Coffee House

Sorry Laurie Penny, but the patriarchy likes short hair

28 January 2014

3:34 PM

28 January 2014

3:34 PM

Boy oh boy do I feel sorry for Laurie Penny. I hope that’s not a sexist thing to say. There she is, doing what she does, churning out perfectly harmless po-mo guff for the New Statesman about ‘why the patriarchy fears scissors‘ because ‘short hair is a political statement’ — and people seem to hate her for it, as if she were saying  something dangerously wrong.

‘If you’ve a ladyboner for sexist schmuckweasels,’ says Penny, ‘short hair isn’t going to help, although they might let you administer a disappointing hand-job.’ Top drawer prose, that — witty, rude, could be a quote from Lena Dunham’s Girls, everything a good New Statesman or Guardian article should be. It’s not my bag, but then I don’t have a ladyboner for schmuckweasels, sexist or not. I can see, however, that it serves a purpose journalistically and far be it from me to stand in the way of women talking about hair.


But poor Penny really got it in the neck from the sisters of social media. In sticking up for short hair, she had alienated and offended the longer-haired sorority, as well as black women, somehow. ‘Long hair with ragged ends does NOT conform to patriarchal beauty standards,’ said @Exlancestrian (#childfree #atheist). ‘If women like laurie penny want to dismiss me because of my long hair, then to use her words, we’re wasting less of each others’ time,’ said @jaythenerdkid.  ‘Having long hair that you do NOTHING with apart from tying it back has a similar not-playing-the-game message,’ added @decadentmadamez. ‘Whites [with] long hair contributes to the patriarchy and institutional racism against afro-haired ppl,’ insisted @chantalfresh, perhaps ironically.

It all got a bit much for Penny. She had a panic attack and had to remove
herself from Twitter around midnight:

Well, I suppose if you are going to stand atop the sexist superstructure shouting vagina, you expect a bit of abuse. But it doesn’t seem fair when the aggression comes from people who should be on your side – i.e. other women who spend their lives on the internet talking about their genitals in the context of the male hegemony.

What was missed amid all the squabbling was whether Penny had a point about male attitudes to short hair. For what it’s worth, I don’t think she does. Men don’t fear short hair on a woman. Most of us quite like it, depending on the shape of said woman’s head. What we don’t like is  men with long hair. I even like Laurie Penny’s hairstyle, dammit, though I find the Sharon Osbourne-esque colouring off-putting. I must be threatened by it.

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Show comments
  • GreenLantern

    She wrote that in response to an article written by an MRA, so don’t blame her.

    As for men not liking short hair, i wore long hair for almost a decade through my 20’s and men never liked me then, first person to say they liked it when i had it cut was male. When i had it long i tied it up all the time, because im too active for long hair, and the hair i have is very fine but lots of it so it annoys me too much to have down, plus my scalp does not react very good to hair products.

    When i had my haircut the people who were the first to object to it were women, i find i get snipy looks occasionally now, but to be honest ive always had them. Im in the UK though, we dont have the same stereotypes here as in the US, its more a case of either whats in fashion or what suits you here, it has less political meaning.

  • Komagata Hayashi

    of course you hate men with long hair….imagine Thor,Lorenzo lamas,jack sparrow etc etc…..long hair is mainly,anything that resemblealfa males to loosers are f* scaring!

  • whs1954

    She gets paid for this! An entire article hung on the fact that there are nasty turds on “game forums” (there are also Catholics in the Vatican, you know), followed up with the claim a hairstyle constitutes a political statement.

    (Wo-)Man alive! I could do that. “Why serving kids egg and soldiers for tea is an oppressive patriarchal plot to inculcate the young in the military-industrial-imperialist complex, by Penny Black” – can I have my £500 please?

  • Smithersjones2013

    So this is how privileged left wing ‘radicals’ entertain themselves is it?

    One day they will realise that the world doesn’t work in terms of their overly simplistic neurosis driven bigoted stereotypes. Or maybe they won’t?

    That this originated from a comment on Facebook is all one really needs to know.

  • S&A

    Laurie Penny has a ‘workload’?

  • rtj1211

    One of the things you discern about aggressive feminists (of whom Laurie Penny is one) is that they are just as bitchy toward their fellow women as they are toward the ‘men’ who they have to put down, insult and generally badge as revolting as the core activity of their paid employment.

    I really wish there was an online rag whose sole topic was denigrating journalists: it’d make like so much more equal, reading a weekly headline demeaning Laurie Penny’s brain, her emotions, her figure, everything to do with her, in fact. Not just her, you could do another about Rod Liddle’s rudeness, obesity, defective support of football in SE London etc etc. Not to mention Zoe Williams’ strange education and career path toward socialism and Cristina Odone’s turning a 2 inch journalistic nob-morsel into an elephant’s penis on a regular basis.

