Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and Revolution is a book written in 2014 by Laurie Penny, a British journalist and author as well as a political activist. The book critically looks into neo-liberalism and capitalism while considering gender politics in addition to fiscal austerity. She also incorporates her individual struggles in the book including her journalism career, eating disorder, British background, and activism experiences (Penny, 2014). Furthermore, the book provides a discussion of misogyny and political organization in regard to the internet, feminist hostility towards sex workers, occupy movement failure, poverty, protest and sexual freedom. Penny masterly explicates the plight of women in her book Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and Revolution using her personal story to emphasize the need for a more elaborative approach to handling gender issues.
The book uses a provocative and dramatic style in the presentation of information; hence, the work is enjoyable to read while as well as represents a perfect writing approach, which is based on including plenty of personal information and provocative language. For instance, Penny talks of being caught masturbating, loss of her virginity, and sexual encounter with various male activists as well as female characters while noting that these sexual encounters involved both sexes at some instances (Penny, 2014). She also provides abrupt transitions into her individual life besides polemics on sexual submission.
Notably, the book also effectively discusses topics that are avoided by most authors. Penny provides an account of both love and sex during the time of austerity, hence contributing to Haraway’s theme regarding the political myth about feminism by highlighting gender and protest politics (Haraway, 2001). In this regard, Penny argues that capitalism leads to the creation of losers in an invariable way. This means that young men experience inability to have economic clout, and hence, appear in the condition they are entitled to according to their feelings. She also mentions that the society which embraces capitalism defends itself from its rage and disappointment by deflecting these senses on women due to the existence of uppity and emasculating females who make men fail to achieve what they desire and want.
In the book, the author is critical at some point as she dismisses writers who focus their work on their individual middle class lives as far as professionalism is concerned for the audience of other professionals in the middle class level (Penny, 2014). In tandem with this, she makes claims that poorer women belong to an aspect that is shamefully neglected in respect to the feminist debate as they are interested in the board seats rather than the shop floor life without putting into consideration that just as wealth, feminism does not go trickling down. This discussion contributes to the theme of women manipulation covered by Silvia Federirici in Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle (Federici, 1975). In discussing the manipulation of women, Penny speaks about feminism that does not take any prisoner, feminism that focuses on justice and equality in addition to freedom in all. This freedom particularly refers to the freedom to be oneself, to love the individuals of our choices, freedom that leads to the invention of new roles in regard to gender, and the freedom to openly express thoughts regarding individuals who deny the acquisition of the above mentioned rights (Penny, 2014). The book generally gives a voice to the voiceless, a voice that enables to speak on the unspeakable things. Penny is also right when she mentions that the internet has led to the reinvention of sex due to the advantages and the disadvantages of sex promotion through th internet.
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This book is also an eye opener on the role of patriarchy in men, women, and boys that are oppressed and constrained through the punishing of individuals who try operating outside of the gender roles that are rigidly prescribed. In general, this was the most insightful aspect to me in the book (Penny, 2014). In line with neo-liberalism, with the removing the welfare provisions and the promotion of inauthentic individualism with a view of corroding solidarity and pushing individuals into competition, gender does not matter in terms of winning. In this regard, Penny provides an argument that the crisis of masculinity narrative is a decoy argument as it results in the initial few decades’ alarmist headlines which blame feminism rather than neo-liberalism for the gender crisis.
Furthermore, Penny in her work provides a clear insight into the current phenomenon of sexism in the world because of showing various ways through which women are exposed to sexism in the modern world. For instance, she gives an example of her journalism career which has exposed her to sexism in the public eye. This contributes to the aspect of publicity that Jurgen Habermas talks about by focusing on public opinion (Habermas, Lennox, & Lennox, 1974). Penny also gives evidence of sexism whereby women are shunned and shamed in tech start-ups. In this regard, she challenges the growing notion that the internet is bad for women in particular instances. She therefore puts forth that it is not the attitude that comes from the people who created technology that is problematic, but rather technology itself. The woman tries to convey a message that there is no sense in pointing fingers at the victims that are affected by the implications of technology, but rather people should blame technology itself (Penny, 2014).
The book is convincing as the author advocates for the rights of women to have genuine desires and to be set free from the restriction of only being desired in the confines of sex neo-liberalism.
Some further themes relate to the sexuality of women. In correlation with this theme, Penny tries to emphasize that the problem lies in the claim that it is a taboo for the female sex to have genuine hunger and desire. Besides, she provides insight that sexism has clearly demarcated the role of women as nowadays they are expected to be a center of attraction for men besides pleasing and cuddling them (Penny, 2014). This has been identified as the primary occupation of each woman, which demeans them further.
Based on the clear explication of the theme of sexuality and the perception of women, the book challenged me in new ways at how I look at women and their position in relationships. The book has changed the manner in which I view the balance between a man and a woman in the society as well as altered my approach to addressing the disparities between them. In the overall sense, students interested in feminist studies would find this book interesting. They should read this book for further understanding of how the rights of women need to be advocated and respected.
In conclusion, Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and Revolution by Laurie Penny is a thrilling and provocative masterpiece as it deeply digs into various themes including sexism, liberalism, neo-liberalism and feminism, that are still being debated on in the current world. It is interesting how the author discusses the above mentioned topics without fear while incorporating her personal experience in the journalism career from the woman’s perspective as far as the subject of sexism is concerned. It effectively advances the themes that are already discussed in the materials in class, especially regarding the rights of women and talking publicly about matters that affect them.