"Feminism’s unfinished revolution"

// 18 February 2006

“How is resurrecting every stereotype of female sexuality that feminism endeavoured to banish good for women? Why is labouring to look like Paris Hilton empowering? And how is imitating a stripper or a porn star – a woman whose job is to imitate arousal in the first place – going to render us sexually liberated?” Ariel Levy, Female Chauvinist Pigs

Our friends on the other side of the pond have been mulling over Levy’s new book, Female Chauvinist Pigs, for months already, but now it has finally hit the shelves in the UK the press are starting to cotton on to what could be the feminist bible for the late ‘OOs.

Yesterday, the Guardian published an article by Levy herself, summarising the argument of her book. Which is that women are embracing “raunch culture”, falsely assuming that porn can be a blueprint for their sexual liberation. This manifests itself in phenomena such as Girls Gone Wild, thongs for 10 year olds and the “pornification” of our culture.

It is not men forcing women to live up to this idea of what sexy means, it is women themselves. And the false belief that this form of sexy is liberating is usurping genuine liberation for women.

Today Natasha Walters reviews the book alongside Love My Rifle More Than You, the narrative of Kayla Williams’ time as a soldier in Iraq.

As Walters describes it, you can see why she chose the compare the two books:

Take an episode when she is far away in the Arabian desert, stationed with her company on a lonely hillside, and the men are daring each other to do silly things – jump off ledges, chuck beetles at each other, and then, finally, “You wouldn’t throw a rock at Kayla’s boobs now, would you?” “Say I won’t?” And they keep this up until someone does. Or the episode where she tells the most anti-woman jokes she knows, to keep in with the guys: “What’s the difference between an onion and a hooker? No one ever cried cutting a hooker.” Did Kayla cry when she told the joke? Hardly – she reserves her hatred not for the guys who grope and bully her, but for the women who show any weakness at all in this macho world. When she herself reduces a female senior officer to tears, she thinks, “You bitch. I have even less respect for her now, if that’s possible.”

So does Levy’s polemic have anything to say to the Brits? Walters hopes it is relevant enough to become the Female Eunuch or Beauty Myth of our generation, but admits to wanting the exercise replicated to analyse “Big Brother and Loaded, Jordan and Jodie, Nuts and the broadsheet sex columnists”.

Meanwhile in Poland

A woman is taking the government to the European Court of Human Rights, after suffering severe health problems when she was denied an abortion.

Alicja Tysiac sought an abortion after three ophthalmologists predicted that carrying her child to term would likely further damage her failing eyesight. But the same three specialists, as well as a gynecologist, refused to authorize an abortion. When she gave birth, Tysiac’s eye condition worsened dramatically as a result of retinal hemorrhage. Tysiac, a single mother to her three children, can now see no more than 12 feet in front of her.

The Feminist Majority Foundation reports that doctors vigerously enforce anti-abortion laws in Poland, sometimes refusing to terminate a pregnancy when the woman has an official certificate confirming she was raped.

The court cannot overturn Poland’s strict laws, but Tysiac is hoping to prove doctors violated her rights under the European Convention of Human Rights because they failed to respect her right to life and right not to be subject to degrading or inhuman treatment. We await the verdict…

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