Reviews|||

Cybersexism: Sex, Gender and Power on the Internet by Laurie Penny

12th Sep 2013

★★★★★
Cybersexism: Sex, Gender and Power on the Internet by Laurie Penny
Over the past two generations the political map of the human heart has been redrawn first by feminism, and then by a change in technology. (Surprise, surprise - we love this book!)

Freelance journalist Laurie Penny wrote her third book while living in a safe house, following a bomb threat delivered to herself, Hadley Freeman, Caroline Criado-Perez and a number of other high profile journalists.

The anger Penny felt at these threats courses through Cybersexism and results in a blistering take down of the clichés, aggression, abuse and aggravation that besets any woman who dares “feed the trolls.”

She slices her way through the bullshit - pointing out the misogyny that’s all too often dismissed as “harmless fun”Aged 26, Penny is a member of the first generation to live the majority of their adult life online. What began as a refuge for a red-headed geek-girl has become her playground and battlefield.

The respect she feels for the internet and it’s power to transform shines through, in a book peppered with personal anecdotes it’s easy to see where her anger comes from. The trolls who invaded her timeline a few months ago appear to have struck at her heart, and she is furious.

Penny’s appeal can be seen in the most talked about section of this book, a quote which encompasses the positives and negatives of the internet, and the reason us lot at For Books’ Sake are so proud to be part of this community:

“The Internet made misogyny routine and sexual bullying easy, but first, it did something else. It gave women, girls and queer people space to speak to each other without limits, across borders, sharing stories and changing our realities…”

This is what Penny does, she slices her way through the bullshit – pointing out the misogyny that’s all too often dismissed as “harmless fun,” while depicting a gloriously supportive eutopia for women and our allies.

And that’s the great thing about this book; it’s for us. This is about women using the internet and it’s still the wild west out here so, frankly, it’s refreshing to get a little guidance.

A few days ago Penny’s father was hospitalised, and when she tweeted about it a series of trolls weighed in. In a world like this, where we live so much of our lives online and where IRL boundaries are steadily eroded, we need someone like Penny to point out the bullshit.

We need someone to point out that telling someone like Criado-Perez “don’t feed the trolls” is to actually suggest that she brought it on herself.

We need someone to point out that “the hatred of women in public spaces online is reaching epidemic levels and it’s time to end the pretence that it’s either acceptable or inevitable.”

We need women like Penny to refuse to be silenced and to keep fighting cybersexism.

Cybersexism: Sex, Gender and Power on the Internet was published by Bloomsbury on 22nd August and is available as an e-book. It will also appear as part of her 2014 book, Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and Revolution.