Notes on Bioconservative Feminism: Femonationalists, White Slaves and Adult Human Females with Sophie Lewis

Oh I do so so enjoy blogging about Sophie Lewis. Always an entertainment. She popped up on Twitter recently for a bit of mutual admiration, much to my complete and utter delight.

Poor Sophie felt she had to delete the tweet!

Apparently it is absolutely hilarious that I didn’t realise that her piece – If Heterosexualism Existed, We Wouldn’t Have to Make it Up – is actually a masterwork of post-modern irony, and not a pile of unreadable and inexecrable cack, as I originally suspected. My bad.

In fact, such is the power of the piece, it has attracted precisely three comments since it was originally posted on 12 February 2020, one confidently telling its author: ‘This is the most pretentious garbage I have read in a single article,’ and the other two promoting the Prophet Abulele and Dr Raypower respectively. The piece is, as darling Sophie points out, a joke.

About the event

Join us for our Works-in-Progress Series with APC Visiting Scholar Sophie Lewis

Join us for our APC Works-in-Progress Series with Visiting Scholar Sophie Lewis as she presents her work: “Notes on Bioconservative Feminism: Femonationalists, White Slaves and Adult Human Females”.

Blurb from Eventbrite

About the hosting centre

The Alice Paul Center for Research on gender, sexuality and women is part of the University of Pennsylvania and named after a suffragette who played a significant role in the passing of the 19th Amendment (a woman’s right to vote). Nowadays the centre’s focus is naturally on inserting X’s into places where they don’t belong, like Florxal Review & Tropical Sacrifice and Queering Latinx: Imagining Inclusive Urban Spaces. Nearly all of their events currently advertised has a queer theme.  

Sophie Lewis is their ‘visiting scholar’ and there we have our very first joke, laydees and germs.

The talk

Please be mad, please be mad, is often the mantra which runs through my head before entering these spaces. No such thought need cross my mind before a Lewis talk. And I thank her for that.

Sophie appeared on camera sleepy-eyed and in what appeared to be a pyjama top, which was profusely complimented by the host as ‘an awesome sweater’. Also on the call was Sophie’s male partner Vicky Osterweil. The host squealed with delight when she saw him and congratulated Osterweil on his book In Defense of Looting.

Jonathan D. Katz, who is described in his own bio as ‘perhaps the founding figure in queer art history’, gave Sophie an introduction which was frankly bonkers, describing her as having ‘profoundly reconfigured the intellectual stakes of what used to be understood as merely self-evident concepts, such as reproduction, gestation, or family’.

Public intellectual, prolific scholar, in-demand international speaker and a major voice in re-thinking the parameters and meanings of that sacred term ‘family’, Sophie melds the scholarly and [?]activist ways that echo the founding ideology behind the Alice Paul Center.

Katz on Lewis

There were just 17 people logged into the free call broadcast worldwide and when you discount the Center staff, Sophie’s friends and at least two terfs, it seemed that just ten people had logged in to listen to Sophie waffle, that’s how ‘in-demand’ she is.

Sophie is, of course, proudly anti anti-trans. She was going to speak about her second book project, which she admitted would be more of ‘trade book’ and less innovative than Feminism Against Family: Full Surrogacy Now. It took her a very long time to say it, but she is basically going to write a book about ‘white feminism,’ an already flooded genre and quite frankly she has missed the boat.

It was going to be a handy political guide as to why feminism which is ‘bioconservative’ (i.e. argues that oppression is sex-based) is not only flawed but is to be opposed. She would:

… lay bare the seductions for feminists of trans hostility, whiteness, carcerality, capitalist power and finally machismo. So I hope it goes without saying that this would be anything but a treatise against feminism, it’s because I care so much about gender liberation …

Pitch for the book

She went on to talk about the strategic violence which was ignored because it was females doing it. She claimed that feminism over three centuries had been eugenic, fascist (apparently in relation to lesbian suffragettes), hostile to queers and sex workers. Feminism had also been misogynist.

Some feminisms are not just different from [other feminisms], in other words, they are outright opposed to other feminism.

[…]

I am envisaging a partisan statement of feminism from within feminism against a bunch of feminism.

Said without a shred of irony

Sophie told us she wished had been able to read the book she is writing now when she first dipped her toe into feminism, because it would have spared her ‘a lot of confusion’.

Chapters of the book

There would be nine chapters in total.

Anti-feminism is a fascism

Hopefully espousing ‘anti-feminism is a fascism’ would situate her a ‘comradely critic’ and then she would guide the reader through the ‘bestiary’ of different fake feminisms, picking specific individuals to illustrate each archetype, which isn’t dehumanising, is it?

