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.