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text 2015-11-08 00:28
Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture - Ariel Levy

A friend lent me this 2005 reflection on the state of our Girls Gone Wild culture. It was a fascinating treatise on what we expect women to be and how we've reframed, "you can be sexually empowered" to mean "you must do these subjectively disempowering things to be Cool and we'll call that sexual empowerment."

 

I kept wondering if we've moved out of that stage... but I think I just spend my time with people who are so far removed from it that I've convinced myself the whole culture has started having more sophisticated discussions and a more complex understanding of sex and sexuality. Wishful thinking?

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review 2015-05-03 17:01
Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture - Ariel Levy

There are things I liked about this book and things I did not like.

Overall, it was a quick and easy read. The reason for this is that the majority of the text is comprised of cultural/media examples and ancecdotes/interviews of female chauvinist pigs. While these were interesting, they showed limited viewpoints as Levy only included stories that supported her claim. Also, ironically Levy felt the need to describe the interviewees' looks as an introduction to their answers, usually including descriptors of attractiveness. This did not seem to mesh with Levy's overall point and often made her seem judgemental in the overt slut-shaming language that often comes up in the book.

Another drawback to this book was Levy's misunderstood and often offensive views of trans and queer culture. At one point she states, "The confusing thing, of course, is why somebody would need serious surgery and testosterone to modify their gender if gender is supposed to be so fluid in the first place" (127). Here Levy seems to have misunderstood the distinction between sex and gender, but such remarks undermine the issues people in the trans community face. Levy appears dismissive of such issues.

While I agreed with Levy's overall message that women should focus more on their own sexuality and sexual pleasure rather than their sexual performance for men, nowhere in the text is an example of healthy female sexuality provided. By giving a one-sided account of FCP, Levy's own goal seems unattainable as at no point is a good role model given.

This sounds like a pretty negative review, but there really were some very good points in the book. The analysis was strong and often very interesting such as her critique of Sex and the City. I think this is an important book, especially for people just getting into gender studies. The message was a very important one that should be taken seriously. I also enjoyed the mix of media and history throughout the text. Overall, this was a good read.

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review 2014-05-25 00:00
Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture
Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture - Ariel Levy Female Chauvinist Pigs is an interesting read but unfortunately a bit dated. Although it was published in the middle of the last decade, it felt a bit old, especially when specific individuals were mentioned to support issues of FCP. However, many of the elements/issues it contained are simply common feminist issues and therefore were universal and not dated. The examples, however, were where things became rather dated. Girls Gone Wild, Paris Hilton and so on and so forth have, fortunately, seemingly been left behind. But of course there are always new individuals to take their place and I have no doubt that the same book could be written with different examples and it would work just fine.

One of Levy's quotes that I made a note of summarizes much of the book fairly well:

I suggested there were reasons one might not want to feel like a stripper, that spinning greasily around a pole wearing a facial expression not found in nature is more a parody of female sexual power than an expression of it. p98


Aka sexually expressing yourself in such a manner, including as porn stars etc., you are essentially only parodying a person that is imitating lust, sex, attraction etc etc etc. Not really a great foundation to base your actions/image on. (Of course, if you genuinely want to do those things, go forth, but don't let it be because "society" indicates that is how you gain power, notice etc.)

And want to get pretty irritated?

Princeton and Yale did not begin admitting female students until 1969; Harvard shared some classes with the women of Radcliffe as early as 1943 but did not fully integrate until 1972; Columbia was all male for undergraduates until 1983. p85


