Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Truculence

I'm reading, among many other things, Ariel Levy’s Female Chauvinist Pigs: The Rise of Raunch Culture. It’s more informed than a lot of mainstream (i.e. outside of the academy) cultural criticism and Levy’s familiarity with popular second-wave feminist work (e.g. Catherine MacKinnon, Andrea Dworkin, Susan Brownmiller) often goes beyond chatty intellectualism. I'm on board with some parts of her argument: we have a problematically narrow definition of sexy that continues to rest on the objectification of women and does a disservice to the fundamental goals of second-wave feminism; women’s sexual empowerment is frustratingly still defined as the ability to arouse men. However, I'm not keen on how she roots the seeds of ‘raunch culture’ in the women’s movement. For someone that must have read Susan Faludi’s Backlash, she seems to have missed its point. Levy’s overtures toward the role capitalism plays in perpetuating these kinds of representations could be much more profoundly thought out – capitalism is still a deeply patriarchal system, and its insidious language of personal choice that frames the way raunch culture is positioned as ‘liberating’ serves a narrow set of economic and political interests. Looking at how efficiently feminism has been shorthanded, diffused, and co-opted into only its most marketable and non-threatening goals – leaving us not with feminism, but female individualism – would turn Levy’s position from righteous (and rightly so) indignation into real criticism and praxis. Not all my evening reading has been this disappointing lately – I finally picked up Bitchfest (Sex and the City may have categorized women into Katy Girls and Simple Girls; I prefer Bust Women and Bitch Women). Not only is it satisfyingly polemical, but the title also keeps strangers from bothering you when you’re reading in public (I have an entire shelf of these, like Sarah Projansky’s Watching Rape or Philip Jenkins’ Moral Panic: Changing Concepts of the Child Molester in Modern America). Held at just the right angle, they can ensure a peaceful, smalltalk-free afternoon at the café.

2 Comments:

Blogger erin said...

crazy--i was reading that just a coupla weeks ago. i got into her through an article on "girls gone wild." not bad stuff...

2:54 PM  
Blogger andrea said...

no, not bad, though there's better stuff out there. karen pitcher's got an article about GGW in the latest CSMC which does a much better job of arguing about the ultimately hegemonic neoliberalist rhetoric of agency and personal choice - situating the program within a larger exploitative commercial culture via bakhtin. carnivalesqueriffic!

12:35 PM  

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