Laurie Penny (@PennyRed) was the subject of an item here yesterday because of her quarrel with lesbian feminist Cathy Brennan, an argument that highlights the profound schism between radicals like Brennan (who are and always have been the core of the feminist movement) and trendy opportunists like Ms. Penny. The American reader may ask, “Who the hell is Laurie Penny, and why the hell are you writing about her?”
Briefly, then: An ambitious young British journalist who attended exclusive private schools (which are for peculiar reasons called “public schools” in England), Ms. Penny graduated from Oxford and then went to New York. There, she was rescued from death by actor Ryan Gosling, an incident that became the subject of an embarrassingly narcissistic article at Gawker. Ms. Penny is a certain type – a “posh bird,” as the Brits would say, whose ostentatious leftism is a fashionable pose among many upper-class youth — and as such is well on her way to becoming the Most Despised Woman in England. She came to my attention here in the States only because, in researching my “Sex Trouble” series on radical feminism, I was browsing Amazon for recent feminist books and came across Ms. Penny’s new volume, Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and Revolution. Ranked #6 by Amazon in the “Gender Studies” category, and #11 in “Feminist Theory,” this seemed relevant to my project.
With our American reader’s questions asked and answered, then, we proceed to explain what no English reader needs to be told, namely that Laurie Penny is an impudent young fool with a penchant for making an utter spectacle of herself. As soon as I blogged about her yesterday, comments on the blog and feedback on Twitter began to fill up with notices of Ms. Penny’s previous self-inflicted embarrassments, including this public implosion in June 2012:
More details have emerged of the heavyweight clash of the commentariat this weekend between radical blogger and journalist Laurie Penny and the outspoken TV historian David Starkey at the Sunday Times Festival of Education.
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The newspaper released video clips today of the contretemps, which occurred after the historian had talked about the values of the Asian men from Rochdale who were convicted of grooming young white girls for sex as being “entrenched in the foothills of the Punjab or wherever it is”, and how the men needed to be “inculcated in the British ways of doing things”.
Penny accused Starkey of “playing xenophobia and national prejudice for laughs” and asked him in a leading question whether he had a home in America, implying that Starkey might have tax questions to answer, a strong innuendo in the current climate of zero-tolerance.
The video shows Starkey bouncing out of his seat in response to this perceived smear, taking to the lectern to “share a little story” about how he and Penny had both been invited to debate by the Thomas Paine Society, but that while he had agreed to waive his fee the younger polemicist had asked for “such a large fee that the event had to be cancelled”.
“I think that is as mean and grasping as some runt comedian and I will not be lectured to by a public school girl like you!” a visibly angry Starkey spits, advancing on the diminutive Penny until he is standiung directly in front of her, while stabbing the air with his finger to punctuate his points.
“I came from the bottom and I will not have it!” he signs off with a flourish to considerable applause from a crowd quite evidently relishing the ruckus.
You can see the whole thing with video. It’s worth pointing out that David Starkey is no manner of right-winger, but a gay atheist. When he says that he “came from the bottom,” you have to understand that Starkey is from a true working-class background, in a nation where socioeconomic class is much more rigid than in America. His ascent in academia required him to overcome many disadvantages, including being born with two club feet, being stricken with polio, and suffering a nervous breakdown at 13. Starkey has many bad ideas and bad tendencies, but he is a man who has earned by his own merit and labor whatever privileges he has. For him to be lectured in public by such a person as Laurie Penny, accusing him of xenophobia and tax-dodging, was certainly more than anyone like David Starkey could be expected to endure.
“The organisation of human love has little to do with how children are raised and everything to do with the maintenance of the bourgeois state . . .”
– Laurie Penny, “Lesbian mums and the end of patriarchy,” 2008
She insists that lesbian motherhood is part of the Marxist revolutionary project to overthrow “the bourgeois state,” even as she insists she is not a lesbian. It’s the same old story, isn’t it? The revolutionary vanguard of an intellectual elite, claiming to speak for the proletariat, thus deputizing themselves with authority. Except instead of Lenin and Trotsky speaking for the peasants and workers, Comrade Penny is a heterosexual intellectual wielding power on behalf of the lesbian proletariat. We who know history expect in a few years a terror-famine against the lesbian kulaks and “show trials” for feminists accused of treason and sabotage — conspiring with the patriarchy!
