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Some excellent points but lacking in places
on 16 February 2013
In Female Chauvinist Pigs, Ariel Levy discusses the growing trend of young women's appropriation of stereotypically masculine behaviour. In this case, she means women who have bought into raunch culture: women who go to strip clubs and who are obsessed with porn. The argument is tricky, because so many women and men claim that this appropriation is actually empowering to women. Women have the chance to now both objectify and be the objects of objectification; the viewer and the viewed. Women now have the opportunity to enjoy this traditionally masculine culture.
Yet far from empowering, Levy argues that many women are not finding new found sexual pleasure as a result of their access to porn and sex shows and the growing acceptance of casual sex. Rather, she attempts to prove that women are not often drawn to this culture looking for sexual gratification--instead, she argues, it's about fitting into a masculine world and what was once a traditionally all boys club (and in the process, perhaps gaining power?) It's still about equating sexuality not with physical pleasure but male desirability (ie. The willingness of so many women to participate in Girls Gone Wild videos and the rise of casual sex? Women want proof that men find them desirable).
In the chapter, "From Womyn to Bois," Levy discusses the rise of boi culture in the lesbian scene. Here, I think her argument falls flat, and she seems to imply that for FTMs, transitioning into becoming men is about the total embodiment of a traditional and sexist form of masculinity. Her own argument goes against her here. To transition to becoming legally male is not necessarily to appropriate traditional masculinity or out of a desire to appropriate male privilege. And the masculinity that is practises by FTMs can be very self-aware.
Although I realise this is "popular non-fiction," there is such a wealth of feminist literature that Levy could have drawn on to support her argument. Her reliance almost solely on interviews makes her argument less substantial than I wish it had been.
Overall, she makes some very important points and encourages the reader to challenge the rhetoric that women are so often fed about girl power and empowerment etc, and to make us ask, "is is true?" and if not, "why haven't we come far enough yet?"