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Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture Hardcover – August 30, 2005

4.2 out of 5 stars 192 customer reviews

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Ariel Levy’s debut book is a bold, piercing examination of how twenty-first century American society perceives sex and women. Writing vividly, she brings her readers to places she visited to make her assessment; the elevator of Playboy Enterprises with women auditioning to be Playmates in the fiftieth anniversary edition, a Florida beach where sunbathers urge a woman to take off her bathing suit for the camera crew of Girls Gone Wild, a San Francisco Italian restaurant where a lesbian worries she’s not dressed up enough for her date, a CAKE party in New York, with women grinding each other’s pelvises in time to pulsating dance rhythms, and outside a juice bar in Oakland where a beautiful high school student shares disappointment at her experiences with sex.

Levy cleverly leads us to explore the role models women aspire to emulate. We are not pursuing the confident, self-determined, powerful, free ideal the women’s liberation movement would have dreamed for its daughters. Instead, our icons are porn stars and strippers and prostitutes. Paris Hilton and Jenna Jameson flaunt their successes in the pornography industry, and in doing so seem to earn our adulation.

Levy relates our embracing of this raunchy culture to unresolved tensions thirty years ago between the sexual revolution and the women’s liberation movement, and amongst feminists; joy at discovering the delights of our clitoris conflicting with disgust at pornography’s objectification of women. She creates a convincing argument by analyzing a diverse spectrum of material; presents a fascinating palette of interviews with revolutionary women’s libbers, nouvelle raunchy feminists, and everyday women and men. Detailed facts and recurring names are sometimes cumbersome, albeit worth ploughing through for the ‘a-ha moments’.

The reality that we model ourselves on images whose "individuality is erased" is harsh, yet Levy’s work is imbued with hope – hope that women can celebrate their uniqueness instead of their ‘hotness’, explore their sexuality as delight rather than consume sex as currency, and succeed professionally because of their brilliant minds and personalities, not because of their brilliant bodies.--Megan Jones Ady

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. What does sexy mean today? Levy, smartly expanding on reporting for an article in New York magazine, argues that the term is defined by a pervasive raunch culture wherein women make sex objects of other women and of ourselves. The voracious search for what's sexy, she writes, has reincarnated a day when Playboy Bunnies (and airbrushed and surgically altered nudity) epitomized female beauty. It has elevated porn above sexual pleasure. Most insidiously, it has usurped the keywords of the women's movement (liberation, empowerment) to serve as buzzwords for a female sexuality that denies passion (in all its forms) and embraces consumerism. To understand how this happened, Levy examines the women's movement, identifying the residue of divisive, unresolved issues about women's relationship to men and sex. The resulting raunch feminism, she writes, is a garbled attempt at continuing the work of the women's movement and asks, how is resurrecting every stereotype of female sexuality that feminism endeavored to banish good for women? Why is laboring to look like Pamela Anderson empowering? Levy's insightful reporting and analysis chill the hype of what's hot. It will create many aha! moments for readers who have been wondering how porn got to be pop and why feminism is such a dirty word. (Sept. 13)

Copyright© Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; F First Edition, First Printing edition (August 30, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743249895
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743249898
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (192 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #988,501 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For years, as I have watched "raunch," as Ariel Levy rightly refers to it, go mainstream in American society, I have felt a sense of increasing discomfort and befuddlement, to say the least. In no small part, the befuddlement was born of watching my own gender betray itself, betray the cause of working towards women's rights in a male-dominated world. Yet I had no words for it. It was a gut feeling: this is wrong. This is nauseating. This is regression. Even - this is to the downfall of a woman's right and wish to explore her sexuality and seek its fulfillment.

When I saw this book's title, I immediately sensed I'd found something of importance. The day the book arrived in my mail, I sat down and read it - all in one sitting. It's been a long time since I have done that, but my sense was correct. At long last, I'd found the expression of that inner voice, put to coherent and rational words, ordered into a call for action. With utmost gratitude, I say to Levy: thank you.

What is a female chauvinist pig (FCP)? "If Male Chauvinist Pigs were men who regarded women as pieces of meat, we would outdo them and be Female Chaunvinst Pigs: women who make sex objects of other women and of ourselves."

