Monday, April 17, 2006

I've got about three pages of notes that I took while reading Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the rise of raunch culture by Ariel Levy. If it had been my own copy I read, it would be full of underlining and comments in the margins and big old exclamation marks everywhere. Basically Levy argues that the current rise of raunch culture and mainstreaming of porn is left over from unresolved conflicts between the feminist movement and the sexual revolution. She traces how those two cultural changes started out hand in hand, but parted ways over the issue of pornography. In one section she compares contemporary female chauvinist pigs to "Uncle Tom's, " which she defines as those "...who deliberately [uphold] the stereotypes assigned to his or her marginalized group in the interest of getting ahead with the dominant group." For contrast I wish she'd spent some time on those who have subverted the stereotypes or played with them to highlight their absurdity, which I think could have provided an interesting tangent. There's a brief anecdote she shares about interviewing Jimmy Kimmel and Adam Carolla (then of The Man Show) about the kind of women they hang out with that was very telling:

"'What kind of women do you hang out with?' I asked them.
Kimmel looked at me like I was insane. 'For the most part,' he said, 'women don't even want to hang out with their friends.'
And there it is. The reason that being Robin Quivers or Jen Heftler or me, for that moment when I got it, is an ego boost but not a solution. 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."

I've been that "loophole woman" way too many times. She also discusses the way sex is used as currency, something "you accumulate to increase your status" and how young women especially have little or no idea about the physical mechanisms of desire and attraction because sex is so tied to power and status. Another statement she made that I found interesting seems to imply that there is a lack of cultural maturity that contributes to the situation:

"We are still so uneasy with the vicissitudes of sex we need to surround ourselves with caricatures of female hotness to safely conjure up the concept 'sexy.' When you think about it it's kind of pathetic. Sex is one of the most interesting things we as humans have to play with, and we've reduced it to polyester underpants and implants. We are selling ourselves unbelievably short."

There is also a section on bois and gender play in the lesbian community that I didn't feel was as successful as the other sections, but that could be because I'm not as involved in that scene and the other things she discusses are unavoidably mainstream. Anyway. Coincidentally, while I was reading this Pink was all over the talk shows performing and discussing "Stupid Girls," which essentially encapsulates the message of this book into an extremely catchy song.

After all that I needed a break, so I read Haunted by Meg Cabot. It's the latest in a series, I believe, but I didn't really have a problem following the action, although I might have had a stronger negative reaction to Paul if I had encountered him in previous books. It's about a "mediator" who can interact with the dead and help them move on. Think "Ghost Whisperer" but in high school. It was okay, but I definitely prefer Avalon High.

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