We need to talk about Laurie Penny

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.

In June last year, the estimable David Thompson linked to this piece of hers in the New Statesman:

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:

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.

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38 thoughts on “We need to talk about Laurie Penny

  1. “to advocate for”: aw, Mr Tim!

    Anyway: so the story is that an apparently mad woman is indeed a madwoman.

  2. The only relevant question is is she at all shagable?

    Obviously you wouldn’t want to bother trying to respect such a loathsome cow, so really as a bloke the only question is that; after how many pints would she start looking do-able?

  3. I seen her on the telly last week for the first time and she didn’t look that well then. Just done a wiki on her now and seen this.

    In personal comment on her website, described herself as an atheist child of a lapsed Jew and a lapsed Catholic. She has written about her hospitalisation at age 17 for anorexia and subsequent recovery.

    Here is my Dr Google diagnosis.

    Personality disorders, in general, are deeply ingrained, learned behaviors and mindsets formed during childhood that result in the individual ceasing to mature emotionally. Border personality disorders are rarely diagnosed in India and in other developing countries and it is a sort of “culture bound syndrome” prevalent in western cultures. About a third of people with border personality disorders also have narcissistic personality disorder; they are especially unwilling to look at themselves and their own behavior.

    When these characteristics are carried to an extreme, when they endure over time and when they interfere with healthy functioning, a diagnostic evaluation with a licensed physician or mental health professional is recommended.

  4. I think the stuff about depression represents the potential collision of two contemporary social bandwagons that self-publicists like to ride. One is the “Look at me, I’m intelligent and autonomous and got it all sussed and don’t need anything ‘cos my life is perfect, etc., etc.”. This is very pervasive and a lot of people do it. Rarer, but still important among self-publicists, is the “Poor little me, I’ve got special needs, etc.” It’s certainly a viable marketing strategy to have a foot on both bandwagons, and people pay to see you do it. Ms. Penny keeps a foot on both bandwagons because she is able to keep her legs open a lot of the time.

  5. Basically, if you humour loonies they get loonier. What jumped out to me was the reference to a “livable future”. I’ve heard this stuff from otherfeminists, making a better future for women, while completely overlooking the fact that if you and other feminists don’t have a family then there won’t be anyone around to enjoy this utopian paradise.

  6. If the incidence of loons like Laurie Penny is increasing – and my wholly unscientific impression is that it is – then why? Could it be certain child-rearing practices in the 1980s? Penny’s alienation, anger and nihilism might suggest daddy issues, or possibly too much indulgence of her infant whims…I don’t know.

    What I do know is that a child brought up in a broadly normal and loving family, and properly socialised, will not turn angrily against the structure that raised her, or leave her unable to form stable and exclusive sexual relationships. What went so wrong, Laurie, that you were left so emotionally crippled?

  7. Maybe it’s not the numbers of loons that’s changed, it’s the willingness to give them a column in the rags.

  8. I am sorry for Ms Penny’s depression, though I am not sure how it came about. I presume from what has been said here she has plenty of — however casual or impermanent — relationships. She is paid to be somewhat off the wall by a grateful (albeit lefty) media and her affiliations no doubt provide her with a lot of contacts, friends and acquaintances. Some may even want her autograph.

    Of course I understand her depression may be because this unfair society of ours resolutely refuses to be as left-wing as she would like; there are stick in the muds like me who don’t think much of the glowing new world ahead that she and her fellow shock troops want to foist upon us all. Yes, that may be depressing knowing we will not willingly bow to the red flag. Sorry, Penny.

    But her life is hardly that of a lonely shepherd; she isn’t some isolated lock keeper who never sees a living thing from one day to the next. She has what a lot of people want and that’s companionship along the way. She chose her way for herself and as oppressed as she might be, her life was pretty much of her making. If she doesn’t like it, she can always change direction and ask if people want fries with their burger at a fast food joint.

    But I have to say this: the woman is irrelevant in the long term. Her words and thoughts might be preserved, though that could be at the the whim of various small grubs that don’t eat newsprint or whether we manage to keep on making electricity in enough quantity to keep servers running.

    I am cruel and heartless and I do not think she brings much if anything to the party. Her woes matter to her, of course, but to the majority of us she passes like a small puff of smoke on pretty cloudy day.

    Keep cheerful, chuck: it is all you have.

  9. This was all predicted, or at least described, decades ago. See PCU.

    Pity Miss Penny never learned the lesson of the linked clip.

  10. Theophrastus,

    “If the incidence of loons like Laurie Penny is increasing – and my wholly unscientific impression is that it is – then why? Could it be certain child-rearing practices in the 1980s? Penny’s alienation, anger and nihilism might suggest daddy issues, or possibly too much indulgence of her infant whims…I don’t know.

