Levy, Ariel. 2005. Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture. New York: Free Press.
What prompts the cultural shift of the “porning” and hypersexualization of women and girls within our culture? How do markers of stripping, pornography, and sexual objectification become synonymous with “empowerment.” Men and women are both to blame as they edit and deliver hypersexualized media messages that seem to proclaim the success of feminism?
Raunch culture as the normalization of men’s sexuality and desires, but applied to and valued in women – that is, embracing hypersexualized, hyperfeminized personas that have the sexual appetite and markers of masculinity (or even queerness), but still cater to men’s desires and fantasies. “Raunch culture is not essentially progressive, it is essentially commercial. By going to strip clubs and fashion on spring break and ogling our Olympians in Playboy, 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. It’s about endlessly reiterating one particular – and particularly commercial – shorthand for sexiness” (29-30).
Capitalizing on (and offering wider distribution, replication, normalization) of party culture, voyeurism, entrée into lesbian experiences, sexual objectification, and self-objectification (for perceived rewards with little consequence). Even women, as business owners, capitalize on this market- understanding the commercial and financial power of attractiveness – however, cast themselves (and are cast) as exceptions – the individualized successes of (kx^ postfeminism) – and the bashing/distancing of feminism as a way to concrete this difference/specialness. “It can be fun to feel exceptional – to be the loophole woman, to have a whole power thing, to be an honorary man. But if you are the exception that proves the rule, and the rule is that women are inferior, you haven’t made any progress” (117).
Sexualization of female athletes, newscasters, executives, political figures, fashion models, and everyday people – taking the culture of “empowered womanhood” and shifting focus not onto achievements, but back onto bodies and beauty. A Female Chauvinist Pig: “They want to be like men, and profess to disdain women who are overly focused on the appearance of femininity. But men seem to like those women, those girly-girls, or like to look at them, at least. So to really be like men, FCPs have to enjoy looking at those women, too. At the same time, they wouldn’t mind being looked at a little bit themselves. The task then is to simultaneously show that you are not the same as the girly-girls in the videos and the Victoria’s Secret catalogs, but that you approve of the men’s appreciation for them, and that possibly you too have some of that same sexy energy and underwear underneath all your aggression and wit” (99).
(kx^ – the phallic girl of McRobbie 2009!)
Seeping over into genderqueer, lesbian, queer, and trans- movements – where the sexualization of women (and promiscuity expected of men) offer similar, replicative sex dynamics – demonstrating contempt for femininity, femmes, and instead offer support for subordination of women and all femme-related.
Media depictions of the FCP focus on commodification as well as sexualization – fucking like a man, buying like a man – but with the style of a woman – freedom, yet, femininity. At the same time, casting female friendships as radical – non-normative.
Built on a feminist movement that was based on a co-option of social movements by men, feminist consciousness raising with other women, sexual liberation (through education, exchange) – mimicked in the sexual revolution that was seemingly co-opted by Playboy libertines under the guise of anti-repression. Yes, women were out and participating in the public sphere, but in ways that still referenced their cultural and “functional” roles of domestic and ideological subordination. This promoted demand for separatism, lesbian relationships cast in romantic (not sexual ideation).
Anti-porn organizations cast feminist activists as asexual, unhip, out-of-touch. Women within anti-porn organizations thought of themselves, in ways, as pro-sex – by deconstructing unequal power relations and problematic relationships, they were making room for better sex possibilities. Raunch culture as a response to previous generations’ restrictions and battles – Susan Brownmiller’s response: “You think you’re being brave, you think you’re being sexy, you think your transcending feminism. But that’s bullshit” (82).