*sigh* Why do people still ask why we need feminism?
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review 2013-07-21 20:58
Female Chauvinist Pigs: Woman and the Rise of Raunch Culture
Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture - Ariel Levy This doesn't offer any answers, just questions and the questions are pretty disturbing. This book was read while a man justifies a t-shirt that says "no+rhyphonol=yes" with a "not intended for ugly feminists"; where a book for children depicts a tomboy princess realising that dressing up is the way to win the boy; and where an orthodox Jewish girls school is picketed by ultra-orthodox men because the girls are "too distracting", and those were just what made it's way onto my twitter stream during the day I was reading this short collection of essays on women today. It's a scary read. Women are trying harder and harder to be men, rather than women, and are finding the task impossible. The behaviour many are emulating are teenage boys but they're failing to become adults, thus undermining the entire feminist agenda. Women's roles have become more constrained, more trivialised and this book asks many of the deep questions about why and how we've accepted this from the constant battering of our psyches by media.
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review 2012-10-26 00:00
Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture - Ariel Levy Did you know Barbie dolls were modelled after blonde German sex dolls called Bild Lilli? Disturbing to know I played with a sex doll as a child. o_OChapter One: Raunch CulturePublished in 2006 one would assume Female Chauvinist Pigs would be fairly up-to-date, but it becomes obvious quite quickly that much has changed in the six years since this was written. Here, Levy focuses on the late nineties and early noughties, in the days of Sex and the City, Sexcetera, and Eurotrash, producing nauseating examples of raunch, harassment and coercion of women, exploiting them and their insecurities for entertainment and profit. Playboy's hypocrisy is maddening. I could almost picture Levy's lips curling with distain and hear the disgust in her voice as she makes judgements about what women do with their own bodies. Framing her concerns in terms of self-respect and self-worth would encourage these strippers and porn stars she castigates, to listen to her arguments. Her angle seems to be to comment and complain rather than influence change to the status quo, therefore FCP appears at this stage only marketable to conservative types, or at least those that keep their private parts private. Nevertheless, she does tell both sides of the story by using, as examples, the women who embrace, participate and perpetuate raunch culture, and Hugh Hefner and Playboy, letting their own words and actions speak for themselves. However, there is no mention of disadvantaged backgrounds or anything else that could lead them women to turn to raunch. The Future That Never HappenedLess relevant to me as a non-American was the description of American feminist history, most of which was completely new and confusing to me, though, in the end, I grasped Levy's messages.The ultimate (ideal) feminist goal: “Women as a class have never subjugated another group; we have never marched off to wars of conquest in the name of the fatherland ... those are the games men play.We see it differently. We want to be neither oppressor nor the oppressed. The women’s revolution is the final revolution of them all. [...] The goals of liberation go beyond the simple concept of equality.”Feminism diversified and splintered into the anti-porn feminists vs. sex-positive feminists, the former believing porn degrades women and feeds rape culture, while the latter thought porn empowering; evidence of sexual emancipation and freedom to pursue active sex lives, like that of men. Raunch culture was pervasive, unrelenting. At its emergence, when it wasn't instantly rejected, it's subversive nature, working in the background until those you'd expect to denounce it embraced it instead, even feminists. That's when it became socially acceptable. The saying, 'give them an inch and they'll take a mile' comes to mind.[Levy's thoroughly ruined "sexy" for me. She'd probably like that since we agree it's been co-opted as a slang term for "cool".]Chapter Three: Female Chauvinist Pigs'Why worry about disgusting or degrading when you could be giving - or getting - a lap dance yourself? Why try to beat them when you can join them?’‘Them’ being men. Joining men meant taking part in male activities i.e. forgetting the feminist cause upheld by your forebears and participating in the un-sister-like behaviour of denigrating your fellow woman by acting like a man. In effect, they switch teams and start actively working against feminist goals and promote male ones. ‘FCPs don't bother to question the criteria on which women are judged, they are too busy judging other women themselves.’In turning ‘traitor,’ FCPs can be interpreted as Uncle Toms. ‘An Uncle Tom is a person who deliberately upholds the stereotypes assigned to his or her marginalized group in the interest of getting ahead with the dominant group.’ Upholding sexist stereotypes and mimicking male behaviour by positioning themselves as the exception to the rule, setting themselves apart from other (inferior) women –‘the girly-girls’, ingratiates FCPs to men by showing them they share a similar mindset, thereby reinforcing anti-feminist views once the subject of them (women) accepts them. So Levy theorises there are two types of FCP: (1) ‘acting like a cartoon man-who drools over strippers, says things like "check out that ass," and brags about having the "biggest cock in the building"'(2) 'or acting like a cartoon woman, who has cartoon breasts, wears little cartoon outfits, and can only express her sexuality by spinning around a pole.’ Both involve pleasing and seeking the approval of others rather than being true to individual wants and needs. Chapter Four: From Womyn to BoisLesbianism and the transgendered are the examined in this chapter. Butch (masculine lesbians) and femmes (feminine lesbians) I've heard of, bois is a new one on me. They seem to be characterised as behaving similar to teenage boys: unsophisticated, immature, letting their id control their actions. [There is] 'another camp of bois who date femmes exclusively and follow a locker-room code of ethics referenced by the phrase "bros before hos" or "bros before bitches," which means they put the similarly masculine identified women they hang out with in a different, higher category than the feminine women they have sex with. This school of bois tends to adhere to almost comically unreconstructed fifties gender roles. They just reposition themselves as the ones who wear the pants-they take Feminist Chauvinist Piggery to a whole different level.'I'm in complete agreement with Rosskum on finding 'the idea that there are two distinct genders and nothing in between constricting and close-minded.' Physically, genetically, hormonally and psychologically -One person can be a