To Levy's credit, she readily admits, more than once, that she, too, wants to "belong," to "get with the program," to seek acceptance among others, as is human nature to do. She observes the mainstreaming of raunch, and women, including feminists, falling obediently into line in promoting it. "But I could never make the argument add up in my head," she writes. "How is resurrecting every stereotype of female sexuality that feminism endeavored to banish *good* for women? Why is laboring to look like Pamela Anderson empowering?
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Format: Paperback
I discovered "Female Chauvinist Pigs" when its author, Ariel Levy, appeared on an episode of The Colbert Report to talk about her book. I was deeply impressed with her -- an intelligent, funny, confidant, and down-to-earth woman -- and the subject matter of her book, compelling me to go out and buy it. Levy examines the current state of feminism in a society that has been infiltrated by "raunch culture." This term refers to the rise of porn and sexuality into the mainstream, whether through porn star Jenna Jameson becoming a prominent media figure and a bestselling novelist, the success of female-exploitation products like the "Girls Gone Wild" DVD series, women enrolling in cardio striptease classes at gyms across America, or the popularity of instructional lap dance videos and classes. Women have embraced their sexuality as the ultimate expression of empowerment, proclaiming that this is the new face of feminism. But Levy isn't so sure that raunch culture is as feminist as these women seem to think it is, and sets about debunking that belief through a series of interviews and research assignments going back five years. She aims to prove that the women at the forefront of this new movement are not the ultimate feminists but the result of a misguided mutation of the feminist movement that has produced female chauvinists instead of feminists: women who espouse the same stereotypical views about women and womanhood that a male chauvinist would have, sort of like a gay republican. Suddenly women seem to want to be one of the boys and are desperate not to get labelled a 'girly girl' -- the ultimate slander in raunch culture. The way to achieve this, Levy argues, is to dress and act like a stripper. But where is the liberation in this?Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
If you haven't spent time in teen/college culture lately, "Female Chauvinist Pigs" will wake you up to the direction we're headed. Young women now think it's normal to want to emulate porn stars. Those twisted values are starting to saturate our culture and reach younger girls each day through products like thong underwear made in girls' size 10. While boys and men are a key part of this equation, Levy's book focuses on females who have been co-opted into "chauvinistic" behavior toward other women.

I am proud to be a progressive feminist, and the saddest thing of all is that some young women think the "Girls Gone Wild" raunch is about empowermenet rather than exploitation. (Who knew I'd feel so old school before age 40?)

The writing in "Female Chauvinist Pigs" could use some polishing, and some ideas called out for more exploration. That said, Levy's work provides an important cultural critique. Still skeptical? A quick browse through the teen universe of My Space will validate Levy's ideas.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a great book to start a conversation among women and feminists, people who celebrate women's sexual empowerment, and people who deplore the coarsening of our culture. Levy picks apart the extent to which these things are (and are not) related. She has a gift for directly addressing things we've all been aware of but probably haven't thought to inquire into.

This book doesn't have all the answers and it doesn't address all the arguments, but it doesn't profess to: I found it valuable for *stimulating* thoughts on how feminism has (apparently) morphed, what our obligations are to ourselves and to women generally, and the potential larger impact of our individual choices. (I've worn a Playboy-logo T-shirt, thinking of it as shorthand for, or 'taking back' a symbol of, female sexuality...but I was ambivalent about it at the time, and now I wonder whether the actual effect was to undermine my own convictions - what exactly was the point of emphasizing female sexuality anyway?)

Ariel Levy identifies a culture-wide cheapening of female attributes at the same time that we see women succeed as individuals in "non-traditional" fields. She suggests reasons why women and girls are buying into the coarsening messages, suggesting that their motivation is largely selfish - to advance individually in a world that (still) caters to men's desires even at the expense of other women generally, who necessarily continue to get the short end of the stick (in order to maintain the paradigm that's so effective for those exceptional women). Surely that kind of female success cannot be sustainable, since it puts women just as clearly into boxes as did playing by the old rules. When *every* woman seeks to stand out by stepping on top of other women, it's just a jumbled mess.
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