No, the “runt comedian” Ms. Penny has no respect for anyone or anything worth respecting, and has never been able to understand why adults resent her presumptuous attitude. Here she is, from 2009 when she was 23, engaged in a blogfight:
And when I had my breakdown at 17 and was carted off to the loony bin for a year, I had my parents’ private healthcare insurance making sure that I wouldn’t be kicked out of hospital when the NHS cover ran out, as it did for many of the young people I shared the ward with. There’s every chance that private health insurance saved my life.
It’s not that I haven’t fought, struggled and worked extremely f**king hard every day for the past five years just to survive. It’s not that the struggle to stay well and stay productive and work for a secure future doesn’t take everything I have, every day.
Yadda yadda yadda. Don’t we all know the Laurie Penny type?
Top of the heap within their juvenile millieu — extraordinarily bright and on the academic fast-track — they conceive themselves too good for any humdrum work. You wouldn’t find this type of person getting a job as a city-beat news reporter and working hard to learn her craft. Nor can a Laurie Penny type ever be content to hire on as an assistant editor at a magazine, doing layout work, proofreading copy, happy occasionally to see her byline on a back-of-the-book item, a film review or something. No, she’s Veruca Salt: She wants the whole world, and she wants it now. If she is not recognized as a celebrity — if others don’t praise her and pet her and applaud her every petulant phrase — then the Laurie Penny type believes she has been deprived of what is rightfully hers.
She deserves recognition as one of Our Moral Superiors, you see, and our failure to recognize her as such is a social injustice.
Anyone who ever worked for anything, everyone who literally sweated to collect a wage to pay their bills, must bristle at the insult implied by Laurie Penny’s attitude of entitlement. If it weren’t for TV bookers who decided to make her England’s New Fresh Face of Feminism™, nobody would ever pay attention to her. When her career finally comes crashing down, people will wonder why anyone ever cared. We await Ms. Penny’s post-celebrity memoir, It Was the Patriarchy What Done Me In.
Meanwhile, an actual feminist — the radical lesbian Cathy Brennan — continues to say things so crazy as to be actually true:
The alternative to defining things is not defining things. That is, words mean whatever you say they mean, and God forbid if you try to define words. Defining words is bigotry. This neat Jedi Mind Trick was used very effectively in the run up to the marriage equality movement, where GLBTWTF activists succeeded beyond all imagination in convincing everyone that people who define marriage as “One Man, One Women” are bigots. Never mind that that is what marriage meant — for better or for worse (ha, see what I did there) — for centuries. Using words as defined makes you a bigot — and we all know what happens to bigots.
For what it’s worth, I think people who oppose marriage equality may or may not be bigots. It does not necessarily matter to me to demonize these people. They lost a political battle. Part of the reason they lost this political battle is because of propaganda that changed the definition of marriage.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy propaganda, I’ve deployed it, it is useful. But it’s propaganda. It’s not reflective of reality; it creates a new one.
This same propaganda is now used against Lesbians, to tell us that we are bigots for understanding that Lesbians are female homosexuals. This is transphobia. This is wrong. This is “cissexism.”
Indeed, USING WORDS CORRECTLY IS A FORM OF BIGOTRY.
Brilliant — and so politically incorrect as to be quite useful for my purposes. What Brennan has realized, and has had the courage to admit, is that in their quest for “marriage equality” the GLBTWTF activists engaged in a sort of rhetorical prestidigitation, playing word-games to exploit sympathy. In the process, however, these GLBTWTF activists established the premises of a syllogism that now threatens what radical feminists like Brennan had hoped to gain for their Lesbian Nation: Sanctuary from the menace of males and heterosexuality.
Brennan sees the old threat recrudescent in a strange new form, i.e., men who not only claim to be women, but say they are lesbians. In this disguise, they seek not only sexual access to females, but also assert authority as feminists to speak for women’s interests!
Cathy Brennan may be crazy, but she’s nobody’s fool. When a man who calls himself “Colleen” exposes his penis to little girls, do you actually expect Cathy Brennan to agree that this is “progress”?
Progress, as General Bullmoose said, is the root of all evil.
First published at TheOtherMcCain.com
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.