Thursday, April 06, 2006

Critical Raunch

Today in the post I received my brand-new copy of Ariel Levy's book on raunch culture and the rise of the female chauvinist pig. I'm always really excited when I get a new book on feminism (or of that kind of genre, should I say), because you never know what you're going to find. Will I have moments of bizarre self-realisation as with Simone? Will I be petrified with fear over the thought of ending up an unfulfilled housewife as Betty described? What about the glorious highs and lows brought on by my all-time favourite read the Women's Room? Of course, it's not all great: the Beauty Myth was something to get angry about I guess, but it left me with an uneasy sense of disappointment. A bit too superficial perhaps? Anyway, she's gone completely bonkers now it seems, so she doesn't get stuck in the same category. Unfair? Who cares, this is *my* blog.

Anyway, after reading part 1, I have a feeling that Ariel is in the Naomi category (although not the mad-Naomi category, I hasten to add). I don't want to sound dismissive, because I think Ariel is right, but for me the argument feels a little shallow. Too many anecdotes, not enough actually getting to the point. Perhaps this is because I come from the hit-them-round-the-head-with-a-shovel school of thought, but generally, I think that arguments never suffer from actually being made, rather than alluded to through socially-available commentary. However, in all fairness, this style of writing has been, arugably, what has got her read by people who wouldn't usually touch a traditional feminist text.

Is this a good thing? Certainly it's a difficult question to answer. Yes, it is good that the message is going out there and, more importantly, getting people *debating* * (see the Kate Taylor article and comments in the Guardian comment is free section). However, I do think that the movement suffers a bit at the same time. Mainly because the media likes to seize upon "new voices" - as in - Ariel Levy is the new voice of feminism. Obviously, this is simply not the case, but it makes people on the outside feel more comfortable if they can lump feminism into one box. Also, shallow polemic is easily dismissed, whereas a heavier, more intimidating read is not. But then we have the problem that the latter might not reach the mainstream and circle right back round to the beginning again.

It seems then, that we're left with a compromise. Accept media-friendly feminism in the form of Ariel Levy and, at one time, Naomi Wolf and find some comfort in the knowledge that they will actually get read by a wide range of people, or be serious and alienated and ignored. To be honest, I don't believe that this really is the choice that we face (although it may feel that way occasionally) and I don't think that it's asking too much to say that we'd like a bit of respect and attention for every single one of the diverse and interesting voices at work in the movement, even if they're not as "sexy" (heavy sarcasm, but forgive me Ariel anyway) as some.

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