Laurie Penny

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Laurie Penny (2016)
What surrounds us is not sex itself but the illusion of sex, and airbrushed vision of enforced fun-fisting sexuality that is as sterile as it is relentless.'

Laurie Penny (born 28 September 1986) is an English columnist, author and feminist activist. Their first published work Meat Market is a Marxist-Feminist book discussing the nature of capitalism and patriarchy to the oppression of women.


Meat Market: Female Flesh Under Capitalism (2010)[edit]

  • If consumer society is to continue to exist in the manner to which it has become accustomed, it is essential that this latent power be appropriated, tamed and made docile. The ways in which contemporary capitalism undermines women's bodies, from advertising to pornography to the structure of gendered labour and domestic conflict, are not private troubles with no bearing upon the wider world. They are necessary fetters in a superstructure of oppression that has become so fundamental to the experience of femininity that it is effectively invisible. This superstructure is vital to the very survival of the patriarchal capitalist machine. If women on earth woke up tomorrow feeling truly positive and powerful in their own bodies, the economies of the globe would collapse overnight.
    • Introduction
  • From the moment we become old enough to want to own ourselves, the corporate cast of womanhood is stamped into our subconscious, burnt into our brains, reminding us that we are cattle, that we are chattel, that we must strive for conformity, that we can never be free. Not everything begins with sex, but this book does.
    • Introduction
  • What surrounds us is not sex itself but the illusion of sex, and airbrushed vision of enforced fun-fisting sexuality that is as sterile as it is relentless.
    • Chapter One
  • Sex work is an economic question, not a moral one: in a world where shame and sexual violence are still hard currency, the normalization of the sex industry is a symptom not of social degeneration, but of the economic exploitation of women on a unprecedented scale.
    • Chapter One
  • The Bunny brand is a Lacanian play of signs bounding blithely away from any signifiable sexuality.
    • Chapter One, Bunny and Brand
  • It can hardly be argued that the ubiquity of the Playboy Bunny logo or its popularity with young girls are positive developments, but it must be understood that what is being objected to here, as elsewhere, is not sex, but symbol: the black-and-white, liplesss, featureless symbol of a perky, prosthetic sexuality whose alienation from the flesh and intimacy of real sex can be mass-produced.
    • Chapter One, Bunny and Brand
  • What is at play here is a horror of flesh: a rubberised capitalist repugnance for the meat and intimacy of human sexuality.
    • Chapter One
  • Young people growing up with pressure to perform in every aspect of their lives find themselves aping a robotic capitalist eroticism that has little to do with their own legitimate desires.
  • We live in a world which worships the unreal female body and despises real female power. In this culture, where women are commanded to always look available nut never actually be so, where, where we are obliged to appear socially and sexually consumable whilst consuming as little as possible, our most drastic retaliation is to undertake our own consumption: to consume ourselves - and so we do in ever increasing numbers.
    • Chapter 2
  • Fear of female flesh is fear of female power, and reclaiming women's bodies must go hand in hand with reclaiming women's power. This cannot be achieved simply by purchasing expensive body lotion. Men and women alike need to confront our fear of female flesh, to risk being overwhelmed by the power of women to change society and take charge of their own lives. All we need to do is acknowledge how hungry we are for that future to arrive, and take the first bite.
    • Chapter 2
  • Feminists - even prominent ones with big platforms to shout from - do not get to be the gatekeepers of what is and what is not female, what is and is not feminine, any more than patriarchal apologists do. Intrinsic to feminism is the notion that such gatekeeping is sexist, recalcitrant, and damaging.
    • Chapter Three
  • Marginalised bodies do marginalised work. Bodies that are garroted and controlled can be persuaded to do work that is underpaid and overlooked. Slavemaking is a social science, and nowhere is that science more expertly demonstrated than in the continued ability of contemporary industrial culture to persuade women perform the vast majority of vital domestic and caring labour without expecting reward or payment.
    • Chapter Four
  • We cannot fuck our way to freedom. Sexuality alone, and heterosexuality in particular, is never enough to destabilise complex architectures of money and power. Without political agitation, sex can always be co-opted, calcifying gender revolution into another weary parade of saleable binary stereotypes.
    • Conclusion
  • If we want to be free, the women of the 21st century need to stop playing the game. We need to end our wary efforts to believe that our bodies are acceptable and begin to know, with a clear and billiant certainty, that our persons are powerful.
    • Conclusion

"The Consent of the (Un)governed"[edit]

Longreads December 2017 Full text online
  • The way we love our jobs and the way we love our country are similar to the way we love abusive partners. This, crucially, is how neoliberal white supremacist patriarchy is different from other power systems like feudalism, or early Protestant capitalism, or direct colonial rule, or theocracy. Rather than claiming that God created human hierarchy and telling people they should be happy with their lot, modern liberal democracies gaslight people into believing that they are already free.
  • The story we’re told about sexuality is very similar to the story we’re told about citizenship: Once upon a time, things were very bad and nobody had any fun. Then there were a series of revolutions, and various oppressed groups threw off their chains, and now we are free, the end. If you’re not living happily ever after, it’s your own damn fault. When, and if, anyone ever does get caught flagrantly abusing their power, we write them off as monsters, lone wolves, bad apples, or any other fairytale monster that allows us to continue the bedtime story in which white supremacist capitalist patriarchy is working well for everyone.

"No, I Will Not Debate You"[edit]

Longreads September 2018 Full text online
  • If you won’t debate, the argument goes, you’re an enemy of free speech. You’re basically no better than a Nazi, and certainly far worse than any of the actual Nazis muttering about not being allowed to preach racism from prestigious pulpits.
  • Well-meaning liberals insist that “sunlight is the best disinfectant,” anti-fascists disagree, the far right orders more popcorn, and round and round we go on the haunted carousel of western liberal thought until we’re all queasy.
  • The far right does not respect the free and liberal exchange of ideas. It is not open to compromise, and it does not want a debate. It wants power.
  • Too many well-meaning liberals are clinging with ten fingernails to the idea that their institutions are robust enough to withstand fascism. They believe, because the belief is soothing, that the marketplace of ideas cares about the value, durability, and quality of its wares rather than how shiny the packaging is, how catchy the jingle, how many times it shows up in your peripheral brand awareness until it’s the one you reach for on the shelf.
  • Being better at debating does not make you right. It just makes you better at debating.
  • I will not be bullied by bad-faith actors trying to rules-lawyer my own principles against me into treating neo-Nazis with respect they don’t deserve.
  • Moderate liberalism cherishes the idea of “civility” because it allows it to believe in its own goodness and relevance.
  • It is staggeringly clear that formal debate is failing to stop white supremacy. This is not an abstract philosophical issue. White supremacy is here, at the heart of world governments.
  • It’s a mistake to think that the far right cares about the free speech debate as anything other than a way of confusing the enemy. The far right doesn’t have a profound philosophy, it has a media strategy.
  • The first time that white supremacists are denied a formal public platform, they get to plead martyrdom, to call the opposition cowards. And the second time. And the third time. But there’s only so many times you can whine that people aren’t paying you enough attention before those same people get bored and lose interest.
  • If we deny racists a platform, they feed off the appearance of censorship, but if we give them a platform, they’ve won by being respectfully invited into the mainstream. Either way, what matters to them is not debate, but attention.
  • I am not interested in hearing out the ideas of the far right, because there are no new ideas on the far right. There are only new recruits. And every time progressives sacrifice the public good on the altar of personal purity, there will be more.

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