Does it concern you that vacuous it-girls are held up as role models for young women? If the answer is yes, then this is the book for you.
Levy, like a lot of women, seems perplexed by the way that intelligent straight women are going to pole dancing clubs for kicks and that women who essentially feign desire for a living are used as a symbol of female sexual liberation.
The book primarily explores American culture, but don't be put off by this, many of the points she makes are relevant to all women. There are chapters about 'Sex in the City', CAKE parties, the lesbian phenomenon 'bois' (the 'bois' interviewed seem particualrly scathing about other women), Playboy and teaching abstinence to American school kids. There is also a handy and very readable chapter about the feminist movement in New York over the past 40 years.
Levy's arguments always seem balanced and reasonable (although she gets her point across), so don't expect a 200 page feminist rant.
The book does contain a high sexual content so might be one to avoid if you are easily offended.
Provocative, challenging, accessible. I'm so gald that someone has had the courage to write this book. Highly recommended.
on 6 January 2007
I want to send a letter of thanks to Ms Levy for finally giving some academic weight to a subject I have long ranted about. Now I can tell people to go read this when I get tired of trying to explain why nine year old girls in playboy t-shirts freaks me out.
It is such a shame that girls of my generation and younger (I'm 23) are being taught that sexy comes in a one-size-fits-all (blonde hair, big tits, short skirts, willingness to bend over or make out with your girl friend for attention). The media has well and truly hit on the lowest common denominator here and is running with it.
Several of my male friends have flipped through this and agree that blow up doll girls are not sexy if you've got half a brain and neither, might I add, are the sorts of guy who go for them.
I think there is a bit too much focus on lesbian culture in the book, though I understand how it adds to Levy's argument.
The most important statement for me was the idea that as long as women believe they need to 'have balls' and 'be like men' to succeed in our culture, then being a woman is still not seen as good enough. Too true and also completely wrong...
on 13 July 2006
It's about time somebody wrote a book like this...for a while it's been becoming more and more obvious of the cultural shift in how many women (particularly young women) are portraying themselves - as the author herself puts it, "Only thirty years ago our mothers were `burning their bras' and picketing Playboy, and suddenly we were getting implants and wearing the bunny logo as supposed symbols of our liberation."
The author identifies this trend throughout western culture (with particular emphasis on the USA), and has a pop at "Girls Gone Wild" (a particular bugbear), Hugh Hefner and his "playmates" and the increasing social acceptance of the porn industry. The author's argument (broadly speaking) is that living and acting like a "porn star" is not "liberating" women, but is in fact a huge step backwards - whilst giving the male of the species plenty of free entertainment at the same time.
The author is very good at identifying the problem, but I would have liked to have seen more proposals towards a solution (or an alternative) -it does raise many questions that it doesn't answer, but hopefully this author (or others) will carry forward the debate in the future.
on 21 January 2006
This is truly a good book - I recommend it - it was all I hoped it would be. Let’s face it there are aspects of this world that are a mess and one such section - feminism, sex, dating, media portrayals of women and sex, pornography, teenage pregnancy, - is openly analysed by the author. The book is a good smooth read as well as being very informative. Well done.
on 13 March 2006
This book is - or should be - a wakeup call for modern women and men. As Levy says in one of the books most revealing passages "Why does the new liberation look so much like the old objectification?".
It's a question which has bothered me a lot: why were many of my intelligent, supposedly liberated friends saying they wanted to become strippers, or have a boob job or wear Playboy t-shirts? Before reading this book I thought I was the only one who felt that we'd been hoodwinked. Many people say that Levy is a prude or that she is demonising women who do these things by calling them 'female chauvenist pigs'.
This is not the objective of the book at all - of women who genuinely enjoy and feel fulfilled by these things Levy actually says herself that she wishes them well.
Her question is why can't we come up with some new ideas about sex and gender - surely becoming a stripper or a porn star isn't the apex of feminine sexual fulfillment or achievement, is it? Is this the best we can do?
We've come round in a circle from trying to free ourselves from restrictive gender stereotypes to embracing them in the name of liberation, when in fact they are just as restrictive as ever. A vast swathe of the media (including both men's and women's magazines, who are some of the worst offenders)are selling us the idea that women have to look hot and be up for it all the time. They're feeding us the line and we're falling for it. When actually it's all about marketing - this hyper-sexualised, porno ideal can only be achieved by consuming more. More plastic surgery, more clothes, shoes, makeup, hair-extensions, more waxing and beauty treatments.
These people do not have our best interests at heart. They don't care if we feel good about ourselves or whether we're fulfilled or happy, they just want to make money and they've discovered that sex with everything is the best way to do that.
Why are we chasing an idea of sex that is so joyless (and ultimately sexless)? Why should women have to change themselves to enjoy sex - can't we just be ourselves, why do we have to be a pornstar or a stripper or a glamour model or whatever?
Hopefully Levy's book will only be the start of the debate, we need to re-evaluate our position on sex, on gender. Levy asks some good questions and we shoudl all be looking for the answers. The current polarisation that is happening between the sexes and the pernicious attituides to sex (and to women) pervading our society are having a corrosive effect on us all.
