In October I joined a feminist book club. I’ve been looking for one for a while and the best I’d found was the events organised by the Glasgow Women’s Library (a fantastic organisation deserving of more credit than it gets) but most of their events happened during office hours and none of them could really be described as a book club. So when the University of Glasgow’s Feminist Society advertised that they were starting one I was keen to go along.
I had some misgivings about the group because, while I’d never been an active member, I’d heard the odd negative rumour about the Feminist Society. It’s telling the Glasgow has two feminist societies – this one and the Isabella Elder Feminist Society. I guess feminists disagreeing with each other is nothing new. Either way, I wanted my book club, and here it was. I’ll blog about it properly at some point, but we’ve only met twice so far so that will have to wait a little longer.
After our first meet up (which involved inexpert discussion of a couple of hastily read essays due to the short notice of the event) we agreed to read books with the theme of Deconstructing Perceptions of Femininity. Gosh. Well, this was one of them and I’d heard of it so I decided to read it. I was quite looking forward to it.
I really, really, really wanted to like it. I didn’t. It’s only 10 years old but already in that time things have moved on and this book hasn’t aged very well. Perhaps Ariel Levy was just more conservative than me even ten years ago but to me the tone of the book just jars.
The idea is that Female Chauvinist Pigs (FCPs) come in two categories. The type that join Male Chauvinist Pigs in their objectification and distaste for women, and the kind that become ultra-feminine in the pursuit of male approval. Levy hates both and blames both for their behaviours without really scrutinising why these caricatures she’s created behave in this way. She doesn’t consider that they may have been influenced into these behaviours through pressure from the patriarchy and is more keen to attack them than it.
Plus, the text is very slut-shame-y. She praises sexual freedoms, just as long as women aren’t doing things she finds distasteful. Pole dancing, getting their belly buttons pierced and wearing make up are all activities that should be condemned. She seems unaware that some women might like these (although she’s keen to point out that many must not).
To be fair, she makes good points too. Her attack on the education system in the US for its tendency towards abstinence only sex education is spot on. Her concern for increasingly younger girls to feel sexual pressures is also fair and very worrying.
Still, I can’t recommend this book. It’s educational, if only as a great way of illustrating what I said about: feminists disagreeing with each other is nothing new. I think the majority of young, sex-positive feminists would find most of her arguments a bit frustrating. There have to be better texts out there that discuss the concept of femininity and its potential pitfalls. If anyone can recommend them please send them my way.
Originally posted here: http://unazukin210.tumblr.com/post/134654794225/book-review-female-chauvinist-pigs-women-and