Ariel Levy and My Super Late Response to “Female Chauvenist Pigs”

I’d like to start by saying that overall, I think Ariel Levy makes many very strong points. Her idea of female sexuality being a show as opposed to genuine desire remains unfortunately valid. I found her observations extremely interesting and valuable and would highly recommend her book. However, I have on GIANT problem with Ariel Levy. I hate her assessment of teenage girls.

As a 16 soon to be 17 year old girl, I am quite frankly sick of hearing authors, pundits, journalists, politicians, and other faces in the media sum up the attitudes of teenage girls. Watching her 2007 interview with Hannah Storm for CBS news, I wanted to vomit every time they talked about my age group. So, here’s my little constrained rant.

I go to a great high school with many opportunities. At this school, I can explore my interest in the world through the International Relations/Model UN club of which I am the president and practice music, both classical and contemporary. I have great relationships with my teachers and enjoy figuring out possibilities for college and ultimately, my future. But most importantly, I work my ass off at school so I can grasp every opportunity available to me and many of my friends, both male and female, have the same work ethic.

By interviewing girls like “Anne,” Levy sets a standard for girls and adds to the media terror. Levy compares the two friends “Anne” and “David” by stating, “Where David was difficult to silence on baseball, books, photography, the merits and drawbacks of small schools versus big universities, and the shape he imagined for his future, Anne seemed to have only one truly engrossing passion: her looks” (152). What the fuck Ariel Levy?

Knowing many teenage girls, I am aware many do focus on their looks, but I don’t know any who focus exclusively on that like Ariel Levy implies. Even the girls closest to Levy’s description care about college, charity, religion, hell anything other than their looks Obviously, including girls focused on important goals, talents, and other productive interests (ahem…) would work against Levy’s point. For example, the college counselors tell all girls that college acceptance is harder because women are applying at a greater rate than men. Feminists like Levy are not helping girls like me. All we hear is that we’re “going wild,” obsessed with sex, superskanks, or overall failures. Instead of lifting us up, Levy adds to the media scrutiny thus cutting us down.

All this being said, I liked her book. Most of it was great and even some of her assessments about the teenage mentality when it comes to sex are true. However, I don’t like being generalized. I am not a statistic.

Have I done things I’m not proud of? Of course. Have I seen my friends subject themselves to the pointless standards discussed in Levy’s book? Unfortunately, yes. However, we will always learn by life experiences. The media sends a conflicting message to girls causing girls to be confused about their role in sexuality; that is the true epidemic. With the media sending their message, Levy simply cannot expect girls to be perfectly enlightened and her exploitation of girls’ mistakes to prove a point is atrocious. I wish Levy would talk to focused girls, not just the stereotypes in her book. Most of all, I wish Levy was more forgiving.

Rant done. I don’t know if I made anyone think differently about anything, but I hope maybe I provided some insight into the mind of a girl living under media scrutiny.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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