A British columnist and gender activist’s gutsy analysis of how neoliberal capitalism has taken the “ideals of freedom” and transformed them into “strategies of social [and sexual] control.”
The global financial collapse of 2008 revealed that neither the market nor the mainstream feminism that claimed to have made inroads into it was woman-friendly. The violence that accompanied the Occupy movement three years later only confirmed the radical inequality that underlay the social, political and economic systems of the developed world. In this book, which seeks to smash “the machinery” of 21st-century neoliberal capitalism, New Statesman contributing editor Penny (Meat Market: Female Flesh Under Capitalism, 2008, etc.) examines the current state of feminism in a money- and power-obsessed world. Drawing on her experiences with anorexia and mental illness, she explores the impact of “good girl” narratives of perfection on women, who are expected to cultivate their “erotic capital” rather than their talents to succeed both socially and financially. Men, whom the author sees as plagued by confusion, self-hatred and self-doubt, also suffer under neoliberal capitalist tyranny. A bisexual woman living and loving on the edges of both British and American cultures, Penny observes that inter- and cross-gender relationships form the basis of the “ritual dehumanization” and objectification of women by men. Since neither females nor males are free from misogynist ideology, neither finds true sexual fulfillment or freedom. The one possible space of liberation is the Internet. Through its emphasis on the written word, it allows women the promise of temporary release from the “weight and anxiety” of the female body. Fraught as it is with the visual lures of pornography and the dangers of bullying and stalking, cyberspace is still a place where revolutionary new forms of personal, sexual and political networking/organizing can take place, helping to overcome prevailing sexist social and economic systems.
Spirited, intellectually sexy reading.