    What I do know is that a child brought up in a broadly normal and loving family, and properly socialised, will not turn angrily against the structure that raised her, or leave her unable to form stable and exclusive sexual relationships. What went so wrong, Laurie, that you were left so emotionally crippled?”

    The presence of people like Penny in the mainstream media is about the death of mainstream media. Sensible people who have ambitions aren’t going into the MSM like they once did. The smart people are either setting up YouTube channels and collecting all the money, or not going into journalism at all. Look at the rise of women in journalism and ask yourself why that’s happening. Why did the men give up their seats?

    Kids raised in loving homes can rebel a bit, but it’s generally tempered. The conversation about the security guard suggests kids who were really spoilt as kids. No boundaries, no discipline by the parents. Probably indoctrinated with Guardian thinking and left-wing manners.

  11. The access to the online world for those of an unstable nature is an extreme form of ‘care in the community’ entertainment too.

  12. As I mentioned in an earlier comment, its highly doubtful Laurie believes much of what she writes and says.

    Every time she thinks of something new to troll the heteronormative majority with, she gets a little boost of dopamine along with a few hundred quid from the Grauniad for the subsequent column.

    We’re complicit too, of course. I don’t mean just the people reading and commenting about her on this blog, but the wider society. If more people stood up and said, “Laurie either has a mental illness because she believes this guff or she’s got a personality disorder which makes her spout it while not believing it” the strange reward system would evaporate.

    It’s the same as giving Bruce Jenner awards for being “woman of the year”. He’s got an illness and we encourage it rather than help him cope with it.

  13. Remember that depression is mostly a chemical imbalance, not caused by being happy or sad or lonely or frustrated or . . . whatever.

    So, none of her life’s turmoils will have caused her mental illness. It is much more likely that her mental illness has caused her life’s turmoils.

    It’s not my job to bring comfort to mentally ill people like her, so I’ll just come out and say that chances are very high that she will commit suicide within the next decade.

  14. The problem is not Laurie Penny.

    The problem is that she appears to be regarded by many as possessing insight and wisdom.

  15. I’m the resident quack psychiatrist over on David Thompson’s blog. Laurie does not have BPD, NPD, nor any other particular disorder, although she apes the symptoms and terminology thereof for attention.

    Everything you need to know about Laurie can be described by “You can’t tell me what to do, Daaaaad/Pay attention to me, Daaaaad”. That’s it. Only child raised by parents who let her do whatever she wanted without consequence.

  16. Daniel Ream
    As our host mentions above, Laurie isn’t an only child. She has a sister, Eleanor, who sounds just as ghastly.

  17. The good news about Laurie Penny and her ilk is that they are unlikely to reproduce. So taking a long term view Ms Penny is only going to be a problem for another 50 years or so. In fact probably less since her sort are highly likely to off themselves when the depression gets too much.

  18. @Bill “As I mentioned in an earlier comment, its highly doubtful Laurie believes much of what she writes and says.”

    So to be clear, when she said that she had a mini panic attack recently when the Doomsday Clock reached 2.5 mins to midnight, do you mean that she took it in her stride and didn’t freak out and was lying about that or is it that she really does not believe in the Doomsday Clock whatsoever?

  19. @Bardon,

    I suspect zero brown paper bags were hyperventilated into at that point, no.

    I actually admire her to a certain extent, it’s a great little niche she’s made for herself;

    1. Make a ridiculous statement, undefendable by even the loosest of standards of logic and evidence
    2 Retweet/publish the most extreme tweets and emails received in response
    3. Claim innocent victim status in a paid 800 word Guardian column
    4. Rinse
    5. Repeat

  20. The only relevant question is is she at all shagable?

    In my experience there is nobody on the planet so hideous someone won’t shag them. Being extremely unpleasant though? Yeah, that will keep people away. As a pal of mine once said, personality goes a long way.

  21. I think the stuff about depression represents the potential collision of two contemporary social bandwagons that self-publicists like to ride.

    Yes.

  22. Theo,

    Penny’s alienation, anger and nihilism might suggest daddy issues, or possibly too much indulgence of her infant whims…I don’t know.

    Allow me to quote a snippet from my upcoming book:

    Lucy raised her hands, palms towards me. ‘Okay,’ she said. ‘I know she’s your girlfriend and this is none of my business but it sounds like she was a spoiled brat, your typical moody teenager, and her parents didn’t know how to handle her. The older men thing, she was probably looking for a father figure. She might have done it just to spite them.’

