17 April 2006

Female chauvinist pigs

These days, the urban way of life in India is quick to follow the American mass culture. It’s apparent in the way the youth has picked up the signals, the customs and the fashion from America; and, within this group, it’s the teen female universe that is most visible in aping the latest trends. Teen girls, wearing low-riding jeans with short, tight tops accentuating their body, are now a common sight in Indian metros like Mumbai and Bangalore – giving the ‘Page 3’ crowd a run for their money and the urban male a substantial pep in his voyeuristic pleasures.

From high-school girls to even some women in their mid-forties, women in urban India have begun to embrace a certain sexuality which was not there before. They are more free with their bodies and their voices, spelling out to the rest of India how far they have come from the days of their mothers. They feel empowered and ready to take on the world. Particularly the world of men – men with their voyeurism, their appetite for sex and their obsession for dominance. Urban Indian women are now ready to meet men on equal terms, fuelled by the new fillip they get from advertising and the media.

But, what if this sexual freedom, this raunchy display of fashion, this demonstration of woman power, this meeting of male sleaze with a show of more female skin, further stimulates the male ego and appetite? What if this new feminism encourages a new pornographic culture in India? What if this overt behaviour actually jeopardises the lives of many more women and increases crimes against them? Would these sexually-liberated women at the forefront of this ‘raunch culture’ then turn around and stoically say, “We have only ourselves to blame?” Or, would they still blame the men?

If you’re looking for answers to these questions, or ways to challenge them, then maybe Ariel Levy can help. In her recently-released book, ‘Female Chauvinist Pigs’, New York magazine writer and editor Ariel Levy discusses this very topic from an American perspective. She believes there is a rise of a ‘raunch culture’ – a porn-drenched female sexuality – in America which has popped up all over TV, music videos, fashion, advertising and publishing. She feels the dominance of this new ‘raunch culture’ has superseded all other sexualised behaviour in women in America and has created a ‘female chauvinist pig’ who mimics men, wanting power in a misogynist kind of way.

Is this a new mantra for feminism and the sexually-liberated woman in America? And, how is it affecting the American mass culture? Are women actually colluding to create a more pornographic world for us all? Ariel Levy discusses all these questions in ‘Female Chauvinist Pigs’ – but I’m not sure if she adequately answers them all. Or, answers them convincingly enough for us to believe her. To know more about Ariel Levy’s ‘raunch culture’ why not read these reviews on salon.com and Guardian Unlimited? And then go feast yourself on the book? It might offer a window to our own urban cultural evolution.


BD said...

What if this overt behaviour actually jeopardises the lives of many more women and increases crimes against them?

Nah. I think the law of diminishing marginal utility would work here.

runawaysun said...

Maybe you’re right. At the moment, I’m not sure how the whole thing will work. I’m guessing, after a saturation point, there will be social forces created (in a dialectical sort of way) to counter – or, at least, respond to – the existing forces. Under a benevolent leader, the State might chip in too. So, in the long run, the law of diminishing marginal utility would work here (your quote). But, what about the short term scenario? If you look at the available statistics, internationally, crimes of sexual nature against women have arisen.

Mind you, all this is hypothetical. You and I may be way off the mark.

Anonymous said...

Why do we to have assume that we live in a world made for men, where women have no right to choose what to wear and what not to wear because they might increase a man's appetite for sexuality? Mind you, there are women who'd rather wear a salwar kameez and can actually look "sexier" than women wearing "low-riding jeans and short and tight tops". According to your conventional view, they are not whetting a man's appetite for sex. Yet they are as much or rather more prone to sexual crime.

runawaysun said...

'Anonymous', you've got me.

You're absolutely right in saying that we should not assume that our world is made for men (although some women may argue with that). Women have every right to wear what they want and feel... and look attractive and sexy in whatever they wear.

Unfortunately, men, with their appetite for sex, will always be on the prowl, no matter what women wear... anywhere in the world.

I merely suggested that a greater show of skin - in a country that has always been 'shy' in displaying skin publicly - can intensify the sexual appetite in men, and this could lead to greater crime against women.

Maybe I'm wrong.

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