Pop culture, politics and feminism


The Palace of Westminster. Photo: Getty
The Westminster child abuse inquiry: corruption at the heart of the state
By Laurie Penny - 14 July 15:44

Will the child victims of powerful abusers ever get justice – or just another cover-up?

Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg hold a news conference to announce the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill on 10th July 2014. Photo: Getty Images
Emergency surveilliance law: Cameron's cynical appeal to the three of the Four Horsemen of the Infocalypse
By Laurie Penny - 10 July 15:23

The emergency surveillance law being rushed through Parliament next week exploits all the usual moral panic suspects - criminals, terrorists and paedophiles - to undermine our fundamental rights.

Spy on the wall: a painting of GCHQ displayed in the Mount Street Gallery, London in 2011. Photo: Getty
Laurie Penny: Oh look! There's a new bogeyman on the scene to justify online spying
By Laurie Penny - 03 July 10:00

Liam Fox insists that the “public will accept” increased surveillance because of the threat of terrorism. One suspects that if we don’t accept it, we’ll be made to.

Many shades of lipstick. Photo: Getty
The feminist writer's dilemma: how to write about the personal, without becoming the story
By Laurie Penny - 02 July 12:46

In five years as a columnist and com­mentator who also happens to be young and female, I have lost count of the times I have been encouraged by editors to write about being a woman, in a way that is “provocative” without really challenging sexism.

Facebook’s “like” symbol. Image: Getty
Facebook can manipulate your mood. It can affect whether you vote. When do we start to worry?
By Laurie Penny - 30 June 12:23

The social network admits manipulating its users’ emotions through the content it put in their newsfeeds. Think that’s creepy? A couple of years ago, it influenced their voting patterns, too. When do we get scared about what Facebook could do with its power?

Jeremy Meeks’s mugshot, shared online by authorities in Stockton, California.
Why can’t we fancy Jeremy Meeks, the “fine felon”?
By Laurie Penny - 28 June 14:05

The idea that women might not just be supporting characters in men’s stories, but rather individuals who are free to fancy bad boys, or weird guys, or women, is still unaccountably threatening.

Laverne Cox, the transgender star of "Orange is the New Black". Photo: Getty
Laurie Penny: What the “transgender tipping point” really means
By Laurie Penny - 24 June 15:38

The time is coming when everyone who believes in equality and social justice must decide where they stand on the issue of trans rights.

An owl
Everything is awful, vote for owls
By Laurie Penny - 20 June 17:59

I was preparing myself to vote Labour with gritted teeth if there were no good Green candidates in my area but I’d feel far less dirty about the whole thing if I knew I was getting my own owl. 

Sharp tactics: the spikes on the ground outside a London block of flats which sparked outrage. Photo: Getty
Laurie Penny: A war on homelessness should mean shelter, not metal spikes
By Laurie Penny - 19 June 10:00

Rough sleeping has almost doubled in London in the past few years and private businesses are making it tough for the new homeless to put down their blankets.

Students taking part in a candlelight vigil at UC Santa Barbara. Photo: Getty
Mental illness does not excuse violent misogyny
By Laurie Penny - 30 May 10:00

What does a rich, privileged young man have to do to get labelled a terrorist?

A shattered window at the crime scene in Isla Vista. Photo: Getty
Let's call the Isla Vista killings what they were: misogynist extremism
By Laurie Penny - 25 May 14:46

For some time now, misogynist extremism has been excused, as all acts of terrorism committed by white men are excused, as an aberration, as the work of random loons, not real men at all. Why are we denying the existence of a pattern?

Southampton University graduate Matthew Hicks plays "Prince Harry" in the show. Photo: Daniel Smith/Fox
Who needs Fox’s fake royal reality show “I Wanna Marry Harry”? The Windsors are the real thing
By Laurie Penny - 22 May 11:03

The British royal family is already the longest-running and most successful reality television series on the planet.

Alice Walker
What we talk about when we talk about trigger warnings
By Laurie Penny - 21 May 17:31

In the mainstream press, it is common for newscasters to warn viewers if they are about to see "potentially distressing" content. So why is there such resistance to trigger warnings - which encourage openness and honesty, rather than shutting down debate?

Emily Letts, a 25-year-old American clinic worker, filmed her surgical abortion and posted the video on the internet. Image: YouTube
Abortion should be free, safe and legal – for everyone
By Laurie Penny - 19 May 16:13

Nobody should have to play the frightened victim to make basic choices about her future.

Boris Johnson. Photo: Getty
Laurie Penny: no, Boris, being called a racist is nothing like dealing with Boko Haram
By Laurie Penny - 13 May 16:15

The mayor of London is not the first to throw a tantrum over ‘call-out culture’ in a growing backlash against online communities condemning racist, sexist, homophobic and transphobic behaviour.

