I often fall asleep watching Comedy Central after The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are over. In fact, when I say often, what I really mean is every night except Friday. I don’t sleep all the way through the night, however. Usually sometime around 1 a.m. I roll over to hear a warning about a the following content being only appropriate for ages 18 and older followed by some oversexed college girl cooing to the camera, “it’s my first tiiiime.” and I shut off the T.V. in tired disgust.
So you can imagine my delighted surprise when I caught an Oct. 10 appearance with 30-year-old New York City writer, Ariel Levy, on The Colbert Report promoting the trade paperback release of her latest book “Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture.”
Finally, a woman willing to address one of the most perplexing issues facing women and feminism in today’s culture. And quite frankly, I hoped Levy had ideas as to why any woman would want to get naked and make out with her best friend in front of a stranger with a camera for only the promise of having millions of creepy guys (and let’s be honest, potential employers) rent her video from which she gets none of the profits. Oh, I almost forgot, they get a free ill-fitting tee-shirt, too.
In her easily-readable analysis, Levy argues that as our culture allows a higher and higher threshold for sexual content, objectification of women and pornography, so too increases a woman’s belief that they must act either like the highly-sexualized icons of our time (eg: Paris Hilton, Jenna Jameson, Pamela Anderson), or they should become ‘one of the guys’ and enjoy a lap dance from a woman at a strip club or maybe high five during episodes of “Sex and the City” when Kim Cattrall’s Samantha describes an obscure sex act.
But Levy actually approaches the topic without coming across as an unreasonable, raving feminist. While she unabashedly admits to idolizing the 1970s pioneers of the feminist movement, she takes an understanding approach as to why women would believe that they need to become more ‘male’ in their approach to sexuality to be feminine – thanks to mixed and divided factions of women’s empowerment and the sexual revolution.
She backs up her analysis with personal interviews, including college-aged girls at the beach on spring break as they are approached by Girls Gone Wild. When asked by the cameramen to flash their breasts, the girls resist taking off their swimsuit tops until they are surrounded by a mob of men whipped into a frenzy by the GGW crew. They soon relent under the pressure of the mob chanting ‘take it off’ and pumping their fists in the air.
There is also a troubling interview with a high-school girl who describes how women her age feel intense pressure to dress extremely sexually in order to get the attention of their male classmates. When Levy explains that sexy styles were not nearly as popular even ten years ago, the girl retorts (sarcastically), “So how did you get the guy, charm?”
In all, Levy does an excellent job at addressing the newest obstacle to women’s equality. Sadly, the raunchy attitudes of many women today are not only extremely prevalent, but are even considered empowering and hip. Thanks to minds like Levy’s, women may yet realize that acting like a brainless whore is actually hurting women’s status and power – not to mention personally embarrassing.