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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture » User review

The *reductio ad sexum* of feminism

  • Oct 20, 2005
This is an interesting and well-written book. Ariel Levy makes some important points, ties together a number of significant trends, and provides a believable answer to the timely question of "Why the heck are so many women -- and young girls -- dressing and behaving LIKE THAT?"

In so doing, Levy makes some depressing discoveries about what the ideal of the "empowered" woman has been reduced to, and why strippers and "adult actresses" -- porn stars -- have been adopted as role models. The key conclusion is that it doesn't really have anything to do with sex, per se. Levy quotes Paris Hilton's remark, "my boyfriends say I'm sexy but not sexual." In other words, "being hot" is a pose, an act, a tool, and entirely divorced from either physical pleasure or romantic love. Levy quotes one adult woman who cannot understand why she cannot bring herself to have sex with a man to whom she's not attracted, and a teenaged girl who can't grasp how a woman can "get the guy" without dressing (and acting) like a "ho."

Levy does a great job explaining the costs and consequences of America's all-pervasive "raunch culture." Where she did an incomplete job was in explaining the causes. Levy traces a fairly straight line from the feminism of the Sixties and Seventies to the "post-feminism" of today, with the requisite nods to "Sex and the City" and "Playboy" magazine (causes or symptoms?). But as I was reading this, I kept thinking of a much larger web -- a litany of cultural and political failure of which raunch culture is just a part.

Why do so many young people seem incapable of creating a sense of self that isn't driven by the media? More than raunch culture, wouldn't a society that idolizes Pamela Anderson, Kid Rock, or the aforementioned Ms. Hilton be better described as "moron culture"? Isn't raunch culture an inevitable consequence of the effort to separate sex from ethics ("if it feels good, do it!" to quote the cliché)? What has rendered generations of fathers incapable of modeling to their sons *and* their daughters how a man properly and respectfully treats a woman? And -- as my wife asks every time we take a trip to the local mall and see teenagers dressed in "skanky" clothes -- "What mother would let their daughter dress that way?"

Indeed, parents are notably missing from Levy's analysis. I recall one mention early on of a mother who, I think, bought her daughter a "Brazilian wax" for her birthday, and a few passing references to Levy's own parents. But how do 14-year-olds get the money to buy themselves thong underwear? How are they paying for the Internet connections they evidently are using to send each other naked pictures of themselves? In the litany of failure, the failure of parents to set standards and model good behavior is the dog that didn't bark in "Female Chauvinist Pigs."

I suspect Levy wouldn't agree with that analysis. Given her dismissive opinion of abstinence-based education and obligatory disparaging comments about George W. Bush (can't get published without 'em!), I think the proposal that what we could use here are a few "traditional values" is not something she'd be interested in entertaining.

That's too bad, because "Female Chauvinist Pigs" is an interesting and important book as far as it goes. But at the risk of double entendre, it doesn't go all the way.

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Andrew S. Rogers ()
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Mostly, I'm a moderately prolific Amazon.com reviewer who's giving Lunch a try as another venue for my reviews.
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About this book


Ariel Levy’s debut book is a bold, piercing examination of how twenty-first century American society perceives sex and women. Writing vividly, she brings her readers to places she visited to make her assessment; the elevator of Playboy Enterprises with women auditioning to be Playmates in the fiftieth anniversary edition, a Florida beach where sunbathers urge a woman to take off her bathing suit for the camera crew of Girls Gone Wild, a San Francisco Italian restaurant where a lesbian worries she’s not dressed up enough for her date, a CAKE party in New York, with women grinding each other’s pelvises in time to pulsating dance rhythms, and outside a juice bar in Oakland where a beautiful high school student shares disappointment at her experiences with sex.

Levy cleverly leads us to explore the role models women aspire to emulate. We are not pursuing the confident, self-determined, powerful, free ideal the women’s liberation movement would have dreamed for its daughters. Instead, our icons are porn stars and strippers and prostitutes. Paris Hilton and Jenna Jameson flaunt their successes in the pornography industry, and in doing so seem to earn our adulation.

Levy relates our embracing of this raunchy culture to unresolved tensions thirty years ago between the sexual revolution and the women’s liberation movement, and amongst feminists; joy at discovering the delights of our clitoris conflicting with disgust at pornography’s objectification of ...

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ISBN-10: 0743249895
ISBN-13: 978-0743249898
Author: Ariel Levy
Publisher: Free Press

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