Why do most feminists seem angry?
Interview with Laurie Penny : "Most women live a work-work balance"
Ms. Penny, in Germany the quota for women on company boards has just been passed. More and more women are in management positions in Western Europe. Let's be honest: why do we still need feminism at all?
Yes, so many think: Hasn't the struggle for equality been over long ago? No he did `nt! Poor women, women with dark skin, people with a non-heterosexual orientation are still severely disadvantaged. And I think there has been a strange culture since the noughties of constantly blaming those affected. Hey you miserable Then you have to work harder on yourself! Then you just haven't tried hard enough!
You describe the psychological side effects of the prevailing self-optimization ideology drastically in your book “Ineffable Things”. In it you report not only about anorexic, mortifying and perfect beauty chasing "fucked up girls", but also about "lost boys". Are men also victims of their gender role?
Absolutely! I think the old feminism notion of a clear division of power between the sexes is obsolete. So the idea that women are powerless when men have power - and vice versa, that men automatically lose power when women have more power. That's not how it works.
Are women no longer oppressed by men today?
Well, the term patriarchy literally means not the rule of men, but the rule of the fathers. And the rich who control us socially are not all men per se. That is why it is no easier for most men or boys than women or girls. They just have other gender issues. I think feminism is getting better and better at recognizing these problems as well.
Indeed, “Ineffable Things” seems more like a pamphlet against neoliberal capitalism than against sexism. Career women who seem to manage the balancing act between job and family effortlessly come off badly with you. Why? Isn't it positive that women are just as successful as men today and that they also wear pretty shoes?
I have nothing against great shoes! I am in love with shoes myself, but as a Gothic fan I am in black. But there is a new kind of feminism that wants to make people better neoliberal subjects and make them believe that equality means having a career that leaves room for children. That may be important. But this feminism does not go to the root of the discrimination. He doesn't talk about contraception, abortion rights, or how work is distributed. He doesn't talk about sexual abuse, race or class. If we could all be wealthy white women in global cities, that would be okay. But that's not how real liberation works.
When you were 17 you were so badly anorexic that you were taken to a clinic. Was that the crucial experience that made you a feminist?
No, that happened much earlier than when I was twelve or thirteen years old. At the time, I read Germaine Greer's The Whole Woman and then started a campaign at my junior high school. British schoolgirls weren't allowed to wear pants back then - not even in winter. So I started a petition with other girls. We almost got our way. I wrote a letter to Germaine Greer and she wrote me back a postcard that I was so proud of that I framed it.
In your book you are very open-hearted, you also write about your love affairs, your lovesickness, your anorexia. Why so many private confessions?
I didn't want to write a purely theoretical book, but one that really moves people. And the interesting thing about anorexia is that - although it has long been known that role expectation and eating disorders are related, especially in young women - society still clings to a pathogenic image of women. When I was in the clinic at the time, there were many doctors there who always encouraged us patients to be “good girls”. They said we should dress nicer, let our hair grow, put on make-up, and develop a better body image. Then everything would get better. But it wasn't for me. What helped me was realizing that it was okay to be angry. That it wasn't me who was crazy, but that society screwed it up.
The current rollback doesn't make things any easier for women. What do you think of the fact that nowadays even younger female academics suddenly seem to find virtues like cooking, getting married and having children cool again?
Interesting that you include motherhood as well. Because I really have the feeling that almost every woman I know is pregnant. Having a baby seems like a lifestyle choice these days. Something that you want to be able to afford, like a new Homme bag or Louis Vuitton shoes.
Of course, raising a child means a lot more responsibility and more effort ...
Absolutely correct. I think it's important to see motherhood as work again, like some feminists did in the 1970s. I hear people talk so much about work-life balance. But free time for women doesn't mean: Just hang out in front of the TV and peel the lint from your belly button. Leisure time for women means: babies. Or take care of the husband. Most women live a work-work balance. Somehow your work never ends. Why don't we indulge in a little more laziness? More time for ourselves? I think I'm going to call for a lazy women revolution!
The interview was conducted by Gisa Funck. On Wednesday, June 17th, 8:00 pm, Penny will read from her book "Unsagbare Dinge - Sex, Lügen und Revolution" (Edition Nautilus) in Berlin's SO 36, Oranienstr. 190.
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