Pop culture, politics and feminism


A slippery slope (as used by the penguins at London Zoo). Photo: Getty
Laurie Penny on 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.

Laurie Penny on 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
Laurie Penny on the real outsiders in New Media: not the white guys who look like the old guard, just younger
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 on fiction: 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
Laurie Penny on 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
Laurie Penny on Spain’s war on abortion: it's 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)
Laurie Penny on geek culture and the mainstream: 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
Laurie Penny on anti-protest equipment: 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
Laurie Penny on Yarl’s Wood detention centre: it 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
Laurie Penny on rape discourse: 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.

Laurie Penny on Lena Dunham's Girls: it can't represent every woman, but 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 experiences at all

Laurie Penny on hair: Why patriarchy fears the scissors - for women, short hair is a political statement
By Laurie Penny - 25 January 12:35

Choosing to behave consciously as if the sexual attention of men is not my top priority has made more of a difference to how my life has turned out than I ever imagined.

Laurie Penny on political culture: Westminster’s casual bullying of women shows how out of touch it is with modern society
By Laurie Penny - 24 January 12:10

When political historians are dusting off the gravestone of Lord Rennard’s Liberal Democrats, I doubt it will read “killed by feminism”.

Pope Francis greets a child in St Peter's Square.
Laurie Penny on The Pope: I'll listen to Francis the day he becomes pregnant
By Laurie Penny - 14 January 17:25

Liberals around the world in shock as Pope revealed to be Catholic, and have strong anti-abortion views.

Laurie Penny on Sherlock: The Adventure of the Overzealous Fanbase
By Laurie Penny - 12 January 13:02

Whose wankfest is this anyway? The BBC's Sherlock doesn’t just engage with fan fiction - it is fan fiction.

Laurie Penny on unemployment: To save a generation from despair, it’s not enough to hassle them into low-paying jobs
By Laurie Penny - 10 January 10:25

The most important political battles are fought on the territory of the imagination. Young and unemployed people need to know: you are more than your inability to find a job.

Laurie Penny on Beyoncé: Five reasons Beyoncé's new album is a multi-faceted thing of awe and wonder
By Laurie Penny - 15 December 16:23

We should be jealous of the ten-year-olds who will grow up to tracks like Beyoncé's "Flawless", when all we had was the Spice Girls' "Wannabe".

Laurie Penny on e-cigarettes: It's not harming anyone, so why is Brussels trying to remove my robot cigarette?
By Laurie Penny - 12 December 15:20

You can take my fake smokes from my warm, blood-beating hands.

Laurie Penny on sex work: The Soho raids show us the real problem with sex work isn’t the sex – it’s low-waged work itself
By Laurie Penny - 11 December 13:04

The moral crusade against the sex trade, whether it is pursued by the police or by high-profile feminists who have never done sex work, serves the same function that it has always served, writes Laurie Penny.

The LGBT activist Ira Putilova, who has just been released from the Yarl's Wood
Laurie Penny on immigration policy: The coalition’s “tougher stance” on immigration is causing cold-blooded tragedy
By Laurie Penny - 10 December 10:56

While the Home Office launches a special “fast-track” service for foreign business leaders wanting to come to the UK, asylum seekers and persecuted activists are treated with contempt.

Miley Cyrus.
Laurie Penny on girl trouble: we care about young women as symbols, not as people
By Laurie Penny - 30 November 9:27

For all those knuckle-clutching articles about how girls everywhere are about to pirouette into twerking, puking, self-hating whorishness, we do not actually care about young women.

Laurie Penny on high culture: In defence of bad sex
By Laurie Penny - 20 November 5:09

Half a century after the end of the Chatterley ban, high culture still recoils at the least whiff of smut.

Neil Gaiman interview: "It was much, much more fun being absolutely unknown"
By Laurie Penny - 13 November 12:56

Neil Gaiman is one of the best-known - and best-selling - writers in the world. He just wishes that people would let him get on with writing a bit more.

Laurie Penny on everyday surveillance: Why I was afraid to take a picture in New York
By Laurie Penny - 07 November 11:55

Power is about who gets to do the watching and who has to put up with being watched.

Laurie Penny on Brand, iconoclasm, and a woman's place in the revolution
By Laurie Penny - 02 November 10:27

On Brand, iconoclasm, and a woman's place in the revolution: a dialogue with Richard Seymour on the question of how to reconcile the fact that people need stirring up with the fact that the people doing the stirring so often fall down when it comes to tre

New Statesman
Laurie Penny on public scrutiny: Today's young women live with constant surveillance. It has to stop
By Laurie Penny - 23 October 21:32

To be a white, middle-class male in this society is to live without a certain sort of scrutiny that people from other demographics grow up expecting. Meanwhile, intimate surveillance creeps into every aspect of young women's lives.

Laurie Penny on the Miley Cyrus complex - an ontology of slut-shaming
By Laurie Penny - 11 October 8:55

Sexual performance is still the only power this society grants to young women, and it grants it grudgingly, rushing to judge and humiliate them whenever they claim it.

The Sun's frontpage for 7 October 2013. Photo via @SuttonNick on Twitter
Laurie Penny on The Sun: fearmongering about mental health is what's really monstrous
By Laurie Penny - 07 October 14:22

The paper's frontpage claim that "1,200 killed by mental patients" is misleading - and it exposes exactly the kind of prejudice that implies people with mental health problems are violent, unstable monsters.

New Statesman
Laurie Penny on welfare reform: Iain Duncan Smith had an epiphany, and it meant nothing
By Laurie Penny - 17 September 10:21

The religious language of sin and shame informs Tory welfare rhetoric, with its pulpit-thumping over "strivers" and "scroungers". But their overhaul has nothing to do with compassion or principle.