Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy

What happened to feminism? Ariel Levy asks. Her book explores how a predominant culture of ‘surfaces’ has produced women who admire ‘sexiness’ without necessarily being sexual. What happened to pleasure?The interviews Levy presents and the sub-cultures (eg. ‘Girls Gone Wild’) she immerses herself in are disturbing, in that most of these women feel lost and confused despite being accepted for their looks and their ability to plasticise sensuality. It’s also disturbing that raunch and pornography has reached a level of accepted normality in western culture. What kind of a world is it when Hugh Hefner believes himself a liberator of women, when he keeps ‘bunnies’ young enough to be his granddaughters under strict control in a gated mansion? Others can look but not touch.

One thing lacking from Levy’s book is a counter-argument, interviews with women who are either not aspiring to female chauvinism, who may be collecting notches in their belt for true satisfaction, or who are all out feminists in the 70s liberatory style. Perhaps she couldn’t find too many of these women, or perhaps she just felt so strongly about her point that she didn’t want to contradict it. The problem is, at times the narrative is confused within itself. Levy seems to enjoy ‘Sex and the City’ for its entertainment value, but then believes it may have had an adverse effect on female attitudes. She notes how integrated the show is with consumerist culture, displaying shoes and handbags as interchangeable as boyfriends. But then, she notes, buying expensive shoes is Carrie’s way of asserting her independence.

Levy has a very strong point in that there is a danger for young people in confusing sexual visuality with sexual desire or pleasure. And due to the levels of exposure of sexual imagery, and sexual denotation, children and young teenagers are ‘experimenting’ as play, well before they are actually aroused by one another. Levy interviews high-school students and finds that the more ‘skanky’ ones are considered popular. Again, though, it doesn’t look like she attempted to interview the quiet, bookish girl, or any other group besides those indulging in these behaviours. Perhaps she would have found that behind their back, these ‘popular’girls are not respected by everyone just because they wear a ‘headband’ for a skirt.

Levy explores a short history of feminism, its subgroups and its manifestations in literature and other industries. She also looks at lesbian culture and questions how ‘liberating’ it is to ‘act like a man’. She wonders where women and society have gone wrong as they no longer seem to define themselves as a sex with unique attributes, equal to man without an aspiration to be him. This argument is very strong. If the trend of female chauvinism and raunch culture pervades, it is true that there will not only be lost women out there, but unsatisfied men. While men naturally enjoy the visage of a woman, is it healthy for them to grow up with ideals of submissive Barbie dolls who wear masks of pleasure? They themselves will be missing out.

Overall, the book is provoking. And it has caused discussion and debate. It would be great to see a follow-up with some examples of modern-day open-minded feminists that Levy could bring together as a positive ideal. In my own experience, while I have been frustrated time and time again with raunch culture (especially its effect on socialisation), there is most certainly a counter-culture. Many young women know their bodies, find their way through a variety of cultural influences (as we are none of us completely autonomous) and are not saturated by plastic ideals of sexiness. These women have voices, satire, elegance, and often partners (men and women) who happily share in equal pleasures.

Purchase Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture

See Ariel Levy’s website.

4 thoughts on “Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy

  1. A note on sex thought. Not chauvinistic though, not equal-opportunity thought, not any other sort of thought. Not a note on the book either, which I have not read.So, femmies get all upset because we say crass things about chicks. Here’s some man truth… we say it coz we think it. Women are on our minds all the time. Are we a bad gender for thinking about rooting the hottie of our dreams? Perhaps the bone to pick is with our ‘oppressive’ streak. The streak with which we are derogatory through our words and at times our actions. Lumping all guys in together so that we are a combined gender rather than outlying naughties (hey, femmies lump girls into a group too) – so that means the good, the bad, the sissys, the machos, the smart, the moronic – we do simplify women. We do value hot chicks coz they are hot. We will look when we’re taken. We will reduce women to attributes.But that’s coz we’re enslaved. Our ideal woman is on a pedestal. Everyone has preferences and a type… it’s easy to find. It’s the type of girl that makes u say something vaguely coherent and usually not very endearing to her. It’s the girl who makes you forget your own name. It’s the girl who makes you lose a lot of time per hour/day/year fantasizing about her. It’s the girl who makes us men. It’s the girl who separates the genders.It seems unfair we are labeled as oppressors when we are are also being opressed. Women have this power over us. I’ll admit it. I’d say there is equality in oppression on this point. There’s inequality in the media coverage of the truth. Agree?

  2. Hey Anonymo! Thanks for your comment :-)I like your honesty. In fact, the book is really about WOMEN’s perceptions of other women. Oppressing themselves, y’no? I do think that a beautiful woman can have power in her looks, as can a gorgeous man. And we are visual creatures, yes. I admire your honesty, in fact, that is my favourite attribute in a man. You can be attracted to women sexually and still respect them, just know that. Categorising them is not wonderful, but as human beings we tend to put a category on everything. And even today I refered to a guy as ‘geeky, but not slob-geeky’. You are perfectly entitled to find a woman ‘hot’, just know that she eats, sleeps and shits like any hot chick.And yes, there is media inequality. And I’m glad you can see the potential of women as being oppressors the only problem is, with your theory, what power do all the ordinary non-hot women have? Do they have to be ‘hot’ to hold sway over you? What kind of pressure does this put on the average intelligent, normal-looking chick?

  3. At a superficial level … there’s the nice arse, nice rack categorisation. We do reduce women to attributes. The clever (average) girl will get kudos where they are seen. I’ll admit, this is unfair.. but based on incomplete information.And this categoration is done everywhere… take a job interview:the interviewer might be thinking “he has good computer skills, but average personal skills”. Or, “he has a nice face, but a fat belly”.My point was more there is an ideal woman in our minds. We understand that not all gals measure up to her (no one does, until we’re whipped)… but we still compare attributes we see to our ideal. Sometimes very crassly. Luckily, most guys have developed two languages… and self-censor around ladies.What power do the avers have? Hopefully equal, but I know that is not the case. I did pre-empt that question and disclaimed in the previous comment that I wasn’t touching on that issue, just a note on sex thought.However at a personal level there’s no contest – looks come second to brains. But they sure are nice.

  4. Yes, looks do come second to brains I’m glad you said that. But I would challenge most women also to say they would choose a guy purely on brains. I do think though, there is always a chemical element, and you can find yourself attracted to someone who is not necessarilly ‘attractive’ or ‘hot’ in the constructed sense.I think each person does have a different ‘ideal’ partner though evolution points s in the direction of ‘fertile’ (hence big breasts) and fit (able to reproduce) though I admit this does not take homosexuality into account. But it can explain the feminine ‘ideal’ that often attracts a man.Overall, there is still a lot of mystery and it’s nice to have a male perspective. I hope you find (or have found) a woman who you will appreciate and respect and who will equally do the same for you (and not abuse her ‘power’) as you call it. The best relationships are a meeting of the minds as well as the senses.

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