Female Chauvinist Pigs

Levy, Ariel. Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture. New York: Free Press, 2005. Print.

In Female Chauvinist Pigs Ariel Levy addresses what she sees as a crisis in contemporary feminism (or, more pointedly, in the supposedly post-feminist landscape): women want to be sexy but they aren’t actually enjoying sex. To make matters worse, women want to be sexy so that they can please men, and this is why they aren’t thinking about their own pleasure. But Levy’s readings of what she calls “female chauvinist pigs” (loosely defined as women who a) aren’t feminists/think we don’t need feminism anymore; b) who take pleasure is shows like Howard Stern; and c) adopt the chauvinism that has oppressed them, but in so doing, they oppress themselves and other women) is lacking in nuance. There are so many moments where Levy is judgmental of other women — she loves to use the word “bimbo” (81) — paradoxically adopting the attitude of the FCP, who, as Levy claims, “don’t bother to question the criteria on which women are judge [because] they are too busy judging other women themselves” (103).

Particularly pertinent to our course is Levy’s chapter (insultingly titled) “Pigs in Training,” in which Levy discusses how teen girls are becoming FCP at an alarming rate. While she does a good job offering studies and statistics that demonstrate how young girls are lacking in self-esteem and feel that their value rests in their ability to be a sex object, Levy fails to think about how some girls might actually feel empowered during might. How teen girls might even be aware of the game that they are playing and not care. At one point Levy argues that “Adolescents are not inventing this culture of exhibitionism and conformity with their own fledging creative powers. Teens are reflecting back our slobbering culture in miniature” (146). I wonder what Ariel Levy would have made of Petra Collins or Marie Calloway, who sadly come too late for Levy’s book. Levy ends her chapter on a puzzling note (I wrote “Really?” in the margins): “If there’s a way in which grown women are appropriating raunch as a rebellion against the constraints of feminism, we can’t say the same for teens. They never had a feminism to rebel against.” I’m not sure what Levy means in this final sentence, but I think that she fails to give young girls the credit that they are due.

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