    There comes a time when you say: ‘for god’s sake, get a life you journalists and realise that never-ending ‘do this, do that, don’t do this, don’t do that, isn’t this scandalous, boo, hoo, hoo’ is actually the cause, rather than the cure or prevention of vast amounts of depression, bipolar disorder etc etc’.

    You know, wouldn’t it be great to actually hear that Laurie Penny was capable of enjoying herself, that the following men and/or women can truthfully report what a wonderful, generous lover she is and that she is a model manager/employer of British youth.

    Would that be possible or are journalists journalists as a route to expiate their self-hatred through its projection onto some poor segment of society??

  • RaymondDance

    Has anyone ever suggested to Laurie Penny that she might consider getting a life – or pointed out to her that the endless reams of inconsequential drivel that she turns out are likely to be a major source of embarassment to her when she gets a little older?

  • Sim Chi

    She has too much time on her hands.

  • foxoles

    What is a ladyboner for sexist schmuckweasels?
    Where can I get one?

  • David Prentice

    “…she had alienated and offended the longer-haired sorority, as well as black women, somehow.”

    Black women are alienated and offended by everything, so let’s just take it as a given next time, hmm?

  • MacTurk

    “If you’ve a ladyboner for sexist schmuckweasels…”?

    I know this will make me sound terribly out of touch? but could someone please tell me what on earth that means?

    What is a ‘schmuckweasel’, sexist or otherwise?

    On second thoughts, do not enlighten me as to the meaning of ‘ladyboner’…….

  • James Allen

    So she styles herself butch in order to put off unwanted attention from guys (who can’t see past her appearance). Have I got it right? Or she wants attention from guys who are attracted to women who look like guys? Or she (subconciously) wants attention from girls who think she’s gay? Or… she plays games with her appearance because she doesn’t want to conform to what other people expect of her? Darn… I’m confused

  • James Allen

    If she’s not gay, she could be styling herself butch in order to attract a certain kind of man…. I dunno, just speculatin’…

  • bwims

    She really is fugly isn’t she? Do you think that dog is her only friend?

  • bwims

    Speak for yourself. I’ve always thought that long hair was a woman’s best feature.

    The only women who look okayish with short hair have to look like a model, have delicate features and ears, unlike Anne Hathaway’s, that do NOT stick out.

  • the-peoples-poet

    Yes, I agree, she does spout some stupid, moronic, naïve left-wing crap. I am still at a loss as to why a magazine thought that her opinions were worth paying for.

    Something I have to take up with Mr Gray, though, is what he said about men with long hair.

    All the men I know have long hair and a nicer bunch of people you could never hope to know. They are all lovely and I would much rather be in the company of a man with long hair than a woman with short. All the short haired women I know are idiots.

  • Cornelius Bonkers

    Sorry, I don’t understand the article. But there again I’ve got quite long hair (a rather fetching selection of strands of various SHADES OF GREY) for a white 63 year old man. On the other hand, I have nothing against bald men or men with short hair who obviously are to be equally respected. I hope my above hair situation qualifies me to comment on topics such as those arising from considerations of posthuman solidarity in a postfeminist, postcolonial era of posteurocentric political discourse. Of course, on the other hand I willingly accept on my own shoulders the transhistorical sins of my forefathers should my fellow posthumans deem it correct. All I can say is; if it be so then so be it…

  • paulthorgan

    The curious feature of this whole affair is why anyone takes la Penny seriously. Her pieces are rote-written, predictably lifeless tracts. It is possible to write a Laurie Penny article without actually being Laurie Penny.

    This is why her articles are unreadable. They are written from a dogmatic position with no appearance of original thought. All she does is spout out the consistent ideology of the left , Thatcher Bad, Miners Good, Tories Evil, Private Sector Evil, Socialism The Future, Unions The Saviours, Men Sexist, Women Victims. Industry Evil. Global Warming Proven. Taxation Not Enough. The Poor Not Responsible.

    If Penny could actually be creative, she would be interesting. As it is, she is a cheap knock-off of Owen Jones and sadly a role-model to Lynsey Hanley.

  • Oli

    All this about a haircut!!!?

    • paulthorgan

      I think it is more about how some gullible editors micturate good cash to buy Laurie’s sad missives.

