I don’t wish to necessarily single out Laurie Penny for criticism in this post, but she’s such a typical example of the phenomenon I want to write about that I don’t have much choice. If a Nickelodeon was asked to come up with a cartoon of a hard-left third-wave feminist, they’d simply ask an artist to follow Laurie around all day.
I had been struggling to find language for my growing anxiety over the fact that, at almost 30, I still have no desire to settle down and form a traditional family. I’ve been waiting, as open-mindedly as possible, for a sudden neo-Darwinian impulse to pair up and reproduce. And yet here I am, and it hasn’t happened. Despite no small amount of social pressure, I am happy as I am.
Study after study has shown that it is men, not women, who benefit most from marriage and long-term partnership. Men who marry are, on the whole, healthier and happier than single men. Married women, by contrast, were no better off than their single counterparts.
If women reject marriage and partnership en masse, the economic and social functioning of modern society will be shaken to its core.
I happen to believe in dismantling the social and economic institutions of marriage and family.
So Laurie is happy and doesn’t want to get married, and thinks marriage is bad for women and she wants to see the institution, and that of the family, destroyed. She then goes on to tell us that:
When partnership ceases to be mandatory, it only becomes more special. Next week, one of my partners is getting married, and this week I went to his stag night as part of the groom’s party. I’m happy for him, and for his fiancee, whose permission I got before mentioning her in this piece.
As regular readers know, Laurie is – or at least was – polyamorous. Well, good for her.
Now here’s what The Times says about Laurie, and they meant it as a compliment:
A writer and polemicist, a bad-ass, contrary, angry, bisexual troublemaker who is never happier than when she’s upsetting someone, or preferably everyone …
Here’s what she had to say about, erm, herself on ABC recently:
I don’t think, as political people, as activists, and as people who care about a livable future for the human race, we should be moderating our language at this point.
The opposite. I think this is when we go harder. Because, ultimately, you can’t do feminism, you can’t do anti-racism, you can’t do any kind of progressive politics if your first objective is to make the other side feel comfortable.
Well, I’m sure some people DO feel uncomfortable with the pace of social change, but I would suggest they get used to it, really. I don’t think it’s my job to make people who are sexist feel more comfortable. I’m not a politician, I’m a writer, and my job is to push the discussion forward.
Here’s what she said about herself (again) in march last year, in another New Statesman article:
I’m happy because I live in my own bubble and give zero fucks – a bit like a teenager.
Here’s Laurie praising her sister:
@batrachianlips I fucking love you and I’m fucking proud of you. xx
— Laurie Penny (@PennyRed) October 11, 2012
Here’s how she’s described her love life since her early twenties:
Over the past ten years, I have been a “single poly” with no main partner; I have been in three-person relationships; I have had open relationships and have dated people in open marriages.
Finally, the title of her latest book is called Bitch Doctrine.
Laurie has set out to portray herself, with quite some success, as a badass woman who gives zero-fucks, takes shit from nobody, does whatever the hell she wants (a bit like a teenager), and bucks every societal convention there is. Liberal use of profanity, piercings, dyed hair, and an unconventional sex life all complete the picture of someone who doesn’t care what anyone thinks.
Like I said, Penny is somewhat of a cartoon, but she’s far from alone. I follow a handful of radical feminists and polyamorists online and they try so hard to be different they end up looking and sounding exactly the same. Unfortunately they also have something else in common which I haven’t listed. Consider the following tweet, from last June:
For someone who has built a career by demanding men she doesn’t know treat women with greater respect, it is odd she appears to have neglected to ask the same of her partner. Then yesterday, this:
This was about as surprising as Christmas. A feature of the people I mention above is their habit of posting semi-coherent outbursts of raw emotion followed by wallowing self-pity; their moods are up and down like a roller-coaster, one minute saying how happy they are the next moaning how shit life is. I’m not going to link to any examples because these people are, in the main, private individuals who are daft enough to post their mental torments on the internet.
But Laurie Penny is a public figure, writing for major publications and appearing on national television. She uses these platforms to advocate for social changes and encourage others to reject societal norms which, in the opinion of anyone with half a brain, would result in increased unhappiness and the further fracturing of society. In other words, she’s fair game for criticism.
Now I don’t want to make light of her depression, but she has probably brought this on herself. She boasts of being anti-social and nasty, and brags about rejecting conventional intercourse such as engaging in monogamous relationships, and takes delight in making people with whom she disagrees uncomfortable. In short, she sounds pretty damned unpleasant. And now we find the last nine months have been mean to her, she’s been dumped by her partner, and she’s depressed.
Well, there’s a surprise, eh?
Whether she’s realised it is open to question, but Laurie is probably finding that having thousands of sycophantic followers on Twitter and media types praising her “bravery” and calling her a “badass” is no substitute for having one or two genuine close friends and a partner who loves her. The problem is, you can only get those by being occasionally pleasant, which will be difficult for someone who’s made a career out of being the exact opposite.
The fascinating question is did the unpleasantness cause the loneliness, or vice versa? Or is it a vicious circle where a slight rejection when young induces unpleasant behaviour, resulting in loneliness and further unpleasant behaviour?
Alas, I’m just a blogger so I don’t know. But there is an awful lot of this stuff about, particularly in women in their late twenties and thirties. Laurie Penny is just the best example of a widespread problem.