A noted British feminist writer tackles gender, sexism, identity, and power issues in a world being laid waste by “kamikaze capitalism.”
Pointing to the 2016 American presidential election and the rise of far-right movements across Europe, New Statesman contributing editor Penny (Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies, and Revolution, 2014) begins with the convincing premise that “toxic masculinity is killing the world.” White, working-class men who feel “cheated of their birthright” are taking aim at, among others, “Muslims, migrants and uppity women” and seeking refuge in extreme nationalism and chauvinism. But as the author argues, these men are “dangerously wrong about who pulled the con.” Starting from Donald Trump’s election, which she calls “the sick recrimination of a society shriveled by anger and anxiety,” Penny calls for a resistance in which men and women refuse normalization and take care of themselves and others. The malignant capitalist patriarchy Trump represents hurts women in particular because it entrenches ideas about monogamous heterosexual romance and suggests that women, unlike men, must do it all. Moreover, it pits women, even those who identify as feminist, against each other. By holding women to impossible standards, capitalist patriarchy becomes the taskmaster that shames women and keeps them in their place. At the same time, the “New Chauvinists…want to protect women from violence, as long as they are the right sort of woman.” Penny suggests how the much-misunderstood and -reviled trans movement is important to feminism because it helps challenge the extreme binary nature of toxic masculinity by deconstructing “every social stereotype about men and women and their roles in society.” Thought at times self-righteous, the author wears the trademark fearlessness that has earned her the name of “bitch” with an admirable lack of apology. Intelligent and defiant, Penny probes the current anti-feminist backlash while exploring zones of social discomfort, all in the name of “imagining a society beyond patriarchy.”
Polemical writing at its thoughtful best.