A special thank you to my advisor, B. Ruby Rich, for coaching me through several iterations of this piece. I am also grateful for the enlightening conversations I had with Linnea Hussein and Lara Mimosa Montes.
1. Donna Haraway, “A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s,” in Feminism/Postfeminism, ed. Linda J. Nicholson (New York: Routledge, 1990), 191. [return to text]
2. Haraway somewhat indirectly refers to the cyborg as queer in her 2003 book The Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People, and Significant Otherness (Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press). She writes, “I have come to see cyborgs as junior siblings in the much bigger, queer family of companion species, in which reproductive biotechnopolitics are generally a surprise, sometimes even a nice surprise” (11).
3. Haraway, “A Manifesto for Cyborgs,” 222.
4. Queer theory could not have formed without the influence of gay and lesbian scholars of the 1980s who produced histories and theories of homosexuality more often than not to naturalize it and portray it as a transhistorical and cross-cultural phenomenon. The late 1980s and early 1990s writing of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Judith Butler marked a decided turn in the study of sexuality with the import of a largely Foucauldian methodology, enabling the field to acknowledge the interplays of power that informed sexuality’s historical contingencies and epistemologies. Even though these new queer theories picked up the historical paradigms of homosexuality that had been studied throughout the previous decade, and even though lesbian and gay studies as a field was later subsumed under queer studies, feminist interest in the constructedness—the paradigmatic structuring—of sexual and gender categories undergirds queer theory’s ontology. In other words, I would argue that feminist theory shepherded or marshaled queer theory in a way that overshadows gay and lesbian studies still indelible contribution.
5. See Janet Halley, Split Decisions: How and Why to Take a Break from Feminism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006). Halley takes stock of, for example, Leo Bersani and Eve Sedgwick’s queer theories to reveal their paradigmatic breaks with feminist logics.
6. Jane Gaines, “Queering Feminist Film Theory.” Jump Cut no. 41 (May 1997): 45-48.
7. Ara Osterweil, “Under the Skin: The Perils of Becoming Female.” Film Quarterly
vol. 67, no. 4 (Summer 2014), 45.
8. Haraway, “A Manifesto for Cyborgs,” 196.
9. Haraway mentions the issue of objectification when she paraphrases Catherine MacKinnon’s theory. Summarizing MacKinnon, Haraway writes that, “in the realm of knowledge, the result of sexual objectification is illusion and abstraction” (201). Haraway is opposed to thinking of women through merely lack, nonexistence, and/or erasure as they are understood in MacKinnon’s and countless other feminists’ episteme. Haraway’s implication is that there is other work to be done on rethinking the category of “woman” itself than MacKinnon’s emphasis on censorship and legal restraint allows.
10. See Karen Barad, “Nature’s Queer Performativity,” Qui Parle: Critical Humanities and Social Sciences vol. 19, no. 2 (Spring Spring/Summer 2011), 121-158.
11. For an excellent activation of this work, see David Marriott’s essay “Waiting to Fall” (CR: The New Centennial Review, vol. 13, no. 3, Winter 2013, 163-240). See also the work of the Liquid Blackness Research Group:
12. For more on blackness and Under the Skin, see Lucas Hildebrand’s essay in this dossier.
13. Mark Harris, “Him and Her: How Spike Jonze Made the Weirdest, Most Timely Romance of the Year” Vulture (blog), New York Magazine. October 6, 2013.
14. Christian Metz, “Aural Objects.” Yale French Studies, no. 60, 1980. Yale University Press: 24–32.
15. Sophia Nguyen, “The Posthuman Scar-Jo,” Los Angeles Review of Books, September 12, 2014,
16. Robyn Wiegman, Object Lessons (Durham: Duke University Press, 2012), 125.
17. What does Halley say about “postfeminism”? She writes in Split Decisions that, “Within left/progressive theory and politics on sexuality, the fact of conflict among the various constituencies and understandings and aims of the Left has been experienced as a problem. In particular it is understood to be a problem for feminism, because feminists facing the challenge of ‘postfeminism’ so often insist that there are only two possible outcomes: either feminism is reinstated as the pervasive ground commitment of all left sexuality projects, or it is buried alive. To say that there is something other than feminism is to say that feminism is dead, post, over” (11-12).
18. Wiegman’s engagement with the “Cyborg Manifesto” two chapters later is congruent with, in fact, corresponds quite well with her critique of Halley (244-245).
19. Halley, Split Decisions, 114.
20. Halley, Split Decisions, 122.
21. I think it is time for the field to take an inventory of the self-described feminist film theory that reads as unavoidably queer despite its seeming distance from lesbian desire or female homosexuality. I am thinking especially of Miriam Hansen’s essay “Pleasure, Ambivalence, Identification: Valentino and Female Spectatorship” (Cinema Journal, vol. 25 no. 4 [Summer 1986], 6-32), or better yet, Jane Gaines’ “Feminist Heterosexuality and Its Politically Incorrect Pleasures,” (Critical Inquiry, vol 21 no. 2 [Winter 1995], 382-410) where she provocatively hypothesizes throughout that, “perhaps the more generous feminism we need is not feminism at all but queer theory” (404).
22. Donna Haraway, The Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People, and Significant Otherness (Chicago: Prickly Paradigm, 2007), 4.
23. Halley is, one could argue, quite forthcoming about her allegiances and identifications. In an especially disarming moment, she admits, “I am a sex-positive postmodernist, only rarely and intermittently feminist, a skeptic about identity politics, with a strong attraction to ‘queer’ revelations of the strangeness and unknowability of social and sexual life, and a deep distrust of slave-moralistic pretensions to identity-political ‘powerlessness’” (15). Despite my sympathies (perhaps empathies?) with Halley, I agree with Wiegman that Halley continually resorts to throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater; it is part and parcel of her polemical strategy to reduce varied feminist aims and genealogies.
24. In the introduction of Heavenly Bodies: Film Stars and Society (Second Edition) (New York: Routledge, 2004), Dyer writes about star image generation that, “audiences cannot make media images mean anything they want to, but they can select from the complexity of the image the meanings and feelings, the variations, inflections and contradictions, that work for them” (4).