Bleak history of feminism

A whistlestop tour through all the ghastly fings wot wimmin have done in the name of women’s rights, e.g. colonial and white supremacist activities (no examples given obviously).

The Six Archetypes

The Girl Boss / Cancellist Feminist

Sophie reflected it would be difficult to make this interesting.

The White Slave aka millenarian aka biologically enslaved handmaiden cos player aka SWERFs and SERFs*

These are bio-conservative women with a wounded attachment to pure bodies untainted by artificiality and also by work (hah!). Trump was mentioned as being to blame for this.

*Surrogacy exclusionary radical feminist

The Adult Human Female aka Trans Exclusionary Feminist

Unfortunately this type appeared to be ‘making it in the US’. Sophie has taken the R away from them ‘cos they’re naughty.

The Femonationalist

This chapter was inspired by Sara Farris’s book In the Name of Women’s Rights: The Rise of Femonationalism. Put succinctly any woman who criticises anti-woman cultural practices is an Islamophobe.

That’s the chapter I have actually drafted and I have read out loud to Vicky Osterweil, here, present.

Sophie Lewis, aged 30 3/4
The Heterofatalist

More on that later!

The Dirtbag

Giggles but no further information.

Homage to the feminism which has set its sights beyond womanhood

This feminism was the sort of feminism which had rejected those other reactionary feminisms in no uncertain terms. It was the bestest feminism ‘cos it was about liberation and utopia and that’s what the chapter would be about.

I wonder if the reactionary feminisms might productively be called the ‘feminism of fools’ […] since part of the problem with the reactionary feminists […] is that they know it all, never permitting themselves to be foolish, in the sense of utopian.

Said a fool

Sophie used the Fool in the Arcana of the Tarot to demonstrate her point. That she is an idiot.

No, okay, she said the feminists she doesn’t personally agree with, are like the Fool because they can’t learn anything new. However, she did end saying don’t lose your connection with the Fool entirely as we might:

… lose our politically indispensable ability to de-familiarise and de-naturalise that which is given. To refuse our common sense, to collectively time travel. I wondering whether a purportive [SIC] foolishness might be proposed as an elementary component of a liberation feminism.

Nanopatticles, anyone?

Sophie then compared feminists who believe that oppression is sex-based to left wing anti-semites. As we all know ‘harridans cling to outrage’ and a feminist like White Slave is a ‘tiny bit right’ about criminalisation of prostitution but that position ultimately results in harm. Sophie wanted to help White Slave, Girl Boss, etc to ‘unlearn their understanding of gender and solidarity’.

Rather than simply blast the Feminisms of Fools with contempt, I want to stay to connected to that we are all liable to losing our way in the pleasures of violent certainties.

πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

Feminism throughout history, Sophie claimed, centred the needs of white, abled-bodied, fertile, maternal and naturally prosthesis-free women. The list went on. This was the ‘hegemon’ of the Girl Boss.

On the other hand there were scholars who could see the way out of the woods. A man like Emma Heaney, for example, who had understood that womanhood was ‘a field of mobile affinities’ and she hoped that this position could be rescued from ‘transphobic baggage’.

Q&A

On heterofatalism

A participant, I suspect student, wanted Sophie to talk about heterofatalism and said that she had loved the essay she had written on it (mentioned at the top of the blog) and then laughed slightly madly.

Sophie said it was inspired by Indiana Seresin’s essay On Heteropessism, and Seresin was also on the call. The essay is actually readable in comparison and does make some interesting points about the respective positions of #menaretrash and the Incel movement. Her basic argument is, I think, that we can all be queer (without defining what queer means).

Yes, universal queerness and the abolition of gender may be the horizon toward which we are eventually movingβ€”but what happens in the meantime?

On Heteropessism by Indiana Seresin

Sophie explained that her essay was written from an alien point of view. Heterofatalism was probably a more harmless form of the ‘feminism of fools’ because the sin was a melancholic self-abnegating anti-utopianism which harmed its believers by ruining their sex lives.

Sophie’s latest essay is My Octopus Girlfriend. You’ll forgive me for only making it halfway through, but it is basically bad sex writing:

Her body felt like a polymorphic tapestry made up of one trillion thirsty assholes flung wide in blinking, ecstatic welcome. Never before had her cunt opened so wide or drenched its surroundings to this extent. 

Lewis describing herself in third person after dropping acid and watching the Netflix documentary My Octopus Teacher

And then a good old whinge about the tweet below which went viral. That was really as far as I could go. Sorry.

