Düsseldorf Her appearance in Dusseldorf is like a match at Lori Penny. The British writer and activist was met with a lot of acclaim when her new book, Sexual Revolution, was shown at FFT. But there are criticisms too.
Nobody expected it: Well-known British journalist, author and activist Laurie Penny comes to Düsseldorf to talk about her new feminist book and her first topic is science fiction. How did you come to that? It’s Wednesday evening, and Laurie Penny sits down with cultural scientist and author Mithu Sanyal, who leads the evening, in the midst of a completely futuristic stage set on the first stage of Forum Fries Theater (FFT). Science fiction and feminism? Well, they are both future oriented. This initial observation was also appropriate for general mitigation.
At the beginning of March, Benny’s new book, The Sexual Revolution – The Right Reaction and Feminist Future, was published in English and German. This is why the 35-year-old is on a reading tour across Germany. Dusseldorf is its second stop after Hamburg. Actress and singer Catherine von Schamer also sits at a desk high on stage at FFT reading from the book.
“Love is political” is how the first text begins. In the “Love’s Labors” chapter, Penny describes that partnerships are often an emotional burden for heterosexual women. She also criticizes the fact that heterosexual men are rarely asked to sacrifice their identity, ambition, or sexual desires for love – but so are women. At the same time, men are victims of themselves, and “toxic masculinity is a prison,” says Penny.
In general, it is difficult for a woman to love. Penny explains that it becomes more complicated when family and children are added. By the way, the writer surprisingly made it clear that she is married, but not pregnant. With small interjection-like phrases like this one, I manage to dilute serious monologues. With each of these notes, she pulls the corners of her mouth down or smiles with closed lips. The audience laughs with her. But how should it be otherwise? Most of the audience are women, white and on average 30 years old are women.
The second major topic this evening is consent. “Satisfaction is more than sex,” Penny explains. Contentment is not something a woman gives to a man. Consensus must emerge from the cooperation of both sides. It’s how we treat each other without either side having to compromise.
In her book, Penny also incorporates very personal experiences into the topics she writes about. She tells why she used to have sex with men and why being a writer is more important to her than a relationship. In addition to love, contentment, toxic masculinity, and sexuality, the primary focus is on sexual violence. According to Penny, the sexual revolution is already underway. At the same time, she realizes: “We don’t fix everything in one night or in one year.” In her book, Penny attempts to include the perspectives of “women of color,” transgender women, and Indigenous women. It also deals with racism. Feminism is meaningless without it.
During the publication of her book, Penny faced a lot of backlash. However, criticism often does not refer to her work, but rather to her as a non-binary person who feels that she does not belong to either the female gender nor the male. Penny knows that there are people who like to ignore the existence of nonbinary and trans people. But this can not be argued far.
The discussion stages between Sanyal and Benny prevail this evening. With original Düsseldorf touches on themes, Penny falls into long monologues. Sanyal steps in and the conversation takes on a dynamic of its own. Finally, they open the discussion to the audience. In terms of racism, a woman accuses Penny of using the same language as the people she’s already criticizing. Benny’s reaction is relieved and thanks for pointing this out.
After the third request to speak, it is clear that Sanyal and Penny are having difficulties finding an end. Catherine von Shamir saves the situation, picks up a guitar, orders the lights to dim, starts playing and sings: “How can anyone tell you, you’re less than beautiful?” Spreads a powerful feeling – empowerment.