The book “Female Chauvinist Pigs” depicts changes and new values created by mass culture and new social values. This research vividly portrays recent changes in and weaknesses of feminist ideals popularized and defended three decades ago. Ariel Levy underlines that modern feminist ideas have nothing to do with real feminism fought for freedom and liberty, equal opportunities, and independence. Modern women distort the typical image of a feminist as a fighter and liberator. They create a so-called “raunch culture” based on pornography and nudity, extreme sexuality, and sexual desire.
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Levy unveils that modern women have a false understanding of feminism and its main values. Unfortunately, feminism is associated with extreme sexuality and short skirts, sexual behavior, and rudeness. Levy depicts one of the episodes on a street: “Just show me your thong. Show me your thong now.” She whipped around and lifted her skirt. “Yeah,” shrieked one of the young men watching her” (Levy 9). In further discussion, she criticizes false media images and ideals of sexual bodies which force young girls to behave in such away. Levy is a radical feminist in that she focuses on the institutional structures that impede the development of women’s capacities, including the capacity to write.
The language she uses in her discussions of writing and mothering is the language common to radical feminism with its emphasis on patriarchy or the rule of the fathers. She suggests that patriarchy must be replaced by women-centered approaches to thus it does not mean violence and sexualized bodies are so popular among young girls. Her perspective is also radical feminist in that she emphasizes that women must remain outside traditional institutions if they are to maintain their integrity and resist domination. Unlike feminists who tend to idealize women’s traditional roles, especially mothering, Levy focuses largely on ways in which patriarchal institutions have made the satisfying modern ideal of a woman. What is needed, according to Levy, is a radical change in the sexual politics of our present social order to eliminate men’s control over women’s bodies in the form of rape, unpaid production within marriage, sexual harassment, pornography, isolation of women from education and some forms of oppression.
Levy does not blame women but a popular culture that has a profound impact on feminists and their ideas of liberty. “The music industry, art, fashion, and taste the way raunch culture has, it must be thoroughly main- stream, and half that mainstream is female” (28). Like Rothenberg, Levy sees modern culture as an embodiment of patriarchal authority and certainly as places inimical to mothering and the development of women’s abilities, a radical feminist perspective. Levy says that the style is identical to the style of a society invested in aggression. Mass culture is dominated by a masculine ideal, a race of men against one another.
The disciplines represented obscure or devalue the history and experience of women as a group. “It’s not as though we are embracing something liberal-this isn’t Free Love. Raunch culture isn’t about opening our minds to the possibilities and mysteries of sexuality” (Levy 24). Like Rothenberg, one manifestation of Levy’s feminism is the recognition of male domination of culture. Each woman is defined by her relationship with the men in power instead of her relationship with other women up and down the scale. Levy’s solutions to the problems of patriarchal culture are also radical feminist in that she emphasizes the need for women to come together to oppose patriarchal culture and to develop ways of teaching that are nurturing rather than alienating. Levy states: “Raunch culture, then, isn’t an entertainment option, it’s a litmus test of female uptightness” (Levy 34).
Female chauvinist pigs are those women who oppose social values and norms, traditions, and even morals. “Instead of trying to reform other people’s-or her own-perception of femininity, the Female Chauvinist Pig likes to position herself as something out- side the normal bounds of womanhood” (Levy 104). It is important to note that chauvinism is not a bad thing but its extreme manifestations and false ideals harm culture and society. Levy calls for the elimination of male dominance and the transformation of our social institutions. Many of her solutions, though, have a cultural-feminist cast. She says that culture needs to be restructured to allow women to connect and to become a presence at all levels. According to Levy, the mass culture and mainstream should also become responsive to the visible community within which it exists—the neighborhood, the city, the rural county, its true environment. The mass culture should organize its resources around problems specific to its community—public health; safer, cheaper, and simpler birth control; drug addiction; communication education. Only in this case, it would be possible to reconstruct social values and fight for equal rights and opportunities. “Both men and women alike seem to have developed a taste for kitschy, slutty stereotypes of female sexuality res- urrected from an era not quite gone by” (Levy 28).
Using examples from literature (The Gone with the Wind) and history Levy states that both the content and the style of vulture and representation need to be changed to empower women. Women need a reorganization of knowledge, perspectives, and analytical tools that can help them know their foremothers, evaluate present historical, political, and personal situations, and take themselves seriously as agents in the creation of a more balanced culture. She suggests that it is perhaps in the domain that has proved least hospitable or attractive to women—theoretical science—that the impact of feminist and of women-centered culture will have the most revolutionary impact (Rothenberg 23).
I agree with Levy that pornography to be damaging to women and hence modern society should call for its elimination. The author underlines collapsing of the distinction between representation and conduct and her call for enhancing the power of the state in interventions over graphic sexual representation to be serious threats to young generations. “People watch the videos and think the girls in them are real slutty, but I’m a virgin!” Cope said proudly. “And yeah, Girls Gone Wild is for guys to get off on, but the women are beautiful” (Levy 4). According to Levy, outside of women’s studies, we live with textbooks, research studies, scholarly sources, and lectures that treat women as a subspecies, mentioned only as peripheral to the history of men. In disciplines where women are considered, they are perceived as the objects rather than the originators of inquiry. What traditional culture obscures, is that civilization has been built on the bodies and services of women, services such as mothering that are unacknowledged, unpaid, and unprotected in the main. Levy says that, like the history of slave revolts, the history of women’s resistance to domination awaits discovery by the offspring of the dominated.
Unlike modern-feminist perspectives, which tend toward representations of relationships between men and women and toward opposition to modern thinking and practices, postmodern ones critique modernism without rejecting it completely. Levy claims that women should not forget about beauty and morality, social values, and ideals of motherhood. Following Rothenberg, each time that feminism came on the scene, it was the message of individualism that captured the imagination of women. Feminism has always been dedicated to exploring and unraveling what may be emerging as the central problem of industrial society in the nineties—the relationship between the individual and the community, understood in its widest sense. Not many feminists have consciously and consistently identified that the state is the enemy of that relationship, but some of them, from different perspectives, have come close to doing so. Mass culture called for a “feminist perspective” that would provide a complete and consistent analysis of society, placing male domination of women and male-inspired sex roles at the root of social problems. Consciousness-raising itself is originally touted as a “socialist” technique, but writers have seen that it rapidly became something very different. Many of the multiple varieties of feminisms have been there from the beginning; many have developed more recently (Rothenberg 22).
In short, the feminist movement is wide and diverse. Even specifically socialist contributions to feminism have often been modified almost out of recognition by feminist concerns. Modern mass culture and chauvinism ruin ideals of women as fighters and liberators but bring extreme sexuality and masculinity. The ‘Raunch culture’ as a part of mass culture creates ideals and images of modern women who forget about morality and ideals of womanhood. I agree with Levy that the ‘Raunch culture’ harms young girls and boys, men and women popularizing false social images and ideals. Modern feminists should not forget about women’s values and real ideals created by early feminists. I agree that consciousness-raising should not mean violation of social norms and principles of morality and beauty.
Levy, A. Female Chauvinist Pigs. Free Press, 2005.
Rothenberg, P. Race, Class, and Gender in the United States. Worth Publishers, 2003.