Adrienne Urbanski's Reviews > Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism

Living Dolls by Natasha Walter
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's review
Jul 17, 2011

it was amazing
Read from July 17 to August 03, 2011

This is one of the most thought provoking and compelling books I have read in a long time, it made me realize new things about myself and how our current culture has affected me.

(This is an earlier draft of a review which will appear in Bust Magazine's fall issue):

Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism by Natasha Walter
Virago Press
In her first book, The New Feminism, British writer Natasha Walter posited that women had accomplished near equality on the personal front and that now women needed to focus on achieving equality politically and professionally. "I am ready to admit that I was wrong," she writes, now looking towards the personal, arguing that our culture’s hypersexuality has lead to the sexualization and objectification of both girls and women.

In terms of her analysis as well, Walter looks towards the personal, relying on personal interviews as well as empirical data to back up her beliefs. Walter interviews high school age girls, former strippers and prostitutes, and young women vying to be glamour models to create personal examples of the damaging effects of our culture. Walter also turns her criticism towards the false appropriation of feminist rhetoric and values, suggesting that they are being used to convince both women young girls that empowerment means completely disconnecting emotion from sex and viewing sex work as a means of empowering women. Walter provides quotes from personal interviews to back up her contention, quoting a prostitute who said she entered the line of work because she had been convinced it would be “empowering”, as well as several high school and college-age girls who proudly list off their number of conquests, writing off emotions as if they were disempowering. Walter writes that while women were once kept from finding sexual fulfillment they are now in “a cage in which repression of emotions takes the place of repression of physical needs.” In the book’s second section, Walter uses scientific research to successfully dismantle supposedly innate gender differences in behavior proving them to be the result of social influence and expectation. Living Dolls is a riveting work that accurately reflects the many pitfalls women face today as they attempt to construct empowered identities, its compelling and convincing analysis makes this is an essential read for any feminist.
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