- Awash in Urine: DES and Premarin® in Multispecies Response-ability
Cyborgs are kin, whelped in the litter of post–World War II information technologies and globalized digital bodies, politics, and cultures of human and not-human sorts. Cyborgs are not machines in just any sense, nor are they machine-organism hybrids. In fact, they are not hybrids at all. They are, rather, imploded entities, dense material semiotic “things”—articulated string figures of ontologically heterogeneous, historically situated, materially rich, virally proliferating relatings of particular sorts, not all the time everywhere, but here, there, and in between, with consequences. Particular sorts of historically situated machines signaled by the words “information” and “system” play their part in cyborg living and dying. Particular sorts of historically situated organisms, signaled by the idioms of labor systems, energetics, and communication, play their part. Finally, particular sorts of historically situated human beings, becoming-with the practices and artifacts of technoscience, play their part. Characterized by partial connections, the parts do not add up to any whole; but they do add up to worlds of nonoptional, stratified, webbed, and unfinished living and dying, appearing and disappearing. Cyborgs are constitutively full of multiscalar, multitemporal, multimaterial critters of both living and nonliving persuasions. Cyborgs matter in terran worlding.
But cyborgs are critters in a queer litter, not the Chief Figure of Our Times. “Queer” here means not committed to reproduction of kind and having bumptious relations with futurities. Irreducible to cyborgs, the litter interests me, the particular kin and kind nursed on the fluid and [End Page 301] solid effluvia of terra in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. I write this brief essay in gratitude to the people of WSQ and especially to the authors of the three essays in this Viral issue who play with “my” cyborg in order to relay the string figures—the speculative fabulations, the scientific facts, the science fictions, and the speculative feminisms—to whatever sorts of tentacular grippers will receive the pattern to keep living and dying well possible in “our times.” Made up of an aging California dog, pregnant mares on the western Canadian prairies, human women who came to be known as “DES daughters,” lots of menopausal U.S. women, and assorted other players in the story of “synthetic” and “natural” estrogens, the litter for this essay is decanted from bodies awash in a particular pungent fluid—urine. Waste and resource, out-of-place urine from particular female bodies is the salty ocean needed for my tale. Leaks and eddies are everywhere. These leaks and eddies might help open passages for a praxis of care and response—response-ability—in ongoing multispecies worlding on a wounded terra.
DES for Hot Peppers
In October 2011 my twelve-year-old canine friend and lifelong sports partner, Cayenne, aka Hot Pepper, started taking a notorious, industrially produced, nonsteroidal, synthetic estrogen called DES (diethylstilbesterol) to deal with urinary leakage (“Diethylstilbestrol,” n.d.).1 Perhaps I should not write she “started taking,” but rather, “I started feeding her as an occasional late-night treat, following her last pee, a luscious, slippery, Earth Balance® margarine-coated capsule of DES.” Plato gave us all the tones in the extricable ambiguities of his pharmakon: cure and poison; care, curare; remedy, toxin. Aging spayed bitches like Cayenne and postmenopausal women like me often could use a hormonal tightening of slack smooth muscles in the urethra to keep socially unacceptable leaks plugged up. The term “estrogen deficiency” is a tough one for feminists like me, marinated at a young age in the women’s health movements and feminist science studies, to pronounce. But the fact is that a few extra dabs of estrogens do some handy jobs in aging mammalian female bodies—at a price, of course, in many currencies of living and dying. Granted, the adrenal glands still secrete some estrogens for those of us with missing or dried-up ovaries, but output is pretty low and smooth muscle can get pretty flaccid.
But giving this beloved, elder, nonreproducing dog to whom I am [End Page 302] responsible even very low dose and infrequent diethylstilbesterol caused acute DES anxiety syndrome in me. My blood...