Pop culture, politics and feminism


Communal living: pronoun awareness and a lot of tea. Photo: Flickr/Ewen Roberts
In this plutocrat's playground of a city, it's good to know there's still a commune to call home
By Laurie Penny - 31 July 11:32

I asked my new friends if I could stay for a few days whilst my landlords dealt with a rat problem. I ended up staying forever.

Don't give in: an angry population is hard to govern; a depressed population is easy
By Laurie Penny - 09 May 13:36

Don't let the bastards get you down – choose action over despondency when coming to terms with the general election result.

Votes being counted in Scotland last year. Photo: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images
There may be nothing to vote for — but there's plenty to vote against
By Laurie Penny - 17 April 12:24

Not voting isn't passive, but it only works if politicians care what you think. To be counted, you have to step into the ballot box - if only to register your disgust.

Probably also don't use a typewriter. Photo: Getty
Read. Get paid. And don't give up. Laurie Penny's advice for young journalists
By Laurie Penny - 10 February 16:28

After Felix Salmon warned aspiring journalists that a world of woe awaits them, NS columnist Laurie Penny has some more cheery advice.

A still from The Social Network. Photo: Getty
On Nerd Entitlement
By Laurie Penny - 29 December 13:23

White male nerds need to recognise that other people had traumatic upbringings, too - and that's different from structural oppression.  

The effigy of Alex Salmond is paraded through Lewes on 5 November. Photo: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty
So they burned Alex Salmond in my hometown
By Laurie Penny - 06 November 11:19

I grew up in Lewes. I know this town. The Bonfire Parade has always been exactly this problematic. The surprising thing is that people are only just noticing.

Let’s do the Time Lord again: Laurie Penny and Nicholas Lezard debate Doctor Who
By Helen Lewis - 22 August 16:38

With Peter Capaldi about to step into the Doctor’s shoes, two passionate Whovians talk to Helen Lewis about favourite companions, gender politics and missing theremins. 

Murder: a protester outside Buzz Westfall Justice Center where a jury began looking at the circumstances surrounding the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown. Photo: Getty
Welcome to America, where police shoot an unarmed black man six times – and then call him a villain
By Laurie Penny - 21 August 13:31

What is happening in Ferguson is about more than Michael Brown and his family. It’s a shadow play of a national crisis in race relations and class repression.

Chivalry or common sense? A man dressed as a knight in armour competes in the Tough Guy Challenge. Photo: Getty
Laurie Penny: In defence of white knights
By Laurie Penny - 20 August 10:00

“White knight” and “beta male” are the most common slurs flung at feminist allies – usually by retro sexists who still think feminism is all about poor confused chaps getting shouted at whenever they hold open a door for a woman.

Close-up of Spectra, the light installation to commemorate the First World War near parliament. Photo: Getty
Laurie Penny: A century of royals looking sad in expensive hats doesn’t take away the horror of WWI
By Laurie Penny - 13 August 10:00

On the centenary of the First World War, we must remember that millions who died had little idea what they were signing up for – nor how their deaths would be treated 100 years later. 

The Palace of Westminster. Photo: Getty
Laurie Penny on 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
Laurie Penny on surveillance: Cameron's cynical appeal to 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 on terror and surveillance: 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
Laurie Penny on 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
Laurie Penny on Facebook's manipulation: It 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.
Laurie Penny on attraction and sexism: 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 on trans rights: 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
Laurie Penny on owls: 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 on rough sleeping: 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
Laurie Penny on Elliot Rodger: 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
Laurie Penny on misogynist extremism: Let's call the Isla Vista killings what they were
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
Laurie Penny on the Windsors: Who needs Fox’s fake royal reality show “I Wanna Marry Harry”?
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
Laurie Penny on trigger warnings: What we're really talking about
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
Laurie Penny on abortion: it 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 on resisting condemnation: 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 on being in education: 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
Laurie Penny on the far-right: 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
Laurie Penny on advertising: 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
Laurie Penny on mourning in the digital age: Selfies at funerals and memorial hashtags
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.