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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Styes in Their Eyes, 3 Nov. 2009
This review is from: Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture: Woman and the Rise of Raunch Culture (Paperback)
Sex sells and Ariel Levy reckons it has sold the women's liberation movement out to the consumer ethos of patriarchy. Identifying pornography as integral to popular American culture, Levy suggests it has deprived women of the things they deserve, "freedom and power." She is not against some aspects of the new sexuality but argues that sexual freedom is only one specific kind of power. It is not the most important and - in believing that it is - women "are selling themselves unbelievably short".

Her scorn is reserved for those Female Chauvinist Pigs who have bought into the system as actors, producers, entrepreneurs and have self identified as part of a culture she despises. She notes, for example, that Playboy is a company run largely by women. She points to the crucial role of Sheila Nevins at HBO whose attitude was expressed in her comment, "Why is it that women will still go after women taking their clothes off and not after all the injustices in the workplace?". If unity is strength the feminist movement is undeniably weak.

Levy suggests that women, like porn star Jenna Jameson, who regularly removes her clothing, are "not sexually uninhibited (but) sexually damaged." Jameson herself admits she can't watch her own sex scenes. There are plenty of people who do, including more and more females. Jameson defends herself by saying "it's one of the few jobs for women where you can get to a certain level, look around and feel so powerful, not just in the work environment but as a sexual being."

That's the problem. Are feminine values properly encapsulated in their ability to have unfettered sex in the way in which, historically so it has been alleged, men have been able? Is that the kind of model which feminists should admire, condemn, or observe without comment? Levy does not think it should pass without comment. Her most frequent complaint is that a new generation of women have forsaken questions of women's identity and tried, as Christina Aguilera's mother said, "to change society so that a woman can do whatever men do". For Levy this is a betrayal of feminism not its fulfilment.

Many second wave feminists appear to disagree with her and the reason becomes clear in a brief but illuminating survey of political dissent in the late sixties and early seventies. Many groups felt they were part of a revolutionary process which would replace capitalism with humanistic values. Included in these values was the the advancement of "women's sexual pleasure and satisfaction". Yet while "The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm" was a best seller, the objective of the simultaneous orgasm never happened and many "liberated" women assumed the male psyche was programmed to rape. This internal conflict has remained unresolved and provides one reason for the rise of raunch culture.

Levy understands that many young women believe raunch culture is for them. As one female said, "I always tell people, if I had a twenty-three inch waist and a great body, I would pose in Playboy. You know all those guys are sitting there staring at you, awe-ing at you. That must be power." For Levy, it's not - it's tomming. Levy devotes a chapter to womyn and bois, a discussion of lesbian culture in New York and San Francisco, much of it based on non committal sex. How much of it is real and how much a sign of immaturity is summarised by the female who commented, "I keep trying to grow up but it never seems to happen."

Levy's book centres on the United States and she is highly critical of sex education. That criticism can be transferred with equal applicability to the United Kingdom. Governments have failed to understand that "sex education" consists of two distinct parts. The first is biology and the second is relationships. Until that is addressed unwanted pregnancies will continue and females will make the same mistakes as previous generations.

Feminists who claim women are programmed to conform and incapable of independent thought devalue the female sex. Either women have the intelligence to resist media depictions of how females should act or they are incredibility shallow. Levy seems to think they are shallow because they are programmed. I suggest the problem lies within the female psyche, not the social construction of femininity. Whether anyone (especially males) can understand either is moot.

Things are changing. Playboy is making heavy losses, pornography has reached saturation point. The eroticism of the naked female has long since disappeared and feminism is dead in the water. Would I let my daughter read this book? She's a person in her own right and has a mind of her own - besides which she's already read it and thought it was excellent. So do I. Have I created a clone or has she made me a feminist? Five stars for a great book.
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Showing 1-10 of 11 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 5 Nov 2009 01:04:21 GMT
Lark says:
One of the best reviews I've read in a long time, definitely the best review I've read of this book bar none and a great synopsis of the book itself. The only thing I'd like to clarify would be what you said about the female psyche, do you think that Levy thinks women shallow for being programmed? Did you mean that the problem lies within the psyche because its programmed or something else?

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Nov 2009 12:15:07 GMT
Neutral says:
Levy seems to think women are shallow because they are programmed. If you read my next review you will see I feel it lies in the female psyche. It's not programmed, it's part of their natural being, the impact of hormones and becoming women physically and mentally. Females have serious problems with a lack of self-confidence during their teenage years which tends to them holding themselves in low esteem. When I used to teach a female teacher explained it as being in uncharted territory between being a woman physically but a girl mentally. That struck me as being the correct analysis.

From my conversations with females it is apparent that many feel under pressure to conform to what they believe to be the cultural norm. What I try to get over to them is that they don't need to and that cultural values are less important than their own appreciation of themselves as people. In other words they should always have confidence in themselves. Of course I can only speak as I find and each of us are individuals in our own right. I just find it odd that women in the sixties protested against being treated as sex objects whereas some now think it's alright to be a sex object as long as they feel they are in control. I remain to be convinced.