And then everyone clapped

It is worth pointing out that many have said that the documentary had no erotic focus whatsoever? Probably not. I have not seen it but this appears to borne out by reviews in Variety and New Scientist, but when did the truth ever matter to queer theorists?

Sophie lectured her small audience of the adventure of women abandoning heterosexuality and being in lesbian relationships, no doubt believing herself to be in one, but since she does not believe that ‘women are an actual thing’ this makes it a big ask.

Combatting stuff which says it’s feminist when it actually isn’t

Sophie reassured us she wasn’t going to write the same book as all those white feminists had already written on white feminism. Feminism had never been particularly functional and had been imperial (no examples given, obviously).

Alice Schwarzer and Ayaan Hersi Ali were described as Islamophobes by Sophie. Presumably Schwarzer because she has written about the New Year’s Eve in Cologne when German women where deliberately targeted by an organised group of over one thousand men of Arab and North African heritage for sexual assault and harassment. Schwarzer has described these men as Islamist (not Muslim).

On the other hand, Ayaan Hersi Ali has experienced up close the realities of criticising Islam. After she made a short film with Theo van Gogh he was murdered. She bravely continues to level criticism, not only at Islamists, but also at the double standards that Western feminists often apply to women living under theocratic dictatorships, which she explains in this short video: Why Don’t Feminists Fight for Muslim Women?

Sophie said that Ayaan Hersi Ali is a Femonationalist (remember this is a just her new fangled way of saying Islamophobe) and that Ali ‘was like crush the muslims‘ in her interviews (one suspects that Ali is far too circumspect to say anything near this obtuse). Sophie had been hesitant to select her as a Femonationalist but realised she was very powerful since Ali has a professorship at Harvard and Stanford and gets pieces into the New York Times and the Washington Post. Does this just sound like plain jealousy yet? Even Sophie admitted it sounded like projection.

I was waiting to hear from Sophie why she felt that cultural practices, like FGM, forced marriage, forced burka-wearing, which are widespread in Islamist countries, should (or not be) criticised but sadly she was feeling a little sleepy and forgot that (difficult) bit.

What extent do you believe that some of these misguided perceptions are generated by deliberate misinformation campaigns?

Sophie should really become a politician because rather than just answering the question directly she talked for at least three minutes in preparation for her final very weak answer, which was that there was a deluge of scholarship about feminist imperialism during the War on Terror (but failed to name one paper or author). Sophie finally settled on another woman to dislike as Femonationalist – Condoleezza Rice (another conservative black woman).

Sophie recalled that Rice had been described not as intentionally bombing but as having been enlisted in a patriarchal logic. I suppose Rice would argue that the US’s military actions would result in democracy and thereby liberate women ultimately. I wonder if Sophie will remember to mention points like this when she writes her book?

This entire topic has been a matter of figuring out the times when feminism and racism were the same thing. I thought that was quite good. Yeah. It’s a really bitter pill. It’s such a bitter pill. But at times I think if you really read Clare Midgeley’s accounts of the early suffragists in England and how their case for why women should be granted the Vote, mobility and the right to emigrate to Empire and to participate, was the case for the propagation of Saxon stock and racial uplift, um you know, explicitly. You can always as a historian say ‘oh they had to do that to ingratiate themselves with the eugenic patriarchal state under the ultimate Girl Boss, Queen Victoria’.

At least we’ve learned what a Girl Boss is now

Did Sophie mean this Clare Midgeley? Who has written about Anti-Slavery and Feminism in Nineteenth-Century Britain (read the paper here). I suppose it is too convenient for Sophie to look past the fact the majority of feminist activism has overwhelmingly been non-racist.

Stereotypes are not archetypes

So there you go. It is now absolutely fine for an academic to publish a book in which women who hold the ‘wrong’ opinion are reduced down to crude stereotypes that readers will merely be trained to ‘spot’, rather than engage with and test whether their arguments are any good.

The ‘White Slave’ stereotype is particularly obnoxious and unforgivable. The majority of anti-prostitution campaigning at ground level is carried out by women who have escaped the sex industry, and who may have in fact been literally enslaved within it, and obviously not all are white. It is tone deaf on every level and has overtones of black erasure, whilst being offensive and patronising to white women victims.

We never got onto what The Dirt Bag was, but having reflected on the contents of the Octopus essay, I suspect it’s something mucky. The dictionary definition ‘Adult Human Female’ has typically been queered to mean ‘a feminist who I think is wrong’. So basically it’s all a load of crap. Who will buy the book? Not me, but I will turn for the inevitable promotion gig.


Thank you for reading! Sign up to my blog by going to the bottom of the page.

Please share on other forums if you liked it, as I only do Twitter.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s