as well as Goh’s and Lewis’s.

I share @qdnoktsqfr’s position:

I would have been a full supporter of her comments there, if not for the terrible tribunal-style associationism that holds sway throughout the first half of the article, whatever its retrospective ‘methodological’ justification. [1]

I no longer have any mercy for this way-too-easy ‘intellectual contamination’ argument. [2]

UPDATE #2: There was a line in this post that suggested Gleeson was suggesting the XFM had a “transphobic undercurrent”. She has correctly pointed out that this isn’t the case and so it has been removed.

Is she capable of rectifying all the myriad inaccuracies left in her own text?

Typos are not the issue — it’s the dismissal and shadowboxing of a thought, declaring it “a lively esoteric fascist movement”, when in fact already attempts to deal with the challenges she is posing. It is this that undermines the rest of the argument, as it undermines the arguments of all the others. You don’t know who you say is your enemy.

UPDATE #3: An extra something here, in lieu of a Twitter hellthread I don’t have the time for, there’s a short reprisal here that hopefully gets more to the point of what is missed by these bizarre XF articles that can’t help but get digs in about adjacent discourses.


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