    ‘Sorry,’ said Lucy. ‘But what the hell were her parents doing? If I’d done anything like that my folks would have killed me! My dad would have dragged me home by the hair if he had to!’
    ‘Katya wouldn’t have listened to them,’ I said.
    ‘Maybe, but they should have tried anyway. Running away from home, older men, orgies, polyamory: these are cries for help! Even if they couldn’t change her mind, they should have tried because it would show they care about her. Perhaps that’s all she was looking for, a sign that they cared.’
    ‘I think they cared,’ I said. ‘But they were clueless. I reckon Katya threw a tantrum every time they tried to set boundaries, and they simply caved in. She’s probably been testing the limits since she was a kid hoping for some push-back, but it never came. If you indulge a child when you should be asserting authority, they’ll not respect you and eventually assume you don’t care. If her parents had imposed some discipline I doubt any of this would have happened.’
    ‘Either way, they’ve done a lousy job,’ said Lucy.

  23. Daniel,

    I’m the resident quack psychiatrist over on David Thompson’s blog. Laurie does not have BPD, NPD, nor any other particular disorder, although she apes the symptoms and terminology thereof for attention.

    Everything you need to know about Laurie can be described by “You can’t tell me what to do, Daaaaad/Pay attention to me, Daaaaad”. That’s it. Only child raised by parents who let her do whatever she wanted without consequence.

    I’m going to quote another snippet:

    ‘Borderline personality disorder, mainly: chaotic interpersonal relationships, attention-seeking, anger issues, self-destructive behaviour, that sort of thing. Does that describe Katya?’
    ‘I don’t know,’ I said uncertainly. ‘There’s plenty of that, but I’m no doctor. She might just be a spoiled brat.’

  24. Remember that depression is mostly a chemical imbalance, not caused by being happy or sad or lonely or frustrated or . . . whatever.

    Outside factors have no bearing on depression?

  25. I actually admire her to a certain extent, it’s a great little niche she’s made for herself;

    Indeed, that seems to be the sequence all right. Nice little earner.

  26. 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.

    In the old days she would have been a localised nightmare, just her family (if she had one), work colleagues and any other associates unfortunate enough to encounter her.

    The Internet has simply enabled these people to target their anti-social behaviour onto a global population.

  27. Theo – “If the incidence of loons like Laurie Penny is increasing – and my wholly unscientific impression is that it is – then why? Could it be certain child-rearing practices in the 1980s?”

    It was Fatcher!

  28. Look at the rise of women in journalism and ask yourself why that’s happening. Why did the men give up their seats?

    That’s an excellent observation: women tend to be filling seats vacated by men in dying industries.

  29. My experience is that many people who loudly & frequently proclaim that they ‘don’t give a fuck what anyone else thinks’ – actually do.

    A lot.

    Otherwise, why say it?

  30. Laurie talks a big game about her polymorphous sex life, but if she has actually had 10% of the sexual encounters she claims I’d be gobsmacked. It’s all about the image. Saying she’s poly/multi/ambi/whatever sexual is all about image projection and her idea of a power play: she’s really like some ’60’s hippy ‘sticking it to the man’.

  31. “I reckon Katya threw a tantrum every time they tried to set boundaries, and they simply caved in. She’s probably been testing the limits since she was a kid hoping for some push-back, but it never came. If you indulge a child when you should be asserting authority, they’ll not respect you and eventually assume you don’t care. If her parents had imposed some discipline I doubt any of this would have happened.”

    Very good, Tim. When’s the novel available?

  32. Very good, Tim. When’s the novel available?

    Hopefully in the next few months, depending on how long the editing process takes. I’ve 3/4 of the way through the final draft, after which it will go to an editor.

  33. Laurie talks a big game about her polymorphous sex life, but if she has actually had 10% of the sexual encounters she claims I’d be gobsmacked.

    Yup. And it’s also worth mentioning that the women I’ve met who have been genuinely sexually liberated expressed it within the confines of a few proper, loving, stable relationships. The idea that promiscuity and one nights stands are liberating for a woman is one I’ve never quite understood.

  34. The evil bitch is a shill for socialism –a death cult.

    I am sure that most of the 150 million murdered by the creed would–if they could- just love a chance to feel mildly depressed after a break-up.

    Even if the break-up was likely their fault.

    To Hell with her.

  35. I particularly love the #fuckdepression hashtag in the quoted tweet. It implies that her troubles are, in fact, a result of some “other”—a random external source over which Laurie herself has no control.

    Like many similar people of her age and inclination, Laurie does not seem to connect her depression, in any way, with her own behaviour or situation.

    Barking.

    DK

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