I’m still digesting this one. Has anyone out there read Ariel Levy’s book, Female Chauvinist Pig? I guess I’m curious about responses to this opinion piece, which asserts that raunch culture is the ultimate feminism for young women . . . here is a heavily excerpted selection, and the link to the article (The Guardian UK online) will follow.

Raunch culture is not about liberation gone wrong; it’s about rediscovering the joy of being loved for your body

Kate Taylor
Thursday March 23, 2006
The Guardian

It all kicked off with the publication of Female Chauvinist Pigs, a rant against “raunch culture” by the New York magazine writer Ariel Levy. In the book, she argues that the recent trend for soft-porn styling in everything from music videos to popular TV is reducing female sexuality to its basest levels. In short: “A tawdry, tarty, cartoon-like version of female sexuality has become so ubiquitous, it no longer seems particular.”

Which is all fair enough, until Levy starts to list the ways in which today’s women are allowing their sexuality to be sold short. Thongs, for example. Crop tops. Lap-dancing classes. Maxim and FHM. Playboy T-shirts. The word “chick”. Levy thinks raunch culture is a feminist movement gone terribly wrong. We are, in her eyes, doing all these things merely to show the men that we are “one of the guys” and “liberated and rebellious”. Naturally, she finds this confusing. “Why is labouring to look like Pamela Anderson empowering?”

The answer is, labouring to look like Pamela Anderson is not empowering. We’re not trying to be empowered. The twentysomething women I know don’t care about old-style feminism. Partly this is because they already see themselves as equal to men: they can work, they can vote, they can bonk on the first date. For younger women, raunch is not about feminism, it’s just about fashion.

This is not terrible news. In fact, to me, this is the ultimate feminist ideal, which Levy would realise if she stopped shouting at MTV for a moment and thought about it. She proclaims that boob jobs and crop tops “don’t bring us any closer to the fundamental feminist project of allowing every woman to be her own, specific self”. But what if a woman’s “own, specific self” is a thong-wearing, Playboy-T-shirted specific self who thinks lap-dancing is a laugh and likes getting wolf-whistled at by builders? What if a woman spends hours in the gym to create a body she is proud of? Is that a waste of time, time she should have spent in a university library? No.

“Today’s ultimate feminists are the chicks in crop tops”

· Kate Taylor is the author of A Woman’s Guide to Sex and formerly wrote the Sex Life column for GQ