How the new commentariat launders its privilege

Brendan O’Neill, in one of his getting something right moments, points out the flaw in Laurie Penny’s “feminism”:

Penny writes an awful lot about women for someone who doesn’t know what a woman is. Ostensibly this is a feminist tract, about how humanity faces a terrifying choice – it either carries on down the road to fascism or it embraces the corrective of Laurie Penny’s feminism. (Talk about a rock and a hard place!) And yet it’s a strange feminist tome that thinks men can be women, too. Penny gets it out of the way early. ‘In this book, when I talk about “men” and “women”… I am including everyone who locates themselves in those categories’, she says on page 8. So she’s not really talking about men and women at all. What a way to blow up your own thesis. Men have ruined everything, and only a progressive women’s politics can save us, but men can be women too if they want, so this progressive women’s politics will sometimes include men – that’s this book boiled down.

But Laurie Penny will just say they’re not men, because they say so.

And then there’s the part that crosses paths with the detransition article I quoted this morning:

I really wish that Penny – and all the other talking heads of our fashionably traumatised era – would just keep things to herself. Do we need to know that Penny starved herself as a teenager and ended up in hospital? Do we need to know that all her friends seem to have had terrible and frightening sexual experiences? (Where are they hanging out?) Penny says that she and others – the enlightened ones, presumably – have ‘realised and accepted that we are being abused and terrorised’. I call bullshit. Terrorised how? Again, why should we be made to suffer the neurotic cries of the leisured classes? Penny doesn’t need a political movement – she needs a therapist.

All these unconvincing claims to victimhood play an important role, however. They are the means through which the new commentariat launders its privilege and turns it into suffering.

Ah-ha. The same insight, you see. How does one get out of being a privileged white cishet Karen? By being trans or enby, or by telling us about a traumatic teenagerhood.

This is the fundamental function of identity politics – it allows those from wealthy, comfortable backgrounds to position themselves as the new oppressed. So Ms Penny – privately educated, time-rich, her labour unsold, her hands uncalloused, straight, married, etc etc – can magically reposition herself as a member of the downtrodden by announcing that she is genderqueer, a they/them, abused, terrorised, yada yada. And so do the privileged elites culturally appropriate the language of oppression and position us as the oppressors of them.

He’s not wrong.

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