Instead, the book gives us plenty of rhetorical outrage (265 pages), the kind that has become all too familiar on our social media feeds. On the first page alone we have “the crisis of white masculinity”, “a crisis of democracy”, “a crisis of care and reproduction”, to finally say that “sex and gender are [also] in crisis”. Certainly, there are many things that make us feel that the world is in deep trouble. But systematically labeling everything with the rhetoric of “crisis” without providing a deeper account of what these difficult situations give us. say about the present, makes the book appear like a pile of screaming headlines rather than a call to arms, leave alone sustained criticism.
To further frustrate the reader, the book is littered with editorial errors, undigested ideas, and confusing if not comical passages: “Something broke. Something breaks again. Not like a glass breaking or a heart breaking, but like an eggshell breaking – inexorably, and from within. Something wet and angry is fighting its way out of the darkness, and it has claws. Although recalling the Extraterrestrial film franchise (for this reader at least), I’m not sure Penny had this kind of alien creature in mind as a symbol of the new feminist fightback. But who knows?
Like Bad Sex, the book feels both overly superficial and endlessly monotonous. And like much meme-driven political culture, if not institutional diversity initiatives, it tends to flatten the different constituencies it otherwise advocates for. For example, the repeated shorthand “women and gays” and occasionally “women and gays and people of color” nods to intersectionality without bothering to reflect on how issues in cause have very different consequences for disparate minority or subordinate groups.
It’s this kind of flimsy intersectional language that works to homogenize the experiences of minority groups and keeps in play a version of Western feminism that winks at diversity without bothering to understand how difference works.