Bitch Doctrine: Essays for Dissenting Adults

by Laurie Penny

Hardcover, 2017

Call number

306 PEN



Bloomsbury USA (2017), 384 pages


"Smart and provocative, witty and uncompromising, this collection of Laurie Penny's celebrated essays establishes her as one of the most important and vibrant political voices of our time. Bitch Doctrine takes an unflinching look at the definitive issues of our age, from the shock of Donald Trump's election and the victories of the far right to online harassment and the transgender rights movement"--Amazon.

User reviews

LibraryThing member rivkat
Oh look, another pained and angry woman writing powerfully but depressingly about what it’s like to be in 2017 in the US/UK as a feminist. Which is to say: it’s good, but I don’t know how many more of these I can read without giving up. “All politics are identity politics, but some identities are more politicised than others.” Penny thinks that self-blame on the left is in some sense a self-protection technique: if it’s our fault, then there’s something we can actually do, rather than the situation being beyond our control. On online harassment: “Every so often I wonder why I didn’t become a restaurant critic. They get free dinners. Being a feminist journalist, I get free death threats.” She argues that it’s better for most young, heterosexual women to be single, mostly because men their age usually haven’t learned to treat women like people; you might find a unicorn, but probably you’ll be wrong about that. Penny reads Austen and finds her an amazing horror writer, whose heroines are depressed and economically desperate in claustrophobic environments whose only escape is by marriage. She diagnoses rape culture as one in which (1) women (and children) are assumed to lie about rape and thus are not credible when they speak out, and simultaneously (2) rape is so omnipresent that all activity should be calibrated to avoid it, and when it happens there’s always some way to say “she was X so what did she expect?” She also describes the Wives of Mad Max: Fury Road as “what would happen if someone decided to heavily arm a Burberry ad,” heh. (And then she adds that the movie gives the lie to the idea that, in societal collapse, women will want men to protect them—men might be “precisely the thing they are trying to survive.”)… (more)
LibraryThing member SChant
Polemical rather than analytical. It's a bit dispiriting to see women still having to shout about the same things I was shouting about 40 yrs ago.
LibraryThing member ASKelmore
Best for: I don’t know. Maybe new feminists looking for some decent writing?

In a nutshell: Journalist Laurie Penny collects some of her greatest hits into one essay collection.

Line that sticks with me: “It’s easy to criticize call-out culture, especially if the people calling you out are mean and less than merciful. It’s far harder to look into your own heart and ask if you can and should do better.”

Why I chose it: I don’t know. I probably shouldn’t have, as there are so many other writers out there taking on these topics.

Review: Only after I brought the book home did I realize that one of the blurbs was from Caitlin Moran. That should have been enough to make me second-guess my choice, as I think Ms. Moran views the middle-class white woman experience as some sort of universal stand-in that represents all that feminism should address. I also should have second guessed this purchase when I remembered that Ms. Penny wrote “I’m With the Banned,” a (I believe) well-meaning attempt to profile the rise of the new white supremacists in our culture, especially in light of the New York Times piece that recently painted Nazis in a sympathetic light.

With all of that as preamble, I do think that many of the essays in this collection are insightful. I believe all are pulled from previous writing, but only one was familiar to me. It’s a good one called “On Nerd Entitlement” and is a response to an article from a white tech guy who denies that he has benefited from male privilege. She handles the issue with sensitivity and acknowledgment that privilege doesn’t prevent you from experiencing pain.

I don’t generally find myself disagreeing with any of her analysis, and I appreciate the subject areas that she chooses to cover from her perspective - love, culture, gender, agency, backlash, violence, and the future. I could see many of the essays generating good conversation among women, and possible being something to share with men in your life who maybe get it but don’t fully get it.

One thing I noticed was that many essays ended awkwardly. The last paragraph or two often includes a sentence that suggests a connection or argument that wasn’t made in the essay, or a bat turn of phrase that reads a bit like how I wrap up my own writing when I don’t have the time to put in. Which is odd for a fully edited and printed book.
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