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“Female Chauvinist Pigs: Girls gone wild” May 7, 2007

Posted by lindamc in "the gaze", bodies, Female Power, gender, in the news.
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This article from the NY Times discusses, although it is a year and a half old(published september 2005), Ariel Levy’s claims about what women these days are turning themselves into. I found this quote from the article particularly interesting and very much the focus of class discussion the past few weeks: “Our popular culture, she argues, has embraced a model of female sexuality that comes straight from pornography and strip clubs, in which the woman’s job is to excite and titillate – to perform for men. According to Levy, women have bought into this by altering their bodies surgically and cosmetically, and – more insidiously – by confusing sexual power with power, so that embracing this caricaturish form of sexuality becomes, in their minds, a perverse kind of feminism.” Levy goes on to discuss the rise of the number of Olympic athletes that pose for playboy, Paris Hilton, Girls Gone wild, and stereotypes of cartoon men and women. The woman who wrote this article: Jennifer Egan, believes that Levy shapes her examples to fit her theories, and argues that she drew from a small pool of women and girls. What do we think? Do we agree with Levy? Egan does in the end praise the book for posing a tough question: “Many women can buy their own plane tickets and pay their own rent. They can treat themselves. Why, then, do they persist in watching themselves through male eyes?”

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1. sindhub - May 10, 2007

I’ve read the book and it’s really good! I highly recommend it.

Egan does point out some statistical issues that would make Levy’s theory less valid, but I think it does apply. It seems to me that “embracing your sexuality” has come to mean “be really raunchy and out-there.” Of course there’s nothing wrong with the latter, but when that’s ALL ’embracing your sexuality’ and ’empowering yourself’ means in popular culture, it becomes troubling (especially for younger girls who desperately want to fit in). I mean, what about women who just don’t care to go to sex parties and cardio striptease classes, but are still comfortable with their sexuality and get what they want? But then as much money wouldn’t be spent, which I think is key.

It seems like there are conflicting messages in our popular culture about being sexual to please a man (e.g. Cosmo) or being sexual to please yourself (Sex & the City, some would say the Pussycat Dolls… but these are in themselves contradictory b/c you could also say that they revolve around men), and that’s something that Levy’s theory doesn’t fully address. But she does document how to came to be, historically, really well.


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