I’m starting to regret yesterday’s missive on XF sent out into the blogosphere, a rapid response to the latest article to take a swipe against xenofeminism’s neighbours, if only because I’m reminded of how mind-numbing Twitter arguments are. I prefer the blog. Sorry.
The point being made in that glossed overview — written fervently (and as ever) on my lunch break yesterday — of a year of XF discomfort emanating from a predictable subsection of Facebook leftists, seemingly missed by the critics mentioned in the post themselves, is that their arguments are undermined by their insistence on a bubblewrap of caveats and bad research that hang around them.
More patient readers than I have noted that the most recent article on Metamute, about XF and alienation more broadly, actually has some interesting things to say once you get past the language of “sniff[ing] out the suspect traces” and unfounded accusations of “lively esoteric fascist movement[s]” that make up XF’s still-unravelling genealogy.
In fact, Gleeson’s conclusion, read in isolation, is a good one. She is right to say that “we need to move beyond either accepting [XF’s] terms, or denouncing its corruptions.” “Repair work must begin here”, she says, and that is a sentiment I am happy to get behind.
So why did the article’s beginning only serve to perpetuate the opposite?
I’m reminded of a paragraph in Annie Goh’s critique where she falls into the same hypocrisy, noting how “Mark Fisher heaped praise on the [XF] collective for ‘definitively grasp[ing] feminism back from the […] hands of the moralising-spiteful petit-bourgeoisie’.” Unfortunately, despite this, Goh’s recognisably Goldsmiths variety of squeamishness later takes over.
Because that’s what this is. Sophie Lewis asked from which academic institutions she and the others are supposedly supposed to be boundary policing, presumably because she isn’t officially affiliated with any, but this is precisely where this need to disavow without research came from. It was a paranoia that fell out from Goldsmiths in 2017 and leaked all over the rest of the London Left. Whether affiliated or not, that’s where this came from and it is for those sorts of people that these snide acts of disavowal take place. It is a type of “saving face” that is endemic and petty.
It was following the reemergence of this in Gleeson’s article that the point was made yesterday that, rather than dismiss U/Acc as fascist without evidence, or based on nothing other than the long shadow of Land, why not take a closer look and see what is being done to further interrogate XF’s questions of otherness and alienation in that adjacent discourse? Because there’s plenty going on there.
This isn’t just a tantrum over being sidelined, as Gleeson assumed. It sticks in my craw only partly because I’m proud of this blog’s U/Acc Primer repeatedly finding itself on imageboards, posted by people seeking to counteract the alt-right bastardisation of these discourses that Gleeson lumps us in with. I’d wager that post alone has done more than most articles to turn 4chan shitposters away from violent edgelording and towards an actual engagement with the ideas, but I’m far from the only person writing on these issues. In the aftermath of some atrocious events where accelerationism and its influences have found themselves in very hot water this year, U/Acc writers has done more than any other subsection of people to galvanise debate to the contrary, and its transfeminist contingent is exemplary of this.
Gleeson’s response to this yesterday was that the article wasn’t about U/Acc and XF does its own thing — of course it does — but surely this is still implicitly relevant to the argument she ends on about comradeship, togetherness and repair? Starting off with such an embarrassing misrepresentation of an adjacent discourse is a pretty bad start to that, isn’t it? It begs the question of who it is they want to repair relations with. Their own inner circle? Not a bad place to start but it stinks of London leftist myopia.
This morning on Twitter, Sophie Lewis weighed in with her own weird logic that echoes this as well. She’s friends with Helen Hester, you see, and so she feels emboldened by the fact that “at least one of the authors that are the subjects of the comradely critiques did explicitly regard them as comradely.” But the thoughts of a single individual don’t make for a strong endorsement of comradeship by any measure. (No shade cast on Helen but the argument is dumb all the same.)
This is the issue that seems totally lost on those concerned over the last two days. They betray themselves to be in favour of the Goldsmiths version of comradeship — internally emboldened, critiqued just enough to appear progressive whilst still being run by the same “moralising-spiteful petit-bourgeoisie” that the politics they pay lip service to was meant to unground. The insistence on scattering poorly researched digs at others throughout their texts proves it and the overall conclusions being made here, by Gleeson in particular, deserve far better than that.