Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy

Cover via Goodreads.

Cover via Goodreads.

Rating: 3/5 stars.

In Female Chauvinist Pigs, Ariel Levy deconstructs the idea that sex always empowers women. She argues that the sexualization of women sets them back in terms of equality and that they only hurt themselves by using their bodies as bargaining chips. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll divide my review into the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Good: Levy creates a compelling argument against overt female exhibitionism and sexuality. She interviews a variety of people – from businesswomen to sex workers – and through their stories she shows how raunch culture only appeases men, instead of freeing women. She incorporates interesting ideas like “tomming” (an allusion to Uncle Tom’s Cabin), as well as how the sexual revolution movement coincided with and somewhat harmed the female liberation movement. Levy’s overall analysis brought forth a few innovative concepts, such as teaching young girls why they should have sex instead of forbidding them from learning about what their bodies will push them toward anyway.

The Bad: Where are the solutions? Levy spends so much time lampooning women in this book that she fails to formulate a plan of action. She succeeds in saying that too much promiscuity harms women, but what can we do to empower them? Perhaps Female Chauvinist Pigs would have benefited from more analysis instead of the multitude of interviews Levy included: a few of her interviews felt biased and unnecessary, and she could have spent more time talking to empowered, successful women instead of the ones she found lacking.

The Ugly: Did anyone else find Levy’s sentiments about transgender people horribly offensive? Her idea that trans men choose their transition for the political, financial, and social advantages made me sick. How can anyone generalize why people spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars, go through countless surgeries, and face discrimination in order to attain their true gender? How can anyone call it a “choice” in the first place? Levy made some stretches in this book based on her interviews, but her politicizing of an entire group of human beings made me outright upset.

Overall, a good read, especially for those who haven’t read much about feminism. I had fun discussing this book with a friend, and, alongside Appetites by Caroline Knapp, it’s inspired me to read more books about feminism in the future.

*you can also check out my thoughts on “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid and The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath here and here, respectively

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8 Comments

Filed under 3 stars, Book Reviews, Books

8 responses to “Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy

  1. Does too much sex also harm men?

    • While this question would take a lot more space and thought to answer, I’d say yes, though perhaps in slightly different ways than for women (even though there exists similarities in how it might affect both genders). What do you think?

      • I think it depends on the individual. In my early twenties I had a lot of sex and I don’t think it hurt me at all. Like most things it only becomes a problem if other parts of life suffer because of it.
        I think sexualization is natural and unavoidable. We’re sexual animals. We don’t go to the gym because it’s fun, we do it for sexual advantage. The only people who can ‘afford’ to ignore these things are those already in relationships- and still, I wouldn’t recommend it.
        A world where sexualization doesn’t exist isn’t a world where there are primates ;)

  2. Are you still looking for more feminism reads? I took a Sociology of Gender course and can recommend you books I thought were very insightful. Actually, here’s some now:

    The Purity Myth – Jessica Valenti
    The Macho Paradox – Jackson Katz
    Sister Outsider – Audre Lorde
    Feminism is For Everyone – Bell Hooks

    • Thank you so much for the recommendations, they all look fascinating! The Purity Myth is on my bookshelf and I have Sister Outsider on my to-read list, but I will include the Macho Paradox and Feminism is For Everyone in the list of books I need to attain quickly.

  3. Sounds like an interesting read! Seeing laynasaur recommend Jackson Katz above reminds me of two films you might want to watch. Katz made an excellent documentary called Tough Guise about the hypermasculinity problem, and then there is a sequence of (I think) 4 feminist documentaries calling Killing Us Softly that I also recommend.

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