Saturday, March 4, 2023

Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism by Natasha Walter


DNF @ 10%

LIVING DOLLS is a book that tackles raunch culture and the hypersexualization of women. Both of which are valid subjects, but I'm not sure this book went about it the right way. It actually seemed to share a lot of issues with this other book I didn't like, FEMALE CHAUVANIST PIGS, where a lot of the blame is heaped on the woman. The author complains in the book that because feminism is about choice, people who criticize this sort of party/sex culture are often criticized themselves, when really they're just educating women. And it's like, yeah, okay then, educate-- but also, when women are shaping themselves to fit and benefit from the culture that oppresses them, is it really their fault? Especially when it's either: play the game or lose.

It is possible to criticize society at large without putting women to shame. I've seen it done. TRAINWRECK did an amazing job about this, I thought. It's about how people delight in the humiliation of female celebrities and public figures, but it didn't dress down the women being written about, whereas LIVING DOLLS sort of frames the women being written about as pathetic and sad. The language was also vaguely objectifying, imo. And a little degrading.

While reading this book, I was thinking about this trash BBC show I used to watch called Snog, Marry, Avoid. If you haven't heard of it, you're lucky. It's an early aughts show and I honestly thought I'd hallucinated it in a fever dream until I found old episodes of it on YouTube. Basically, young adults who wear too much makeup or bronzer are taken into this studio for what they call "makeunders," or a makeover that showcases their "natural beauty." It seems to specifically target people who like 2000s party girls (like Jodie Marsh or Paris Hilton), goths and cyberpunks, gender nonconforming individuals, and street performers. And it is SO MEAN. There's sort of this attitude, like, well if you're dressing like this, you're setting yourself up to be looked at and talked about like a freak, and I feel like that's an attitude that some people take with sex workers and even just women who like wearing tight clothes. Which is, in and of itself, kind of participating in misogynist culture because it's saying, if you look a certain way, you're asking for negative attention. Or... maybe just don't be a dick?

1 out of 5 stars

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