Monday, April 4, 2011

Anna reviews 'Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture' by Ariel Levy

Name: Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture
Author: Ariel Levy
Publisher: Pocket Books, 2006
How I got this: I read it at college and then I bought it.
Why I read this: It was recommended to me by my sister.

Jenna Jamison. Pamela Anderson. Playboy models. Girls Gone Wild. No, this isn't a list of my favourite porn stars, but a list of just some of the people that many women in the USA look up to as role models and people they aspire to be like. Levy's sharp, witty and clever look at the sex industry in America examines all of this and makes some well-observed and well-argued points about sex and sexuality for women in the USA.

Levy begins by describing the sudden rise in popularity of lap-dancing classes for women, the increasing popularity (amongst women) of magazines like Playboy and Esquire, and the acceptance of porn-stars as legitimate role models. She examines some of the reasons why this has happened and comes up with the term 'female chauvinist pig'. Female chauvinist pigs (FCPs) are women who view themselves and other women as sex objects. This is seen in women embracing Girls Gone Wild, Playboy, porn stars, and many of the other things that have traditionally being viewed as degrading towards women. She then goes on to examine the rise of raunch culture, and why women have accepted this. She also looks at the history of feminism and how society has come to this place, as well as looking at how raunch culture affects adolescents.

The book is compelling and Levy makes some excellent points. She argues that this rise of raunch culture and FCP's does not mean that feminism's aims have been achieved and it certainly does not mean that women are sexually liberated. As she points out, since when is aspiring to look like a porn star or a playboy model-whose job is to fake sexual pleasure- liberating for women? Women- and only women- are under more pressure than ever to be perceived as hot, which means being sexually desirable and saleable. It's not enough for women today to be successful, beautiful, talented, and accomplished, they have to be hot. Case in point: Amanda Beard, and American Olympian swimmer appearing in Playboy. This importance on being hot applies only to women- no male Olym pian has felt the need to prove his self worth by putting his genitals on display in a magazine.

Her analysis of why this happens is excellent. She gives several reasons, one of them being the 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' mentality. I haven't read that book but briefly, it involves 'tomming'. Tomming means conforming to another more powerful person(s) idea of who you are and who you ought to be. In other words, if you can't beat the system that oppresses you, join it and embrace it. Women in the USA are not sexually liberated. She quotes Susan Brownmiller "You think you're being brave, you think you're being sexy, you think you're transcending feminism. But that's bullshit."

This is one of the best books I've read in a long time. It's utterly compelling and Levy's clever, angry and well-written book really makes you think. It's sad because despite some of the major advances women in the USA have made, it shows that there is still a very long way to go. As she points out, if women today are sexually liberated, why do we work so hard to look like someone elses idea of what sexy is instead of just being ourselves?

Random aside: take a look at this postsecret. I think it shows that the sexuality of Western women and women of Islamic faith are both equally repressed and restrained by patriarchy, just in different ways: 


  1. I might have to borrow this from the library if I can find it. While I don't really have a problem with the porn / Playboy industry, I do think it's sad that so many women are thinking that they have to look like that to be successful in life.

  2. Wow. This book sounds amazing. Thank you for posting some of the things the author pointed out. Our society is so messed up sometimes!

  3. Whoa, this sounds like a great book. I'll have to check and see if we have it in the collection here to check out. :) Thanks for the great review.

  4. I read this book in my Theory of Popular Culture class and loved it. You should look up the author's interview with Stephen Colbert. I know it's a serious topic, but they make it funny.

  5. This book was mentioned in one I read recently (I'd Rather Eat Chocolate) and I was really interested in it, so I was excited to see your review! It sounds awesome and I'm definitely going to check for it at the library.

  6. Excellent review. One of my friends speaks very highly of this book. Have you read any Judith Butler? You might find her interesting, too.

  7. From what you've said, she puts an intelligent voice to my gut-felt, but unexplainable opinions. I'm certainly going to read this!

  8. I think most men already have an inkling about this subject. Believe it or not, if a man would even attempt to behave in a strip club like women do in Chip n' Dale shows they'll be thrown in jail.

  9. What a great review! It's so good to find reviews of new feminist books. I've always been bothered by the way women so often accept societal beauty standards, even to the point of policing other women's adherence to those standards. I'm definitely going to have to add this one to my list. Thanks for the recommendation!


    ps: If you're interested in talking about feminist books or feminist thoughts in general, you might consider joining my GoodReads group, "The Feminist Readers' Network."


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