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Posts Tagged ‘Laurie Penny’

Bitch Doctrine: Essays for Dissenting Adults

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley.

This is a collection of essays on various topics including the election of Donald Trump, transgender rights and rape culture. As ever Penny is witty and darkly humorous as well as deadly serious. You may not always agree with what she says but you can’t help examining your own thoughts on any subject she chooses to attack.

She is not afraid of attacking the status quo and asking why things are as they are and why they can’t be different. I was particularly interested in the essays which discussed the way women are treated online. How behaviour which is generally deplored when exhibited by migrants for example, is suddenly acceptable if directed against women who dare to question the rights of white males.

The author exposes the widespread misogyny on the internet and in real life. It certainly made me angry and reminded me of various discussions I have had on the internet with the supposedly more rational sex. If you think equal rights is alive and kicking, read this book and realise how much more work still needs to be done even in the Western world.

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Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and Revolution

The book is described by its author as a polemic.  It isn’t only about women it is about bigotry and prejudice and about how those affect everyone in their daily lives.  It is about rigid gender roles and how they affect the choices of everyone.  Rigid roles affect those men who want to be nurses and carers just as much as they affect women who want to be engineers and airline pilots or computer programmers.  Rigid gender definitions of qualities and aptitudes stop people taking on the roles they as individuals are best suited for.

The book talks about issues which many people hesitate to voice and it talks about people being individuals first and foremost before they are either gender – or somewhere in between.  It talks about cyberbullying, trolling and stalking and how it seeks to shut women up on the internet.  Women should not speak out about anything and need to be silenced because good women and girls – rather like children – should be seen and not heard.  To say you disagree with someone is to invite a tirade of abuse.  Freedom of speech is fine for everyone except women because if they exercise their right to free speech they are ‘mouthy c . . s or whining women always moaning about something’.  Or there’s nothing wrong with them which plenty of sex wouldn’t cure. This sort of treatment on the internet – you rarely meet it in real life – makes my blood boil and it clearly does the same to the author.  Freedom of speech is a right but with it goes the responsibility not to abuse, insult or denigrate others.

The book covers subjects such as the beauty industry and the celebrity culture and how it tries to impose certain rigid parameters on the appearance women and girls present to the world.  I must admit that having grown up in the 1950s and 1960s I realise I would hate to be growing up now.  There seems to be so much pressure on young women to look and behave in certain ways.  I wasn’t conscious of this at all when I was growing up and differences were welcomed or at least tolerated far more than they are today.

As well as focussing on women- she also looks at how men and boys are treated these days and finds they are not served well by stereotypes imposed on them.  Not all men want to be into violence and what tend to be thought of as traditional masculine stereotypes – real men don’t cry and real men definitely don’t do the housework.  Some men enjoy the housework and want to give vent to their feelings by crying. We need to be less rigid in our expected gender roles – in fact why have gender roles?  What is wrong with looking at people as individuals?

I think for me one of the most frightening chapters was about sex and the internet and the way violent pornography is so much a part of it.  There are plenty of men in real life who are not interested in being violent towards women and yet so much of pornography contains violence towards women.

This is an angry book as you might expect but it also contains plenty of references to other sources – comprehensive notes on each chapter and a bibliography.  It contains rather more uses of the F word than I am quite comfortable with but that is a personal preference.

I think the sentence which made most impression on me is this one from close to the end of the book:

‘Feminism and radical politics are about demanding more than a choice between one type of servitude and another’

That pretty well sums it up for me.

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Cybersexism: Sex, Gender and Power on the Internet by Laurie Penny

This is a short book but it raises some serious issues for women who use the internet.  It also asks questions about what exactly constitutes free speech.  Any woman who uses the internet regularly – especially forums, chat rooms and social media will have come across misogyny in one form or another.  Even expressing mild opinions about anything leaves you with the feeling that women should be seen and not heard and that the internet is no place for women – we should leave it to the men.

 

The author asks if we are doing the right thing by overprotecting children – especially girls – from the internet.  Are we perhaps perpetuating a situation where abuse of women is acceptable – because it is just banter and if you can’t take a joke then you shouldn’t be here.  But it seems the jokes only go one way – against women.

 

I found myself agreeing with most of what the author says in this hard hitting book.  I have in the past tried to debate issues of interest to women in a calm and rational manner but have received such virulent abuse from men that I have stopped doing so.  Maybe I was wrong – maybe we need to fight back and to make sure our views are heard.  Currently it is the free speech of women which is being restricted.

 

Free speech is not about abusing and threatening others and never has been.  Fortunately the law agrees but the fight to make ourselves heard and be able to debate subjects without being abused is far from over.

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