This feminist manifesto is like the wrong sex: superficial and monotonous

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Sexual Revolution: Modern Fascism and the Feminist Response by Laurie Penny

Sexual Revolution: Modern Fascism and the Feminist Response
Laurie Penny
Bloomsbury, $29.99

Known for her acerbic and insightful books and articles, journalist and writer Laurie Penny has carved out a career as a courageous and unapologetic left-wing feminist. In Penny’s latest book, the important subject of fascism is given a “modern” makeover in the context of a new sexual revolution.

It is unclear, however, whether fascism is here the new name for what we traditionally call “patriarchy,” or a new type of white masculinity aligned with far-right ideology, increasingly threatened by gains. perceived women, people of color, and sexual minorities, or even modern masculinity. Unfortunately, we never clearly understand why “fascism” is the best term to describe the enemy of feminism’s protracted and diffuse battles. Despite this inconsistency, the stark choice presented at the beginning of the book is between feminism and fascism. There are no shades of gray.

Many of the topics covered by Penny (heterosexual love, consent, unpaid domestic work, reproductive rights, extreme misogyny, abuse of male power and privilege) are critical, even new issues, but their intractability deserves renewed attention, if not a indignation. But fused with anecdotes (much about Penny’s or their friends’ own experiences of bad sex and relationships) and one-size-fits-all polemical solutions, there’s little sustained attention or intellectual care here to make the politics personal. or even evocative.

Instead, the book gives us plenty of rhetorical outrage (265 pages), the kind that has become all too familiar on our social media feeds. On the first page alone we have “the crisis of white masculinity”, “a crisis of democracy”, “a crisis of care and reproduction”, to finally say that “sex and gender are [also] in crisis”. Certainly, there are many things that make us feel that the world is in deep trouble. But systematically labeling everything with the rhetoric of “crisis” without providing a deeper account of what these difficult situations give us. say about the present, makes the book appear like a pile of screaming headlines rather than a call to arms, leave alone sustained criticism.

British blogger, columnist and author Laurie Penny.Credit:Hal Bergman

To further frustrate the reader, the book is littered with editorial errors, undigested ideas, and confusing if not comical passages: “Something broke. Something breaks again. Not like a glass breaking or a heart breaking, but like an eggshell breaking – inexorably, and from within. Something wet and angry is fighting its way out of the darkness, and it has claws. Although recalling the Extraterrestrial film franchise (for this reader at least), I’m not sure Penny had this kind of alien creature in mind as a symbol of the new feminist fightback. But who knows?

Like Bad Sex, the book feels both overly superficial and endlessly monotonous. And like much meme-driven political culture, if not institutional diversity initiatives, it tends to flatten the different constituencies it otherwise advocates for. For example, the repeated shorthand “women and gays” and occasionally “women and gays and people of color” nods to intersectionality without bothering to reflect on how issues in cause have very different consequences for disparate minority or subordinate groups.

It’s this kind of flimsy intersectional language that works to homogenize the experiences of minority groups and keeps in play a version of Western feminism that winks at diversity without bothering to understand how difference works.


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