2015 — Critical Essay

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Towards a Xenofeminist Future

Aria Dean

Topical Cream

In particular, the online curation of identity that most of us engage in – even those Facebook friends whose profiles embody an “anti-aesthetic” – is both freeing and shackling at once. Online queer and trans* subcultures show us, for instance, how powerful a network can be, allowing users to form solidarities in ways that “geographic dispersal previously made impossible.” This organizing has been “a source of strength for many,” LC notes, allowing individuals to not only possess more agency in their self-representation, but also to collectively curate a network of queer and trans* identities that are high-profile platforms for activism.

At the same time, one is forced to question the politics of visibility at play. Is visibility always empowering? To view the function of online identity formation and representation as only emancipatory fails to account for the “commodified and specularized cultures ” that the rise of the image and subordination of text within the digital environment bolsters. Laboria Cuboniks depart from popular readings of her Cyberfeminist predecessors in her attention to this shift; such figures as Donna Haraway, Sadie Plant, and VNS Matrix are now brushed aside for their techno-utopian disregard for the body and belief in the fluidity of identity online. Laboria, while inheriting their “refusal to code the body as natural” and hopeful attitude toward technology as a tool for emancipation, rather acknowledges the digital’s role in deeply entrenching us in identity politics and peer policing. Users everywhere feel “pressure to maintain [their] image in a particular way, while being susceptible to constant threats of attack, harassment, or moral dogpiling.”