Laurie Penny: Feminist author subjected to 'vile sexist and anti-Semitic abuse' over her book

“Rape fantasies and pictures of dead children were coming faster than I could block individual users," said the author

Ian Johnston
Monday 21 July 2014 13:33
Feminist author Laurie Penny
Feminist author Laurie Penny

Feminist author Laurie Penny has been subjected to “a stream of vile sexist and anti-Semitic abuse” as part of a campaign against her book Unspeakable Things, she says.

The book, released two weeks ago, was hailed by the likes of Irvine Welsh who said it was essential reading “for anybody who truly believes in equality and freedom”.

However in a blog post Ms Penny said she had had “quite a weekend” as she experienced a “predictable sexist troll backlash”.

“In the past 24 hours, I have been subjected to a stream of vile sexist and anti-semitic abuse on Twitter and elsewhere,” she wrote.

“This has become a normal part of my life as a person who dares to write in public whilst being both female and left-wing, but this weekend it’s been particularly full on.

“Rape fantasies and pictures of dead children were coming faster than I could block individual users.

“In the end I had to step away from the internet, which was a pain because I need the internet to work.”

She said more than 20 one-star reviews had been posted on her books Amazon page which were “full of vile sexist and scatological language … almost all of them from users who had reviewed nothing else”.

“I’ve taken screenshots. Amazon ratings really do matter to the publishing industry, and this is an obvious attempt at sabotage” she said. “Clearly, this book, and the fact that I’ve written it, is making some bedroom misogynists incredibly angry.

“Somewhat ironic, given that there’s a whole chapter in the book about how structural sexism works online.

“I am sick of this bullshit. Criticism is one thing – and the book has received its fair share of that from writers who think it’s too personal, too politically strident, too left-wing, too queer or too dark, as well as rave reviews from critics who love it for precisely the same reasons.”

But Ms Penny, a contributing editor at the New Statesman who lives in London, said the comments were “not fair criticism, any more than the men who’ve been sending me death threats for years are merely expressing their opinions”.

According to her publishers, Unspeakable Things is a “ruthless” dissection of modern feminism and class politics.

“This is a book about poverty and prejudice, online dating and eating disorders, riots in the streets and lies on the television,” it says. “The backlash is on against sexual freedom for men and women and social justice ¬– and feminism needs to get braver. Penny speaks for a new feminism that takes no prisoners, a feminism that is about justice and equality, but also about freedom for all.”

Ms Penny’s tweet about the abuse retweeted more than 500 times on Sunday night by people including the author Neil Gaiman.