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The Crux Project Archives: Literature
THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF FEMINISM
A review of Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture
Politics and creativity are not always mutually exclusive. Recently, terms such as “South Park Republicans” and “Trustafarians” have been coined, and, now, author Ariel Levy has unveiled “FCP,” which stands for “Female Chauvinist Pig.”
The peculiarities of this cultural phenomenon are explored in her new book Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture.
What exactly is a FCP? She is a woman possessing the most unappealing of male sexual proclivities. An FCP may be an aficionado of pornography, a habitué of strip clubs, or, in the case of one young lady, someone whose goal is to sleep with 100 men (a goal as likely to be fulfilled as the IRS collecting taxes every April, regardless of her looks or personality).
There is no mistaking that this book is the work of a feminist. Ariel Levy holds the feminist vanguard of the 1960s in the highest esteem. However, she believes that sex-obsessed, trashy skanks are not what the original feminists envisioned female authenticity to be.
Of course such a view is rather dubious, given that the early feminists were a neurotic, occasionally psychotic, throng of absolutists who did not agree on much of anything except that men were to blame for everything wrong in their lives (read: everything). In addition, they could never be accused of recognizing the Law of Unintended Consequences, and hence unlikely to see their own role in the creation of the monsters Levy’s book describes.
Despite Levy’s words of admiration, the surviving bluestocking old guard of feminism will not be very comfortable with this book, as Levy refuses to condemn men for the predicament women have found themselves in—and as we all know, a feminist who denies universal male guilt is like a fish without an ecosystem.
As one who regards radical feminism as the most pernicious of cultural influences, I think it wise to praise and support those feminists who are not visibly insane. That is why I give a lukewarm semi-endorsement to Female Chauvinist Pigs. Oh, certainly, it isn’t a book I’d recommend spending money on, but there are passages worthy of quotation. One cannot help but nod approvingly in Levy’s direction as she recounts her collegiate experiences of being “trained to look at the supposedly all-powerful troika of race, class, and gender.” Such a troika remains intrinsic to liberal arts education today.
Another wonderful shared remembrance is when Levy goes to a meeting with members of the English department faculty to lobby for the inclusion of a classics course in the curriculum. The head of the department responds to her wise request by saying, “I would never teach at a school that offered a course like that.”
Perhaps unwittingly, Levy’s history of radical feminism, provided in the chapter “The Future That Never Happened,” is a source of great hilarity and provides feminism’s enemies with more weaponry. It confirms to the reader that feminism has always been an Ed Wood production. The early feminists, in Levy’s account, truly were as clueless as they were destructive. Our HerStory begins with Congress passing the Equal Pay Act in 1963, which was followed by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That such laws were passed negated the need to even consider the Equal Rights Amendment, which, luckily for the nation, was never ratified.
The laughs intensify when the reader is made aware that an early feminist engaged in sexist and illegal sales practices because she sold her Notes from the First Year to women for fifty cents while selling it to men for a dollar. Such discrimination and sexism foreshadowed much of the hypocrisy that would emit from the feminists of the seventies and eighties. Here we have Levy’s heroine, Susan Brownmiller, quoted in a remarkable passage:
Sometimes [there] were emotional defenses of free speech, but to our
bewilderment, we also saw that some women identified their sexuality
with the S/M pictures we found degrading,” Brownmiller wrote. ‘They
claimed we were condemning their minds and behavior, and I guess we
Her recollection is reflective of how little feminists actually know about women, and how little they care for the needs of their supposed constituency. Their plans are usually confined to a desire to control and dominate others.
Another uproarious moment in the book is when Levy reveals that Betty Friedan, after she described lesbian feministas as being a “lavender menace,” was humiliated by the New York NOW, those great lovers of equality, into becoming their delivery girl and having to fetch their coffee.
My favorite of these unintentional jokes is when we are treated to the fact that womyn’s consciousness-raising sessions were modeled on Mao Zedong’s “speak bitterness” groups.
The biggest complaint I have about this book is that after setting out on a bipartisan road, Levy decides, about halfway in, to attack the political right. By doing so, she turns a journalistic work into propaganda and also reveals just how little she knows about human nature. The reader may be shocked, for example, to discover that the solution for today’s Female Chauvinist Pig is to stop teaching abstinence-based sexual education in our schools. I’m not kidding; that’s what Levy really thinks.
And guess whom she casts as the heinous puppetmaster of abstinence? None other than George W. Bush . . . yawn. It seems that Bush and his three federal abstinence education programs are the phantom menace behind all the nipple rings and ubiquitous lower back tattoos that many of us are sometimes unfortunate enough to see. Well, now that we know, I just hope it’s not too late to get out the antiwar papier-mâché dolls and march on Federal Plaza to protest this atrocity.
Levy actually cites notorious clown and District of Columbia performance artist Henry Waxman as her source concerning abstinence education not working. You see, she argues, if we taught kids how to have more sex, then they wouldn’t have as much sex or be as raunchy. For the Female Chauvinist Pig to disappear, we can’t rely on parents or a village—what we really need are the unfettered efforts of government educators.
Allow me to disabuse our author of her mistaken femo-socialist belief that teachers can alter human nature. It would be practically impossible to prove that anything a teacher said in the classroom regarding peer issues would ever be internalized by students. As a matter of fact, if a teacher recommends a practice, in all likelihood, the students will do the exact opposite. Only on television do adolescents view educational staff as being cool or interesting.
Indeed, Ms. Levy appears to know absolutely nothing about our schools or the 2.7 million teachers who staff them. One of her goofiest observations is that schools teach children that “sex is wrong until you have a wedding.” I have never, in my entire life, met a teacher who would ever say something like that to anyone; let alone to a student. In fact, neither Levy nor her editors noticed that she refutes her own claim later in her book when she mentions a teacher in Palo Alto who brought in a stripper for career day as a means to advocate the glories of that spandexed profession.
Levy’s exchange with an abstinence advocate will delegitimize her standing among many a reader. The advocate shares with the author the not-so-surprising news that she had “ . . . heard of one woman teacher who tells kids how to masturbate. Explaining it! About fantasizing when you shower!” Levy’s responds, “I asked Cowan [the advocate] if she was against teenagers masturbating.”
Um, gee, Ms. Levy, that really isn’t the issue. The issue is whether government employees should be instructing children about sex at all. We don’t pay taxes so that teachers can provide our offspring with tours of their erogenous zones. Levy is every parent’s Madonna nightmare as she states, “Rather than only telling teens why they shouldn’t have sex, perhaps we also ought to be teaching them why they should.” No, maybe we should just teach them geometry instead.
How typical of a feminist to regard sex as being devoid of innate appeal. Besides, the last thing anybody needs is for our government to get involved in anything more, especially sexuality.
What this author does not appear to understand is that the early feminists are the ones who mothered today’s raunchy chicks. What stems from the message, “Everything I do is great,” are tattoos, piercings, drunken orgies, and a future too far off to consider.
Why wouldn’t these girls go wild? If they were serious and sensible, they would be just like their grandmothers—and the libertines in control of cultural power today would never approve of pro-social behavior like that.
Feminism, as opposed to abstinence education, is to blame for the oversexualization of contemporary Western women. When girls are taught that their genitalia are the basis for superiority, there is no reason for them to restrain themselves at all. In our society, women are affirmed simply for being alive. We have feminism to thank for these irrational ways.
Radical feminists have always been confused by what they see moving around them. They look upon a chaotic world and try to tame it with theory. If feminists want to be taken seriously, they should stop soothing their inner and outer child, and, instead, examine reality. They should “speak bitterness” less and see "what is" more often. •
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