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Nov 2009 23:52:57 GMT
In a well-written, thoughtful review I nonetheless find it extraordinary that you single out women as being 'programmed to conform'. Human beings generally are conformist by nature - the men masturbating over the pornography aren't exactly bucking the trend, are they? Since the dawn of time, (heterosexual) women have tried to impress men. So, too, have men tried to impress women. The fact that women so often feel pressure to conform to such ridiculously sexualised images says more to me about the narrowness of men's desires than it does about the shallowness of the female psyche.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Nov 2009 00:32:31 GMT
Last edited by the author on 6 Nov 2009 00:35:00 GMT
Neutral says:
Hi Cowgirl,

You may have misunderstood. I don't think women are programmed to perform. It is Levy who thinks that. I take it as read that females feel they are under pressure to conform. My argument is that women are best advised to ignore the "ridiculously sexualised images" to which you refer. Similarly, I think the shallowness to which Levy refers misunderstands the real nature of the emotional problems facing girls during their teenage years. They need support to find themselves at that time and I'm not certain feminist theory provides them with the kind of support relevant to their needs but tends to lead them into theoretical avenues which explain feminists' own weaknesses rather than develop the strengths in other females. Perhaps it's because I've always been a nonconformist in practice that I regard "the narrowness of men's desires" and "the shallowness of the female psyche" as, not so much out of my experience, but outside my interest. The longer I live the more I realise that men and women are little different now than they have ever been, although there have been changes of emphasis. In Sparta, of course, women ruled. Thanks for commenting, I appreciate it.

Posted on 7 Nov 2009 23:58:41 GMT
Lark says:
Hmm, teenage years are important and formative but I think that attachment style, attunement and personality trends (neurotic or otherwise, which makes an individual more or less vulnerable or independent) are established long before that. Karen Horney's pretty good on that topic, her books are available on Amazon, including her one on Feminine Psychology, most of modern neuro-psychological research vindicates some of it and her theories and Bowlby and Winnecott prefigure some of it. Although I dont think there is anything within the developmental psychology of females which causes them to experience a greater identity crisis during the teenage years than males.

Culture's not unimportant either and the trends which have begun prior to the teenage years will determine whether someone is more or less susceptible or vulnerable to culture's shaping/formative influence. I value Levy's book because I think that she highlights how the feminists who have invested in raunch culture may have betrayed their first principles, she's one of the few feminists rethinking feminism that I'm aware of.

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Nov 2009 10:30:22 GMT
Neutral says:

You are more familiar with the academic studies than I am as it's not my specialist field. I can only go on my own experience (which is as a male in the relatively narrow field of coaching females in sport). On that basis I do disagree with your comment, "I dont think there is anything within the developmental psychology of females which causes them to experience a greater identity crisis during the teenage years than males", which does not accord with my experience. The balance between psychological and cultural influences, however, has yet to be fully explained in my view.

I do agree with your assessment of Levy's book. Much feminist literature tends to latch on to trends rather than provide a critique of their own ideas. Levy's book was lively and interesting which is probably a roundabout way of saying I think she's right. However, I may be wrong which is why I welcome other people's observations which stimulate further thought and reflection. Thanks.

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Nov 2009 20:59:21 GMT
Lark says:
I dont know why the female psyche whould be more susceptible to crisis than the male, its one of those questions that interests me and I read about it, I dont think that I could make the same observations because that's outside of my experience. I do work for social services and have observed similar crisis in both males and females within a particular population that would have similar life stories but that's perhaps a different question again from a gender divide.

Questions of psychology and culture are, relatively speaking, "young concepts", what is lacking in evidence basis is often made up for in narrative and their boundaries are pretty porous or are used interchangeably, reading Jung, which affirms difference and many traditional roles but in a manner that's popular with some feminists, his concepts like anima, animus, male/female archetypes within the psyche at birth which are activated by culture or external stimulus during maturation are interesting for highlighting the whole phenomenon.

Feminism is one of those ideologies or concepts which illustrates will that interpretation and creation of norms, traditions, expectations go hand in hand. Most of the criticisms of feminism use the very language and concepts introduced by Feminism, which is ironic but also demonstrates, besides Levy, that the self-criticism or review and revisionism hasnt ever caught on.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Nov 2009 18:57:58 GMT
S. J. Bloom says:
I think that as girls are brought up to be an extension of the mother's psyche, but boys are brought up to be independent beings from day one, a sweeping generalisation of course but it rings true so often, inevitably come puberty boys have an decided advantage in working out how to be an adult sexual being.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Nov 2009 19:57:23 GMT
Last edited by the author on 20 Nov 2009 20:01:45 GMT
Neutral says:

As you say a sweeping generalisation. On the other hand testosterone and oestrogen do play a part. Of course that begs the question of whether "adult" "sexual" and "being" is one phrase, three separate concepts or an artificial creation which is inimical to happiness. I don't pretend to know the complete answer.

Posted on 27 Nov 2009 14:20:33 GMT
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