  • Lord Edmund Moletrousers

    I was watching the news at 10 on ITV at a friends house & his wife remarked that the presenter Julie Etchingham had once again shortened her blonde hair & now looks real butch. I reminded my friends wife that Ms. Etchingham spent most of her career working as an operative of the BBC propaganda network & unable to shake off her bad habits was now attempting to make herself look younger using a shortened politically correct version of the Poly Toynbee perm

  • MC73

    I like women with short hair and find Laurie rather sexy.

    It is a bit odd that she seems to want to be judged by her looks, I thought that was verboten these days?

    Still if we don’t judge her by her looks we will be forced to judge her by the drivel she writes.

    • MC73

      Although is she got paid by the word then fair play to her.

  • simon1970

    Why does anyone pay any attention to Laurie Penny? If we all ignored her, she would soon go away.

  • Donna InSussex

    I just find it funny that she’s a feminist talking about hair. Hairstyles are what women who do their nails and read glamour talk about.

    I have long hair tied back, but that’s because i have better things to do with my time than style it. I hadn’t realised i was on the cutting edge of the feminist war against male attraction (although it might explain why i’m still single).

    • La Fold

      I was thinking that myself, feminists arguing about hairstyles has to be beyond parady… isnt it?

    • Colonel Mustard

      You are not alone in being mystified. I have never in my life tried to determine the political leanings of an individual from their hairstyle let alone received a ‘message’ from it.

      I think the ‘ism’ most apparent in Ms Perry’s assertions is egotism rather than feminism.

      • paulvew


      • puss-in-boots

        You could probably guess that someone with dredlocks likes grass, veggie sandwiches, and every daft policy that the current government comes out with.

  • Toxteth O’Grady

    Naaaah I think it’s horrible.

  • Eddie

    One thing (of many) that makes me scream with laughter when considering that small insignificant noisy species, the professional feminist, is how everything is always men’s fault.
    So some insignificant bint – whose career seems to have been built on endless invitations to promote herself on BBC Radio 4’s Man-hating hour (Woman’s Hour zzzz) – argues that it is men’s fault that other women don’t like her haircut! That awful patriarchy eh?
    Things get more serious when feminists claim (and with a straight face) that whenever women commit crimes (kill babies, abuse children etc) it is all the fault of men anyway because we are living in a patriarchal, misogynistic society, so nothing is ever women’s fault.
    Oddly, they then forget the attribution of women’s deeds whenever women do good things and achieve – then it is all their achievement and nothing to do with men. Hey ho!

  • James

    Women fear mullets and handlebar moustaches.
    When will the oppression end.

    • MacTurk

      Any person of taste dislikes a mullet.

      Fear a mullet?

      No, because the terminal lack of taste is not frightening, just sad…..

  • MarcusPod

    Interesting that many on here stereotype Ms Penny as being someone who stereotypes others.

    • Daniel Maris

      And now you come on here trying to stereotype the many here as being the sort of people who stereotype certain types of commentators…this could go on forever.

      • MarcusPod

        Where stereotypes are concerned, it probably will : )

    • La Fold

      When she stops being a cliche, ill stop stereotyping her.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    As a fat old swivel eyed white racist fruitcake can I just say I’ve got no idea what a shmuckweasel is. Am I one? (I do hope so). I do know what a whapweasel is, mind.

    And, from a personal viewpoint, even though hideously heterosexual I wouldn’t allow Laurie to lick the sweat from my cleft no matter how many pints I’ve quaffed.

    • Daniel Maris

      What – even if she blew the froth off her Newcy Brown on to your nose…methinks thou doth protest too much.

      • Hexhamgeezer

        No….., little Laurie’s way too slim for my tastes.

        • TheBoilingFrog

          And her hair’s too short…?

  • Daniel Maris

    My suggestion for her next article:

    “Why do malevolent men expect women to have two eyes, two ears, a nose and a mouth?”

    She can have a good old whinge about how men’s expectations are so predictable, how having a patch can be just as attractive as an eye, and how symmetry is a male-imposed notion of beauty.

  • Julieann Carter

    I suppose it’s getting harder for her to dream up ‘issues’ in which to pontificate to all the aggrieved young woman out there.
    In my experience, young girls who go through a period of becoming obsessively absorbed in ‘women’s rights’ are usually social misfits, or perceive themselves as so.
    Most grow out if it, usually when boys show an interest even if a little later for them, than that of their peers.
    Those who don’t grow out of it usually become Labour Politicians.

    • Tim Reed

      “Those who don’t grow out of it usually become Labour Politicians.”

      A wonderful observation.

      Unfortunately, they’re increasingly finding their way into other parties.

    • MarcusPod

      It would be more constructive if you vented your sarcasm at those who cause the issues rather than those who comment on them.

      • Julieann Carter

        I “vent my sarcasm” at those who *create* issues.

