Martabel Wasserman tells us about the Lesbian Moon Lobster and her queer-feminist, Marxist potential to counteract environmental exploitation.
“We live in a time of iridescence, of scintillation between the virtual and the real—an iridereal perhaps, where surfaces are no longer concretions to be encountered but rather sites of dazzling encounter. The very experience of touch must be conceptualized anew. Intimacy in a time of iridescence should go by another name.”–Tavi Meraud
We are being boiled alive. What better creature for thinking through interspecies solidarity than the lobster?
Lobsters have made some notable headlines as of late. It was recently reported that the United States Federal Government spends 4.6 million dollars on crab and lobster tail PER MONTH. Once considered a poor man’s food, and frequently fed to slaves in Antebellum period, they now signify a ruling class palette.The excessive and absurd end-of-empire type spending on luxury food items for the powerful is impossible to digest as budget proposals suggest slashing more federal funding for environmental agencies and healthcare in order to build a wall between the U.S and Mexico Border. The lobster tails and crab claws are the tip of an iceberg melting at breakneck speed.
Besides being a decadent commodity, the lobster has also been touted as a justification for the hierarchical structuring of this tragic mess. Right-wing psychologist Jordan Peterson has famously claimed that aggression and social structures in lobsters justify male dominance in humans. His work speaks specifically to white men who feel they have been emasculated by the current economic crisis. He provides tools for these men to reclaim their gendered privilege by sitting up straight and cleaning their rooms. And by channeling the lobster. Serotonin levels increase as lobsters climb their social hierarchy according to Peterson. When a male lobster attacks his competition, serotonin is released. This should all be in quotation marks as we know that transposing of human ideals onto nature is a heteropatriarchal white supremacist move as old as the invention of science itself. Perhaps it isn’t the fittest who survive.
Peterson spews that Cultural Marxism is destroying society and recreating the violence of Stalinism. Communism equals Stalinism in his world view. His obsession with the past becomes an easy strategy for erasing the radical potential of new anti-capitalist social movements which threaten not only the far right, but mainstream liberal politics invested in business as usual. We, Cultural Marxists need a mascot. This is a fight and there are sides. We simply cannot find common ground as it is privatized beneath our feet. We will not cede the lobster. Mascots are powerful archetypal energies called upon to raise team spirit. Our mascot has revealed herself, and she is the Lesbian Moon Lobster.
When fisherman Alex Todd, posted a picture of the unusual creature, she immediately became a viral Internet sensation collectively hailed as “the Lesbian Moon Lobster.” It’s unclear why or how, as is the case with many of the Goddesses gifts. Twitter called for her to return to the seas “for it was she “who controlled the tides.” Fan art proliferated (as this is one such example). The Lesbian Moon Lobster is iridescent, her shell like a moonstone. She was technically released back into the ocean because she was carrying eggs, which is a law in place to maintain “sustainable” fishing practices. She is a pregnant lesbian ‘freak’of the sea rising from a lobster trap like Venus before her.
As @gayouterspace tweeted, “The L in LGBT stands for Lobster.” Bringing lobsters into the queer umbrella is a powerful move. As homos, bis, pans and trans, it is important to hold onto the specificity of our varied experiences in coalition. This is one of the reasons the Lesbian Moon Lobster is such a powerful political force–she not only allows us to rally around lesbian identity, which is always already facing erasure, but also non-human identity. Queerness and the non-human is one intersectional framework, among many others, that is crucial for reorganizing society at every level in order for life to flourish on planet Earth. The early gay liberation slogan “Mother Earthis a Lesbian,” is another example of foregrounding queerness as a life sustaining ecological force. While Mother Earth is full of all sorts of complicated desires of which we have little to no comprehension -calling her a lesbian is rhetorical move that privileges different ways of relating to each other outside of heteropatriarchy as lesbians have and will continue do.
The Lesbian Moon Lobster is unapologetically a snowflake.
