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Female Chauvinist Pigs reviewed August 1, 2005
What does "sexy" mean today? Levy, smartly expanding on reporting for an article in New York magazine, argues that the term is defined by a pervasive "raunch culture" wherein women "make sex objects of other women and of ourselves." The voracious search for what's sexy, she writes, has reincarnated a day when Playboy Bunnies (and airbrushed and surgically altered nudity) epitomized female beauty. It has elevated porn above sexual pleasure. Most insidiously, it has usurped the keywords of the women's movement ("liberation," "empowerment") to serve as "buzzwords" for a female sexuality that denies passion (in all its forms) and embraces consumerism. To understand how this happened, Levy examines the women's movement, identifying the "residue" of divisive, unresolved issues about women's relationship to men and sex. The resulting raunch feminism, she writes, is "a garbled attempt at continuing the work of the women's movement" and asks, "how is resurrecting every stereotype of female sexuality that feminism endeavored to banish good for women? Why is laboring to look like Pamela Anderson empowering?" 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.