        Did you know the man most women would choose to go on a date with, is Jane Austen’s, Mr Darcy. Across all generations, and including 21c educated litery, feminists?
        Leading Feminist Cheryl Potter conducted a poll in 2004.
        You don’t get more patriarchal than Mr Darcy!
        Further, Mr Darcy (that repressive and sexy brute) won the affections of the educated and intellectual, Miss E Bennett.
        Further, Miss E Bennett was not the fair maiden, in physical desirability & gentleness, her sister was. You know, the type patriarchal men are stereotypically attracted to – in Miss Penny’s small world.

        I love Jane Austen, she doesn’t condemn her men unless the individual really deserve it, and where he would be condemned by all, gender regardless.
        Likewise with her women.
        She kind of goes against the grain of modern militant Feminist thinking.

        • Anonymous

          and she wasn’t an ethnic minority Lesbian

        • Lilith

          Elizabeth Bennett only fell for Mr Darcy when she saw his HUGE house….

          • Julieann Carter

            And where she learned several truths in regard to his history, his relationship with sister, and his relationship with Wickham.
            And of course he had never attempted to woo her by flaunting the extent of his wealth…

            Jane Austen was not Criado-Perez’s first choice of woman for the new bank note…
            She was my second choice, after Margaret Thatcher…not that I possessed any strong feeling in terms of ‘it must be a woman’.
            Wise decision that the B of E agreed Jane Austen rather than say, Mary Seacole.

    • Lord Edmund Moletrousers

      or BBC reporters or Social Services officials

      • Julieann Carter

        And NHS directors/execs…

        • Lord Edmund Moletrousers

          and chairpersons of the million & one NGO’s / sham Charities that Labour set up to promote its agenda by stealth & subversion .
          And before I forget it the exec. director of Liberty UK is a good example ,Sami Wotshernamechipati

          • Julieann Carter

            And Barbara Young, appointed to head up the then new, Environment Agency. Her concern was for wild life and birds. Today, an area of Somerset the size of Bristol is under water through her cessation of dredging river beds.

  • K BB

    My No. 1 says down with the anti-intersectional bourgeois patriarchal mansplaining mode of production.

  • HenryWood

    “Laurie Penny was born in a skip in Islington in 1986 and grew up wild in the back-alleys of London’s bourgeois ghetto, surviving only on mouldy paninis and half-eaten pots of hummous fished out of bins and sleeping in rolled-up copies of The Observer Review. After a dispute with a notorious urban fox gang, she fled to Brighton Beach, and was taken in by a radical seagull collective and weaned on mulched-up, regurgitated back-issues of Spare Rib and Red Rag. Eventually she was offered a scholarship to Brighton College Sixth Form, where she edited a student newspaper and never learned to wear a tie. She went to Wadham College, Oxford, and later moved back to London to work in a shop in Camden Market, where being a scuzzy, mohawked Brighton feminist was part of the job description. It didn’t stick, and she rapidly turned to a life of journalism, having discovered that she was unsuited to any other employment by virtue of being weird and difficult. Now she has long hair, a semi-regular income, and zooms around trying to put the world to rights. She can still talk to seagulls.”

    • Hexhamgeezer

      Sir, I doff my burglar’s hat to you.

  • Peter Stroud

    All men should have short hair: all women should have long, or at least longer hair. So there!

  • Non-feminist chick

    Why do white feminists even try? Black women, particularly the ever-angry black feminists, will always find something to be offended by.

  • Colonel Mustard

    ‘Having long hair that you do NOTHING with apart from tying it back has a similar not-playing-the-game message,’

    I think that puts an awful lot of faith in a man’s ability to ‘read’ hair. A bit like holding a party but not inviting anyone in order to teach them a lesson.

  • HookesLaw

    She has alienated people who would cross the road to have an argument.

    • Wessex Man

      oh Hooky!

  • Hello

    Her central complaint seems to be that fewer men find her attractive when she presents herself in the way that she would prefer. Is she suggesting that men should not be allowed a preference, or that all women should look like she does so that the preference is denied?

    To be honest, I just can’t believe the things that Laurie Penny purports to go through. She always conjures up the most suspect personal events in order to lend credibility to her view and argument. Does the NS actually believe the stuff she writes? And if not then what happened to their standards?

    • James Allen

      “what happened to their standards?”… ho ho

    • Tim Reed

      …but what would Laurie do for a living without all that manufactured drama?

    • Wessex Man

      Judging by the NS Staggers site she is a Goddess of literary genius rather than an unknowing childish banshee!