different gender in each of those categories (intersex). XX and XY are not the be all and end all to gender identification.'Women are actually becoming men' and 'Elective cosmetic surgery - implants for straight women, mastectomies for FTMs (female-to-male transexuals) - is popular to the point of being faddish. Non-committal sex is widespread, and frequently prefigured by a public spectacle.'Why so much body modification (or mutilation)? Genuine need for plastic surgery to aid reconstruction after injury or cancer, psychological requirement (e.g. gender dysphoria, severely impeding quality of life), or fear of dangerous situations (e.g. revirginization of girls worried about repercussions from religious community) -Those I understand, but to make possibly life-altering decisions when succumbing to peer pressure or to conform for acceptance is profoundly sad. Almost exclusively focusing on specific subgroups of women in two metropolitan areas (San Francisco and New York City) of one country, such as the career woman, the stripper, masculine lesbians (butch and bois), FTMs, serves to highlight extremes among minorities some of which the global media may have made popular and as a result, socially acceptable, to the detriment of the feminist cause (i.e. equality with men) and the benefit of masculinism by reconfirming the superiority of men. Unrepresentative of the larger population, these generalisations based on small groups aren’t necessarily indicative of a larger problem and treating them as such may hurt Levy’s message when some of us haven’t experienced or witnessed the examples given (but just because we've not encountered something doesn't mean it doesn't exist), and fail to see or understand the relationships between certain behaviours, causes and effects detailed. Culturally speaking, on the whole, this is only directly applicable to metropolitan America, and to a lesser extent other developed countries, because feminism isn't always recognised or is oppressed in the developing world.Chapter Five: Pigs in TrainingBy far the best chapter, describing the feelings and actions of teenage girls, and the ineffectual sex education they receive.A girl's self-worth is derived from the attention of boys, competition with other girls for a boy's attention results in dressing provocatively, flirting, the flashing of 'assets', performing oral sex on boys, intercourse and publicly documenting nudity or sexual acts and sharing them to increase one's popularity. Sadly, peer pressure seems to dictate when girls lose their virginity rather than thrill-seeking curiosity and the pursuit of pleasure.At no point does it occur to these girls to request reciprocal oral sex, and have difficulty recognising, expressing and experiencing sexual desire, and sex education doesn't teach 'sexuality as a larger more complex, more fundamental part of being human.' Instead guilt-ridden Christian America has spent $1bn in ten years teaching abstinence while ignoring contraception or lying about its effectiveness. The message children receive is: 'Girls have to be hot. Girls who aren't hot probably need breast implants. Once a girl is hot, she should be as close to naked as possible all the time. Guys should like it. Don't have sex.'Confusing. I feel lucky to have received the sex education I did. It wasn't perfect but it was practical, informative and truthful. I can't wait to read [b:The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women because it looks to be an outrage-inducing experience.Chapter Six: Shopping for SexLevy's highly critical of Sex and the City, Carrie in particular, because she 'rarely evaluated her own happiness' and instead 'measur'Jameson thinks that women outside the sex industry have internalized its spirit and model their sexuality on porn. [She] presents life in the industry as marked by violence and violation: She tells us she was beaten unconscious with a rock, gang-raped, and left for dead on a dirt road during her sophomore year of high school; she was life-threateningly addicted to drugs before she was twenty; she was beaten by her boyfriend and sexually assaulted by his friend. She also writes, "To this day, I still can't watch my own sex scenes."Not once does she use the word 'pleasure' to describe her sexuality. 'Like most employees of the sex industry, [she] is not sexually uninhibited, she is sexually damaged.' Being a sex worker further damages these vulnerable people, and Levy suggests these inappropriate erotic role models are suffering PTSD from past sexual abuse, 'It's like using a bunch of shark attack victims as our lifeguards.'ConclusionWe've adopted and conformed to the sex industry's representation of sexuality, which dictates what's desirable and worthy of fantasy. 'We have to ask ourselves why we are so focused on silent girly-girls in G-strings faking lust,' must we also fake it to the detriment of our own personal tastes and sexual satisfaction? 'Why have we fallen sway to a kind of masculine mystique, determined that to be adventurous is to be like a man, and decided that the best thing we can possibly expect for women is hotness?’ The 'prevalence of raunch in the mainstream has diluted the effect of both sex radicals and feminists, who've seen their movement's images popularized while their ideals are forgotten. ‘Sexual power is only one very specific kind of power,' we should be looking at other types of power, breaking through the glass ceiling and pursuing higher female representation in politics and the boardrooms of big business for which previous generations’ feminists originally strived.Men are all evil, sexist pigs! Well, no. They're not. As Levy shows men so unfavourably throughout, I do wish she'd included a caveat in her introduction stating that not all men act in negative, stereotypical ways. Kind and respectful men do exist, though you wouldn't think so from reading this book.Occasionally, I was uncomfortable with taking Levy's chosen quotes from other people, whether from printed sources or her own personal interviews, as a truthful representation of that person's opinion. It would be so easy for Levy's bias to influence the way she edits and presents others' words. Although this was based on my own inexperience and naivety with regards to certain viewpoints, e.g. having had little knowledge of the ins and outs of lesbian and transgendered culture and communities, etc.A thought-provoking, informative and nauseating read, one I hope will one day be studied in schools. It would've been very useful to me when I was studying for A Level English Literature 'moral pornographer' [a:Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories first published in 1979, who was compared to Donatien-Alphonse-François de Sade, informally known as the father of Sadism, the Marquis de Sade.Warning: Don't read this book if you're easily offended, or partial to feeling shame or guilt for falling into one of the groups Levy criticises, it will only make you feel worse. Both Christianity and politics are also discussed and criticised.
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