C Magazine


Issue 133

LIES: Volume II
by Whitney Brennan

Following their first issue in 2012, feminist materialist journal LIES produced a second journal of essays and poetry with Volume II (2015). The survivors, practitioners, scholars and activists who form the editors and contributors of LIES explore the social and political conditions that have categorized them as bodies with labels: “woman,” “queer,” “Black,” “other,” “not-men.” They interrogate these terms through a materialist lens and question how the publication of a journal functions to express their feminisms, their voices and their experiences. Their writings express a deep mistrust of, or a call for the abolition of, colonial language, in particular of gendered binaries, which they argue further centralize colonial hierarchies and patriarchal social structures. Writing from multiple cities across the US and London, UK, LIES is run by a queer, feminist collective, one which they stress is in continuous tension and reconciliation. As such, their struggles do not always intersect and their opinions sometimes diverge.

Part of the publication’s solidarity stems from a desire to circulate information. LIES is published to continue discussions of issues of violence and oppression, to introduce people and new ideas to one another. The other unifying attribute is its dedication to autonomous feminist practice. While their identities may not always align, LIES contributors emphasize that their autonomy is consolidated by their shared experiences under oppressive systems of power and with patriarchal violence.

LIES is a vivid example of how textual practices, such as journalistic publications, function within the constraints of oppressive language. Textual practices are experiments in navigating language, but paradoxically the processes often require language that has oppressed or has inflicted violence on those attempting to use it. Such contradictions are deep wounds to bear for those who experience violence and oppression, and deeper wounds still to heal without having the words that describe your experience in the world. As LIES demonstrates, out of their struggles came survival; out of oppression came autonomy.

Unlike Volume I, Volume II does not have thematic sections of writing. Instead, the journal flows through 22 essays and poems, interspersed with illustrations. Volume II maintains, however, a similar thematic overtone to the previous issue, including essays from trans and Latina prostitutes, Black and Indigenous women and non-binary individuals. The issue opens with the essay “Against Gender, Against Society” by Black critical theorist nila nokizaru. nokizaru is critical of the limitations of gender categories, arguing that gender is inherently violent and restrictive, a form of imperial oppression that threatens with heteronormative assimilation and thus, erasure. In their anarchist fashion, nokizaru explores the dangerous constraints gender imposes on individuals, positing that a complete abolition of gender is not only revolutionary, but also necessary.

In “Inversion and Invisibility: Black Women, Black Masculinity, and Anti-Black- ness,” Black feminist theorist LaKeyma King discusses the pitfalls of intersectionality. She argues that while intersectionality has been useful to “orient many theoretical efforts to reconcile anti-racism and anti-sexism,” these efforts often result in a narrow focus on one issue, with the negation of the other. She then disseminates theories on the feminizing of Black men and the espousing of Black women from femininity. Calling for theoretical writing on violence against Black women to also inversely discuss the violent circumstances that Black men experience, King’s criticism demands a vital reconsideration of intersectional feminist theory.

Disseminating gender and race, and their implicitly violent consequences, the LIES writers craft a manifesto of alternative methods of fighting patriarchal power and oppression, as in Sepand Mashiahof’s essay, “Shout to Cissy Girls,” a call to cis women to stand alongside trans women. Mashiahof implores, “We need to share the tools that we’ve gathered for our survival.” Seeking common ground between gendered bodies may be a stronger strategy against a common systemic oppressor than fighting amongst ourselves. Her words are a powerful call to action.

One of the more prominent poems is “Grateful,” by Monica Stevens, which evokes a trans prostitute’s experience with drugs and trauma, and speaks of a strong will to survive and persevere. LIES aims to find a balance between theoretical and lyrical writing so incorporating poems like Stevens’ provides an effective form of mediation between the two.

Furthering the discussion of gendered inequality, Jack Frost and Eli Long explore gender-related subjugation and erotic desire in “Notes on the Erotic in the Capitalist Mode of Production.” They posit that feminized labour, compounded by the dominance of heterosexuality, is often inherently eroticized, and becomes increasingly complicated when “… all [sic] erotic relations reproduce capitalist – and hence, hierarchized, racialized, and gendered – social relations.” They parallel LaKeyma King’s argument that qualifying bodies as ‘feminine’ is not tied to gender; it is ‘feminized’ bodies that experience violence, i.e., are emasculated. Frost and Long reason that it is feminized bodies – of many genders – that perform the erotic for a predominantly cis-male clientele. They then call for the inclusion and emphasis of feminized voices in politicized discussions of eroticized labour.

L. Cornum’s essay on colonial violence in Canada and the US discusses the materialist nature in which Native women’s bodies bear the burden of representation of their people’s lands, and thus, their conquest. Her essay is an in-depth and provoking analysis of how Native women’s bodies suffer violence as the means to colonial domination, and how women-led moments like Idle No More should prioritize, “The goal of ending violence against women into demands for tribal sovereignty.”

Through a collection of voices, LIES pursues a distinct practice of feminist criticism, crafting revolution with words that have been reclaimed, repurposed, or done away with. The contributors to Volume II trace their feminisms from the dissolution of gender to the struggles augmented by racial or economic affiliation. Their writing uses academic language and inquisition, but resists the pedagogical insistence that theory is law. Each essay incorporates diverse perspectives and considerations, while simultaneously questioning the very terminology that has been employed. Their autonomy is not anarchic; it is essential. Their words are not for everyone, but neither have they written a book only for themselves.