A Few Words On Unspeakable Things


I am a latecomer to the writing of Laurie Penny. The self-identified journalist, feminist, geek and author has been writing on gender, social justice, pop culture and digital politics since 2007. And yet, here I am picking up her writing for the first time and wondering, wow, how have I missed this brilliant voice?

I have to confess that I didn’t read the whole of her most recent book of essays, Unspeakable Things. I gave the chapter on Lost Boys a miss because at the time of reading I was pretty much over the whole “What about the menz?!” thing (not that Penny’s piece is part of that discussion but my head just couldn’t go there). When (and if) the pity party dies down then I may go back to it.

As for the other 90% of this book … I love so many of the ideas and arguments Penny presents. I love how she lays out her unspeakable things – “love and sex, beauty and disgust, power and passion and technology” – in such an insightful, passionate and reasoned voice.

I’d never thought of the Manic Pixie Girl before but once described I saw all those quirky-girl characters in rom coms in a different light. And then there’s her chapter on love where she pulls apart Love ™. That one got a re-read.

Sigh. The world is such a better place when voices like Penny’s rise above the cacophony and actively engage with the meaning and politics of the intimately personal.

Penny’s stated intention is clear throughout the essays: feminism matters. And her writing made me feel that someone out there cares enough about gender-based injustice to get angry – and thoughtful.

Unspeakable Things reminded me that I do like a good feminist polemic. It’s even better when the author of said polemic is under-30.

There may indeed be hope for the future.

You can read Laurie Penny’s writing on her blog Penny Red