Right wing rhetoric has positioned specialness as a menace to society. It is easier for people to believe millenials are fucked because everyone got a trophy rather than acknowledge the horrible failure that is capitalism. It is not avocado toast nor the belief in an inherit specialness in each of us that is causing a spiral of downward mobility. The Lesbian Moon Lobster revels in her difference, her specialness caused by a supposed lack (in this case pigment). In actuality, she was spared because of her beauty. This is a queer strategy we need to work with in the years ahead as faceoff against petro-capital-patriarchy. Note, she is not conventionally beautiful like all the other normatively pigmented lobsters. Queer aesthetics saved her from landing on the plate of some fat cat at the Pentagon on the taxpayer’s dime.
The snowflakeyness of the Lesbian Moon Lobster doesn’t undermine the importance of the collective. In her call to be saved from the mechanics of industrial fishing, government greed, and right-wing white supremacist thought, she invites us all along. Her individual dissent through difference draws attention to larger systemic issues that need tobetackled by everyone; claws, paws and tentacles. She is in solidarity with Inky, the octopus who escaped from the New Zealand National Aquarium. Her comrades are the elephant seal who took over swaths of beach after the United States Government shut down and refused to give it back. The cattle who escape slaughter houses are her homies. These creatures should not be used to highlight specialness as exception, but specialness as a rule. They draw attention to captivity and cruelty that restrict humans and non-humans alike (but differently).
The ideas of Jordan Peterson privilege empirical answers to complex problems. This happens on all sides, when the God’s eye view is taken on to look for solutions within our capitalist framework. Whether it be green capitalism or think tanks about homelessness, the answers cannot be produced through the kind of thinking contemporary society enables. The esoteric symbolism of the lobster offers a point of entry into alternative ways of knowing. In the Tarot, the lobster is featured in The Moon card rising from the sea. She carries the wisdom of the subconscious to the surface. Water is the element that corresponds with emotion, its unseen truths and ever-moving surface. With her antenna towards moon she connects the deepest secrets contained within the primordial soup of life on earth to the wisdom of outer space. The Moon card is about moving in the darkness, the way forward is obscured. She crawls into the night not knowing but guided by the moon herself.
The Lesbian Moon Lobster series of photographs and images are part of a larger body of work, Seashell Aesthetics.
This work combines my interests in performances of solidarity and the environmental issues facing the ocean. For a number of years, I have been thinking about how to effectively express solidarity across difference. This was catalyzed after witnessing a number of instances at rallies and protests where people across racial and gender boundaries would hold signs such as “I am Eric Garner,” or “I am Trayvon Martin.” Thinking through this trend led me to hypothesize that in order make an “I am” claim, differencesmust be articulated. The clear gaps between experiences, for example of a white woman saying “I am Trayvon Martin” only has the possibility of political potency because the gap in experience is hypervisible. I find it to be more effective to say, “White Women for Black Lives,” or “Jews for Palestine.” Of course there are pitfalls to this approach as well, as it reinscribes identity as stable and concrete.
As I grapple with these issues theoretically and on the ground, I have also become deeply affected bythe catastrophes posed by carbon, plastic, oil and other byproducts of capitalism polluting the ocean. Upon moving to Santa Cruz, I became interested in making connections between the structural challenges I was facing (housing, work, high cost of living) with those facing the sea critters whom I am fortunate to call my neighbours. This body of work seeks to create connections between the disintegration of shells caused by ocean acidification and desire for security and structure as the public sphere is attacked.
Difference is visible, as is the deep desire to create solidarity Characters have emerged from this process: The Lesbian Moon Lobster (inspired by real events), Barnacle Womyn (seeking interdependence in a crazy world), Cozy – a Mollusk without a shell (will they find a new home?) and Shell Boi (a character created by Joshua Thomen inspired by Sea Shell Aesthetics). Digital collages function as character and scene studies. Now that these characters exist–how will they engage with the with each other and the present moment of crisis and potential?
Martabel Wasserman (b. 1987, Providence, RI) is a writer, artist and curator living in Santa Cruz.She has written about fierce pussy, the AIDS crisis,the aesthetics of solidarity and seashells. Curatorial projects include Fire in Her Belly, Hold Up, and Coastal/Border. She was the founding editor of RECAPSmagazine from 2012-2014. She received her BA from Harvard University, MFA from UC Irvine and will be starting a PhD program in Art History at Stanford University in Fall 2019.