Tuesday, November 28, 2006

"Female Chauvinist Pigs"

Ariel Levy is a 32 year-old, second generation feminist who writes on sexuality, culture & gender politics for New York magazine. Her recently published book, Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, asks why today's women, contrary to previous feministic efforts, view exhibitionism in both overt & subtle forms as empowering.

I was blown away by the following reviews:

"New York magazine writer Ariel Levy strips the Girls Gone Wild culture of its cuteness in her provocative Female Chauvinist Pigs, arguing that post-feminist poster girls such as the Playboy Bunnies offer only faux empowerment."
-Vanity Fair

"With Female Chauvinist Pigs, Ariel Levy becomes feminism's newest and most provocative voice, brilliantly laying bare the contradictions and evasions and self-deceptions that pass for empowerment."
-Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink and The Tipping Point

"Reading Female Chauvinist Pigs, Ariel Levy's lively polemic, gave me an epiphany of sorts. Finally, a coherent interpretation of an array of phenomena I'd puzzled over in recent years...Levy has a theory that makes sense of all of this....her most daring leap [comes] when she likens this reductive female sexuality and its correlative chauvinism to the coping strategies of two of the black characters in Uncle Tom's Cabin...Levy's argument is provocative and persuasive...a consciousness raising call to arms. "
-New York Times Book Review

"A piercing look at how women are sabotaging their own attempts to be seen as equals by going about the quest the wrong way, Levy's engrossing book should be required reading for young women."

"Levy's insightful reporting and analysis chill the hype of what's hot. It will create many "aha!" moments for readers who have been wondering how porn got to be pop and why "feminism" is such a dirty word."
-Publishers Weekly

Compelling, isn't it? And these aren't even Christ-followers.

I recently read a blog post by a young Christian women arguing that women should wear whatever they want (no matter how revealing) & that lust is solely the responsibility of the luster... i.e. guys. My heart broke when I read it... mostly for her sake.

Women are unwittingly sacrificing themselves to the whims of American pop culture, which feeds on short-term reward & long-term destruction. Even many of our Christ-following sisters have fallen victim to the lie that what they gain in acceptance, power, & independence is more worthwhile than their self-respect & respectability in the eyes of others. I doubt many of these young women even know that both subtle & overt sexual exhibitionism costs them the respect of all men... even those encouraging such behavior for their own selfish pleasure.

I wonder why I haven't heard anyone really talk about this until now? I'm so glad that at least the media personalities represented above understand. Midriff T-shirts with sexual slogans or Playboy bunny silhouettes, spontaneous exhibitionism at high school dances or in front of Spring-Break video cameras, the pop culture of amateur & professional porn, & innumerable other iconic practices modeled by popular TV & edgy fashion ... all come with a price tag.

It's statistically supported that women will generally sacrifice respect to gain love or acceptability (men will generally sacrifice love to gain respect). And when you add a sense of power that comes from being able to "control" men along with the sense of independence ... then respect doesn't seem like such a high price tag after all. But it is so very high.

Ultimately, a person without a strong sense of respectability becomes unmotivated to take care of themself. They disintegrate into more & more destructive habits that lead to a string of broken relationships, depression, anger, & harmful coping mechanisms. When such a lack of respectability is tied to a woman's body, there frequently occurs a type of split between her psyche & physical self-image. In other words, she divorces her body, causing the emotional fracture already present to sink deeper into the recesses of her heart. She becomes utterly broken.

If I sound like an uninformed male in this, then I encourage you to check out Terry Gross' interview with Ariel Levy here. There's not a male or a conservative anywhere in it.

All of this is compelling and convicting for me; and I hope it becomes for us what the New York Times has declared it, "a consciousness raising call to arms". I hope it moves us to compassion & action against this lie our culture is believing so unquestionably. ...For the sake of Christ & all His daughters whom He created & knows by name.


Makeesha said...

in my opinion, true feminism will seek to free women from objectification - I saw this author interviewed a while back and they were discussing the subjugation and objectification of women and how, in some ways, fringe ideas in feminism have contributed to it.

As a Christian, and an egalitarian, and a self proclaimed "Christian feminist", I too am saddened when women participate in self objectification in the name of "freedom" and "feminism". However, I would disagree with anyone who limits the discussion to instructing girls and women to adjust their attire or behavior so that they don't "tempt" men.

Girls need to be empowered to present themselves the way God sees them. It's an identity issue, a heart issue...not really a morality issue.

John Lynch said...

I love your comment, Makeesha... that seeing themselves as God sees women is a heart issue. I think that's it, exactly.

To limit the discussion to mere behavior fails to acknowledge the deep-seated motivations (insecurity, lonliness, relational woundedness, ambition, false pride, etc.) that often grow from the deception of our personal & cultural brokenness.

Thanks for your compassionate insight & clarity on this.

Makeesha said...

yes exactly John!

We were discussing the issue of "morality" in connection with homosexuality with a bunch of our revolution folks on Sunday - it was really good because we landed on saying that no matter where you "stand" theologically regarding homosexuality, you have to agree that the only answer we have to any "issue" in people's lives is to be used by the Spirit of the living God to touch hearts, to adjust people's identity and give hope in any and all circumstances. our job is not to fix people - we all are sick and it's only through reconciliation with the great physician that we receive wholeness.