Meat Market

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Laurie Penny

Laurie Penny - journalist, political blogger, socialist and feminist activist - is rightly angry about the condition of women's lives under capitalism and the way our bodies are "punished and policed". Her short book touches on important aspects of the "new sexism" - including sexuality and alienation, eating disorders, housework and prostitution. Penny's outrage is palpable, justified and often erudite.

She sees the "pornification" of sexuality, the growing numbers of women suffering eating disorders, and the drudgery of housework as examples of capitalism's undermining of women's bodies. But why does this happen? Penny blames the patriarchal capitalist machine, and sees "body fascism" as a conspiracy born of capitalism's need for women's work in the family.

Yet sexist ideas come from material reality. For Penny the answer is for women to reject these roles and refuse to be "beautiful and good" - but this is idealism unless it is tied to a revolutionary movement that calls into question the material roots of oppression. Penny's discussion of work is centred on domestic labour but doesn't consider women's collective power alongside men.

Nonetheless, Meat Market contributes powerfully to debates about how change can happen. You have to love "Riot, don't diet" as a subheading. As devastatingly sharp as Penny can be, in this book she doesn't offer much of a way forward.