Book #38

Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy

Meet the Female Chauvinist Pig—the new brand of “empowered woman” who wears the Playboy bunny as a talisman, bares all for Girls Gone Wild, pursues casual sex as if it were a sport, and embraces “raunch culture” wherever she finds it. If male chauvinist pigs of years past thought of women as pieces of meat, Female Chauvinist Pigs of today are doing them one better, making sex objects of other women—and of themselves. They think they’re being brave, they think they’re being funny, but in Female Chauvinist Pigs, Ariel Levy asks if the joke is on them. 

I thoroughly hated this book.

Levy is a journalist who has an issue with raunch; think sex industry, strippers, tits, porn. She's written this book to explain her stance on it, and the reasons why it's having a detrimental effect on women. At no point does she come across as a supporter of women, instead spending the entire essay sounding like a prudish dowager.

The only part of the book I truly engaged with was the conclusion, although it left me totally confused. Levy concludes that there's nothing wrong with a certain type of sexuality, we can strip if we want, we can watch porn if we want; the only issue is when we think of those things as normal, and stop exploring other parts of our sexuality. Slightly patronising, but a valid point. She goes on to describe sex as a status, as a commodity, and comments on the issues with it being more performance than pleasure-led. Perfect, Levy, but you left this until the end, and my problem is that the rest of your book didn't agree with the conclusion.

Comprised of interviews, it becomes quickly obvious that Levy has chosen her subjects simply to reinforce her point. Selectively cutting and pasting quotes, she effectively embarrasses and patronises her interviewees in order to wave her archaic ideals in our face. Positioning herself as some sort of prototype of perfection; never yielding to the patriarchy, and never falling foul to sexual temptation. What she fails to do is make any sort of suggestion on how we, as a female community, can overcome the idea that we should bend to all men's rules of sex. Other than slag other women off, I failed to see what it was she was really trying to do.

Levy spends an introduction and six chapters completely dragging women for their choices. Whether this is the decision to pursue stripping or pornography for a career, the decision to be sexually promiscuous, the decision to be lesbian, the decision to be transsexual, the decision to work in a male-dominated environment and conform to their cultural norms, or even just the decision to paint your nails or buy an expensive pair of shoes, Levy has something to say about it.

Women who have boob jobs and paint their nails are bimbos. Strippers are uneducated airheads who are incapable of obtaining any other job. High-flying career-driven women who produce television shows involving the naked female form are male wannabes. There is no appetite for supporting women in her words, and not once does she suggest any hint of respect or empathy for any woman.

She's particularly ignorant and abusive in the chapter where she explores the LGBT communities views on sex. Her opinion is that being lesbian or trans is simply a woman hoping to become more male. She fails to use male pronouns for those who would clearly prefer this, and she turns her nose up at the idea of women having top surgery to better match their bodies to who they are. This is blatant transphobia, and I was truly sickened.

I could go on; there were many more points here which angered and offended me, but I'd like to close off my relationship with this book by making a final point. Levy is not a feminist and has spent 200 pages slut-shaming women for conforming to society's standards simply because they don't conform to hers.