Babysnatcher

 

The baby-snatcher seeks motherhood at whatever cost. Fantasy drives her to linger in a hospital parking lot, or at a window when the neighbor’s boys play ball. Already she has prepared the room—a toy plane, a mobile, a pacifier on the sill. She forgets that her body is barren; she forgets that that child is not hers.

Online, we too forgo the reality of our physical form and frequent spaces that are not ours. The World Wide Web is great game of adoption—“Which blog will I follow?” “What color best suits my Gmail?” The computer pilfers identity and frees us to assemble a new one like a stick-on. No longer must we manifest ourselves in material space to qualify as human. The stand-in is enough.

This factory of self-making delegates persons to compartments. The stock image, for instance, announces its racism with tags like “happy black family,” “American immigrant.” But it has no feeling for tropes and thus does not use them as weapons but as codes of data. It is a disarmament, a space that admits that identity is malleable and more susceptible than punishable.