Wait is over: GCSE students at a Bristol academy pick up their results, August 2013. Photo: Getty
Laurie Penny: how to pass your damn exams
By Laurie Penny - 12 May 10:00

You know, and I know, that exams are an awful hazing ritual, but to beat the system you must first learn how to play it.

What japes! Nigel Farage drinks a flagon of ale after a Ukip public meeting in Basingstoke, 9 April. Photo: Getty
Ukip understands people will always want someone to blame
By Laurie Penny - 30 April 10:13

Orwell was wrong, the English will accept a far-right government, so long as it’s dressed up in silliness and accompanied by a farting trombone.

A vintage Craven A advert. Advertisers have long appropriated female empowerment. Photo Flickr
First, the admen stole feminism – then they used it to flog cheap chocolate and perfume to us
By Laurie Penny - 17 April 10:00

Advertising is one of the areas where profound cultural battles are played out in public

Peaches Geldof's death caused ripples on social media. Photo: Getty
Selfies at funerals and memorial hashtags: mourning in the digital age
By Laurie Penny - 14 April 16:20

There is nothing we can do to make normal or “appropriate” the death of a dear friend, or a beloved public figure.

A slippery slope (as used by the penguins at London Zoo). Photo: Getty
The slippery slope of gender: why shaving and snacking are feminist issues
By Laurie Penny - 11 April 15:37

Gender policing is all about the little things – trying to limit women through rules about beauty and dress and behaviour. But little things become big things, and it’s vital we fight the battles that make a difference.

A tale of two cities: how San Francisco's tech boom is widening the gap between rich and poor
By Laurie Penny - 09 April 8:00

San Francisco is awash with tech money. Yet this city of innovation is also a place where you have to step over the homeless to buy a $20 artisan coffee.

Ezra Klein, of new venture Vox. Photo: Getty
Where are the real outsiders in New Media?
By Laurie Penny - 04 April 15:41

From Vox to 538, white guys get feted as the future of journalism while everyone else gets attacked and dismissed.

Shailene Woodley, Zoe Kravitz, and Ben Lloyd-Hughes in Divergent.
Laurie Penny: No wonder teens love stories about dystopias – they feel like they’re in one
By Laurie Penny - 03 April 14:17

Civilisation as we know it could collapse in 15 years, something which is reflected in the viewing habits of today’s kids.

Feminist allies: Bulgarian men wearing high heels run during "Walk a Mile in Her Shoes", in Sofia, on 8 March, as part of an international awareness campaign over rape. Photo: Getty
What drives the men who think feminists and foreigners want to wipe them out?
By Laurie Penny - 25 March 10:00

The mindset that believes, against all evidence, that governments are just desperate to give money to anyone who isn’t white, male and a citizen.

A placard reading “A mother by choice” at a pro-choice protest in Spain. Photo: Getty
Porque Yo Decido: Spain’s war on abortion is not about morality – it’s about austerity
By Laurie Penny - 08 March 17:43

Attacking women’s rights isn’t just a diversion tactic. It’s a bid for votes from cultural conservatives.

Voice of an alien: Charlotte Church performs her new EP Four with a sci-fi show in London, 5 March. (Photo: Getty)
Geek culture has gone mainstream – and that’s bringing its own problems
By Laurie Penny - 05 March 13:09

Mainstream media have, until recently, been hostile to geeks – who have been hostile back. How do we break the cycle?

Northern Irish police use water cannon on an Orangeman marcher in July 2013. Photo: Getty
In London, the only choice the poor and discontented get is this: water cannon or rubber bullets
By Laurie Penny - 03 March 17:26

The Met wants the weapon ready for use this summer. But the question should not be why now but why at all.

A security guard stands at the gates of the Yarl's Wood detention centre
Yarl’s Wood detention centre shames Britain – when did “refugee” become a dirty word?
By Laurie Penny - 17 February 12:25

Hundreds of female asylum-seekers are housed in Yarl’s Wood. They have done nothing wrong, so why are we locking them up?

Woody Allen performs with his New Orleans Jazz band in California
The way we talk about rape and abuse is changing
By Laurie Penny - 10 February 11:29

To preserve rape culture, society at large has to believe that women systematically lie about rape.

Why Lena Dunham's Girls can't represent every woman - and why it shouldn't have to
By Laurie Penny - 04 February 17:51

In mainstream culture, white, straight, middle-class women don’t get to speak about their experience without having it universalised and made meaningless in the process - but black women, poor women and queer women usually don’t get to speak about their e