  • sfin

    OK, so I disagree with everything that this woman(?) vomits over the media – but that’s not my main complaint. Rather, it’s because I prefer to be challenged by alternative views – so why do national publications, and the BBC, wheel out this complete airhead whenever they want to present a left wing viewpoint?

    She spouts the sort of drivel that we used to laugh at when Rik Mayall was doing it in The Young Ones, in the early eighties. It insults everyone’s intelligence and she invariably gets taken apart by her debating opponent (do watch her spat with David Starkey on YouTube – delicious viewing!) and the whole thing is rather cruel – for her, as well as us.

    Please MSM, sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind, and she had already been promoted above her ceiling when she performed burlesque at Oxford.

    She isn’t up to it – let her go.

    • global city

      Yes. She is still a silly little girl.

  • CharlietheChump

    I have no idea why I bothered to read this drivel to the end.

    • Polybius

      I personally found Gray’s piece quite entertaining. I suppose I’ll read him again.

      • MarcusPod

        Maybe you’ll eventually realise it IS drivel. Or perhaps you find drivel entertaining?

        • Polybius

          But it isn’t drivel, though. It’s an engaging, pleasant little piece.

    • Nicholas chuzzlewit

      Agreed. Whenever I read the words ‘Laurie Penny’ I feel I have wasted a bit of my life.

    • MarcusPod

      I’m equally bemused as to why I bothered to read this far down the comment, through what is also (mostly) drivel.

  • Magnolia

    I would need a translation to understand the original here but I have noticed that the default position for women’s hair is now layered, long where as back in the seventies, when I was a teenager, the default style for women’s hair was short or page boy style.
    When I was growing up, women universally put their shorter hair in to curlers, hence the Hilda Ogden look, and the hairdressers will still have their regular shampoo and set old dears.
    The invention of hair straighteners and thinning scissors have allowed those of us with thick, curly and frizzy locks to enjoy our hair rather than to continue to hate it. Thick, frizzy hair has to be very, very short to be manageable and there are some white people with such difficult hair. I am one of them.
    The racial, black, white hair length thing is just a side issue.
    I think the afro style is beautiful if you are slim and I cannot understand why black people always groom their hair in a straight style now. A full tight perm was a high fashion copy back in the seventies.
    Lefty feminists will interpret what they want but it doesn’t necessarily reflect either our cultural history or the truth.

    • Alexandrovich

      The word ‘necessarily’ is not necessary.

    • Swanky

      Embrace curliness: it’s much more fun that way. If you click on my avatar you’ll see my website. Under Book & DVD reviews is information about a guide called Curly Girls. Or you could just see my boiled-down advice on the main blog, ‘Namaskar’, and scroll down to ‘
      If you have hair that wants to curl’.

  • La Fold

    So this is what over educated, priviliged white girls worry about these days? I suppose Burlesque dancing is so 2012.

  • A_Libertarian_Rebel

    If Laurie has short hair to “upset the Patriarchy”, but the “Patriarchy” just says “Meh”, will she now have to shave her head completely to try and upset it?

    • Daniel Maris

      I expect the Patriarchy are relieved that Laura Penny is supposed to be the cutting edge of feminism. What a joke – she sounds like a hyperventilating fifth former.

      • James Allen

        I’m interested in joining this Patriarchy. Do they have a website? Or am I on it right now???

        • Tim Reed

          You live and breathe the patriarchy every day, James, whether you know it or not – you oppressive man-bastard.

          • La Fold

            Im gettiung business cards with the last three words of your statement printed up.

            • Wessex Man

              and me!

          • James Allen

            Phew… thank God.

          • Swanky

            I’d like to be a man-bastard: it sounds fun. I’m willing to pay for a course if necessary — or even go for certification (Swanky, B. A., FRAS, M-B.) I have to be home by 6 though, or my husband wonders where I am.

            • Tim Reed

              I think it’s possible to become an honourary man-bastard. As a woman, I believe you must learn to ‘internalise the misogyny of the Patriarchy’.

              I’m not quite sure how this is achieved. Perhaps a subscription to Nuts magazine?

              • Swanky

                Fabulous idea. Should I specify that I want it in transparent plastic?

                • Tim Reed

                  Yes! Be shame free in your man-bastardry.

                • Swanky

                  I wonder if man-bastardry can possibly be as fun as joking about it! :^0

    • MC73

      Some bits of the patriachy reckon she’d look hot with a shaved head…

  • Martin Adamson

    Ah dear, it’s enough to make a statue laugh. What Penny never seems to realise is that as a public-school educated white person she will only ever be dealt a 7-2 offsuit in whatever game of victimhood poker she tries to start.

    • Herman_U_Tick

      That’s right: I refer to it as the ethnochemical series, and she’s near the bottom.