Few things in life bug me more than twentysomething women sneering at feminism. Because they're usually doing it over a glass of wine in the pub, on their way home from work, and looking forward to a bit of strings-free 'how's your father' at the weekend. We ought to run some kind of boot camp where they can all go live as fifties housewives for a fortnight, and THEN decide if feminists were all dungaree-wearing, moustachioed lesbians who did nothing but sit about braiding their leg hair. Hello, girls? That job you've got, that pub you're sitting in, the university you went to, the contraception in your purse... in a world where feminism never happened, you'd be home every night baking apple pie and starching your husband's underpants.
But even more galling are the 'new feminists', or female chauvinist pigs as Ariel Levy calls them. Under the magic umbrella of feminism, any kind of behaviour (yes, really, ANY kind) can become 'empowering', that catch-all word that's somehow come to mean you can make shedloads of money out of it. This is the 'new' feminism, and anyone who doesn't actually think it's that cool for women to sell their bodies needs to get with the programme, grandma. Yes, that's right, it's actually 'feminism' in action on those 'music' videos and late-night TV 'programmes' that your boyfriend is probably sorta partial to. That's funny because it used to be degradation, but the adult industry has got one mother of a marketing programme going on. As Levy points out in this well-paced readable book, young women today are afflicted with Uncle Tom syndrome, joining their male friends in the strip clubs and sex shops, and idolising adult stars like Jenna Jameson. Levy reminds us that women like Jameson, glamorous as they might be, are actually prostitutes. No girl in a million years would want to emulate a crack-addled backstreet whore, but plenty of them want to live as brainless blow-up dolls for some reason. Men have once again sold us an image of ourselves, and we women are falling over each other (and maybe pushing and shoving a bit) to buy it.
Levy writes smoothly and well in a poppy, fairly lightweight style with some useful statistics (most sobering of all the high percentage of childhood abuse victims working in the adult industry, including Jameson herself). Your blood may boil at some points on reading this, but she's always level-headed and measured in her assessment of the situation. Levy herself is strikingly attractive (although admittedly not blonde, nor sporting mammary glands the size of basketballs) so the naysayers arguing that it's all sour grapes need to wake up and smell the... KY, or whatever. I have an 8 year old daughter and this is not the world I want her to grow up in. Buy this, read it, pass it around to your friends (male and female) and maybe get a bit of consciousness-raising going on like it's 1970 again. I hope Levy's working on a sequel though, because oops she somehow forgot to present a single, solitary idea about how to actually change any of this. So just read it as a straightforward, entertaining 'state of the nation' style book... and then maybe cancel that brazilian after all, if it's actually really painful and you're only doing it for your boyfriend's sake. One small step for womankind...
on 22 January 2015
Ten years after its publication, this superbly written, thoroughly researched book is, sadly, just as relevant. And although documented with examples from the US media, politics and culture, the book perfectly relates to Britain and, without a doubt, the rest of the world. Some of those real-life facts from the US are astonishing; did you know, for example, that in the 'Bible belt' the divorce rate is far higher, and so is the consumption of raunchy TV shows, compared to America's liberal regions?
I am very grateful to Levy for explaining so well in this excellent book what a tragic mistake we're all making today - why us women are so profoundly wrong in thinking that we are empowered and liberated when, for example, we now imitate strippers and/or porn stars in dress and behaviour; when we subject ourselves to mutilation (including genital) under the guise of cosmetic surgery; when we forego education, hard work and generally being excellent people, and choose instead to focus on our (increasingly standardized) looks ... and imagine we're doing it for our own gratification.
'Female Chauvinist Pigs' tells us how and why this all started, how our whole culture and way of life have become so pornified, why everything in our society today has to be ''sexy'' in order to be noteworthy. For women, but resolutely not for men, being ''sexy'' is the one and only factor by which our worth as human beings is measured; and sadly, women willingly participate in this tragic situation. Levy successfully takes apart the contemporary prevailing argument, the gigantic misconception we all now seem to have: that striving for sexiness at all cost is somehow feminist, liberating, and altogether some kind of wonderful and empowering thing for women everywhere. It is not.
To those who believe it is, I warmly recommend this book. Likewise, if you are trying to make up your mind, you will find here a lot of intelligent arguments to help. A brilliant but easy read, which made me re-think a whole lot of my own assumptions.
on 9 December 2010
Great book, which deconstructs what is actually happening with our culture. The pornification of women and the passive aggressive debate, which basically prevents women from speaking out about feminist issues.
I would say even women, who do not consider themselves 'feminists' should read it. It truly is a book about our society now, very relevant if you perhaps have a daughter, or just are interested in current issues.
Book I would recommend even more, which reads better than Agatha Christie is LIVING DOLLS by Natasha Walters. That truly is a must read...
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.
Ever felt there was something slightly 'off' with the way female sexual bravado, and even promiscuity, is held up as empowering, and even 'feminist'?
This book is brilliantly argued and hugely important for all women to read. Not only that but it is so entertaining and snappy, it can be read in a couple of sittings. If you are interested in modern feminism, but are put off by the hundreds of scary academic looking books, then this is the book for you. And this is meant as a compliment to the author.
I think if every women and girl read this, we would all be alot closer to TRUE empowerment and liberation (not just sexual), and therefor real happiness.