A Doctrine for Bitches? 10 propositions to help you decide

There are many things about the world today that I don’t understand – like why feminism makes people so angry and afraid, why anyone would actually vote for Trump, why Australia is currently staging a postal survey on same sex marriage. Laurie Penny‘s new book, Bitch Doctrine, has gone a long way to helping me understand many of these things (although not the same sex marriage survey as nobody can actually make sense of that one).

I’ll be honest: I think Laurie Penny is inspiring. Every time she writes, she astutely calls out the social injustices she sees, explains them logically and rationally and then poses solutions to them. She does this with humour, wisdom and anger, but she also does it hopefully. She delivers all of this, again, with Bitch Doctrine – a series of short essays on topics that range from the US election, to transsexuality, to Mad Max: Fury Road, to rape culture. They’re heavy topics, but Penny makes them interesting and digestible, and rather than collapsing in a heap of left-wing anguish, she highlights ways we can achieve change.

And yet at the start of this book, Penny explains that she called it Bitch Doctrine because when she presents what she thinks are ‘quite logical, reasonable arguments for social change’ she is called a bitch (and worse).

I’ve gathered together a selection of quotes from the book that particularly resonated, and grouped them as 10 propositions that make sense to me.

None of these seems all that provocative, but what do you think?

Happy African Feminist Who Does Not Hate Men

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie instantly became one of my literary heroes after I read Americanah. I would even go so far as to rank that book as one of my top reads ever.

Somehow though, I don’t think my accolades will make much of an impression on Adichie’s trophy cabinet. Her TEDx talk, We Should All Be Feminists has been watched over 6 million times; Beyonce sampled her talk in the song Flawless; the book We Should All Be Feminists is being distributed to every 16 year old in Sweden, and this month Adichie made it into Fortune Magazine’s World’s 50 Greatest Leaders. We Should All Be Feminists has been followed up by Dear Ijeawale, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, released just this month. Both books are a fantastic read, and provide a vital contribution to the feminist canon.

Fighting, feminism and Ford

I’m a feminist.  Every day I notice how women’s lives have been shaped to sustain male privilege.  I get angry when I think about the gender pay gap.  I’m furious about the prevalence of family violence.  The way that women in particular (but men too) are poked and prodded into hating their appearance by global beauty companies makes me livid.  But I am nowhere near as angry as Clementine Ford.

We need to talk about Lionel… a lot less

Leila, Melbourne gal and feminist, guest writes for Words and Leaves about hearing two very different women speak at the Melbourne Writers Festival – Lionel Shriver and Juliet Jacques – and how, respectively, they angered and inspired her.

Initially when I planned this review, I was going to write about how the authors I’d heard at the Melbourne Writers Festival – Magda Szubanski (Reckoning: A Memoir), Charlotte Wood (The Natural Way of Things), Yassmin Abdel-Magied (Yassmin’s Story) – all meditated on how reading and writing illuminates the human condition and helps us to know ourselves better. I was also going to write about how authors and readers can grow to love (or hate) the characters in the best books with as much passion as if they were real people. And how our favourite books are far more than just stories, instead becoming real experiences that enter into our memories and really change us.

I was going to write about all those things. And then I saw Lionel Shriver give her closing address.

Shriver described her views as ‘incendiary’. I prefer to describe them as ‘infuriating’.