Review: Bitch Doctrine – Laurie Penny (2017)

35153638My rating: 3/5 Stars

Date Read: 12 July 2017

Published by Bloomsbury Publishing, 13 July 2017.

Verdict: Great starting point, not many really new thoughts for me though.

Find it on Goodreads.

Smart and provocative, witty and uncompromising, this collection of Laurie Penny’s writing establishes her as one of the most urgent and vibrant feminist voices of our time. From the shock of Donald Trump’s election and the victories of the far right, to online harassment and the transgender rights movement, these darkly humorous articles provoke challenging conversations about the definitive social issues of today.

Penny is lyrical and passionate in her desire to contest injustice; she writes at the raw edge of the zeitgeist at a time when it has never been more vital to confront social norms. These revelatory, revolutionary essays will give readers hope and tools for change from one of today’s boldest commentators.

It will come as a surprise to absolutely no-one that I consider myself a feminist; academically, personally, and politically. As such I have read an awful lot of feminist writing, both for my degrees and in my free time – which is why there really weren’t all that many new things for me to discover in this essay collection. This doesn’t mean it isn’t a great starting point or not worth reading, it just means that I found myself skimming parts of the book.

Laurie Penny writes about many things important to me; and I agree on a whole lot of topics. She is angry and rightfully so; it is an absolute shame that the world isn’t fairer and better because it could be and it should be. I am fine with a feminism that is angry because why the hell are we still arguing about whether equality is fair?! Many things make me angry and I think it is important to use that anger to change the world in whatever way we can – and if it is only in changing how we act and react and treat people.

One of her major points is about how it is unfair that women writers are always meant to speak for all women – as if that was at all possible to achieve. However, she then quite often seems to speak for all women (giving us such weird phrases like “we as women of colour” [she is not a woman of colour]). For me that was a incongruity that I could not quite deal with. Paradoxically the book works both best and least when Laurie Penny uses her own experience as a baseline to discuss things. When she uses her own experience to underscore the more academic and political points she makes it works great and gives her work a more immediate urgency. But then she seems to sometimes think her experience to be more universal than it maybe is and then it detracted from her points.

I never quite warmed to the way she structures her essays; I often found the endings to be not quite thought-out or very abrupt. Additionally, there were some sentences that for me flowed weird and took me right out my reading flow. I think the best pieces were those that sounded more conversationally – I think because those were the ones where she was the angriest, and she does angry extremely well.

First sentence: “In case you haven’t noticed, there is a war on.”

I received an arc of this book curtesy of NetGalley and Bloomsbury Publishing in exchange for an honest review. Thanks for that!

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