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Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  2,218 ratings  ·  206 reviews
Empowerment, liberation, choice. Once the watchwords of feminism, these terms have now been co-opted by a society that sells women an airbrushed, highly sexualised and increasingly narrow vision of femininity. While the opportunities available to women may have expanded, the ambitions of many young girls are in reality limited by a culture that sees women's sexual allure a ...more
Paperback, 273 pages
Published June 1st 2008 by Virago Press (UK)
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3.87  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,218 ratings  ·  206 reviews

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Aug 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: feminism
I have been watching this hypersexual culture getting fiercer and stronger, and co-opting the language of choice and liberation.” - Natasha Walter, Living Dolls

After the Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke VMA performance some time ago I read a comment by a friend that asked the question: “Why is it that the man is always fully clothed while the woman is always half-naked?” Great question and an example of the double standards that are so rife in our society. This book does a terrific job in addressin
Jul 23, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: feminism
One of the depressing things about living in a smug post-feminist age is just how sexist the world around us is, and how blatant that has become with little or no observable resistance. Walter was, in her earlier form, part of that problem with her late 1990s work arguing that things were pretty good for women, and a bunch of the fundamentals had come right. And now she admits just how wrong that analysis was.

The first half of this book doesn't tell us all that much that the half-aware observer
Jul 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
'Living Dolls' is clearly written, well-argued, and very depressing. Its thesis could perhaps be summed up as 'capitalism is ruining feminism'. (Interestingly, Walter herself does not specifically criticise capitalism as a system, or even the current UK manifestation thereof.) Traditional gender roles, those feminism had hoped to rid women of, are now being sold back to us with advertising slogans of liberation and empowerment. Turning oneself into a sex object for male pleasure, for instance, i ...more
Nikki Mcgee
Aug 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: feminism
I wish I had read this book when my daughter was younger. So many women think that the the battle for equality has been won and this books shows that is far from the case and we are actually moving backwards.

The first section looks at modern British society and the prevelance of Disney pink, Bratz dolls, glamour modelling and lapdancing. It did not tell me anything I did not know but seeing everything put together created a scary picture. Walter also makes the point that middle class educated wo
Feb 19, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was looking forward to reading this book very much. Especially after reading all the amazing comments and reviews I've read, I thought this would be an enjoyable read. But I am sad to say that it was exactly the opposite.

There are a lot of points made in this book that are certainly true. And to have these points underlined by statistics and studies was very useful. Still there was a lot about this book I can't agree on:

First of all, there is very much slut-shaming. I totally see how the pictu
Michael Palkowski
Jan 24, 2013 rated it did not like it

As a book, there are so many issues and flaws with the premise and analysis that it would take a book length thesis to deconstruct and properly reflect them all here. However I will attempt to encapsulate the key problems for me as a sociologist and critical reader. This is based from my notes

There seems to be a duality which contradicts itself within the entire scope of the analysis. One is in the moral and angstful representation of girls liberated agency in showcasing/exploring their sexualit
Clare Herbert
rated it liked it
May 08, 2012
Jan 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
I've finally decided that the time is right to tell a personal story, one that is linked to this non-fiction book in a way - explaining one of the reasons why I'm a feminist.

Under a decade ago, in a scriptwriting lecture at university, one of my tutors, an awesome lady who inspired and encouraged us, taught us about the lives of famous women and how one could write films about them. It was a autobiographical assignment. One of the women we looked at is Erin Brockovich, and the DVD film starring
Sep 26, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: feminist, non-fiction
DNF. There is so much slut-shaming in this book; it solely looks at white heterosexual British women's experiences; woefully out of date.

No thank you.
Allein aus dem Grund, dass ich in den einen oder anderen Sachverhalten eine ansatzweise ähnliche Meinung wie die Autorin teile, gebe ich mit zugedrückten Augen zwei Sterne.

Mich störte nicht im geringsten ihre Motivation über die lebendigen Püppchen und der allgegenwärtigen Zurschaustellung von sexuellen Attributen ein Buch zu verfassen - nur stellt sich mir nach dem Auslesen die wichtige Frage, an wem die Worte überhaupt gerichtet sind. Wenn sie die angesprochenen Frauen wachrütteln und auf eine
Jan 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: feminism
I have been reading this book for 6 months - as it pertained to my research, and then read properly for interests sake. The book is divided into two sections - the first which examines hypersexualised culture and the objectification of women - specifically by Lads Mags, and the second which explores the categorisation and stereopying of the two primary genders - called the new determinism.

The First section blew me away it its balanced interrogation of hypersexualised culture, where Walter manag
Aug 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, gender
In the same vein as Ariel Levy’s Female Chauvinist Pigs, Natasha Walter questions why, if sexism is dead, have lap dance clubs and glamour modelling experienced such a resurgence in the last ten years? The resulting testament, Living Dolls is a solid, persuasive piece of journalism, although less revelatory than Pigs.

Dolls is full of depressing anecdotes and sad truths about the current state of feminism. It’s not an easy read, though it is compelling. Personally, it made me want to photocopy th
Science (Fiction) Comedy Horror and Fantasy Geek/Nerd
The regression in the form of biological determinism is combined with the trivialization of sexism

Please note that I put the original German text at the end of this review. Just if you might be interested.

Like other areas of positive social transformation, feminism flourished in the 1970s and 1980s, leading to unprejudiced and same play in child rearing and a departure from clichés, role models, and stereotypes. Unfortunately, retrospectively, it is necessary to speak of a sobering to depressing
Jul 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
I'm probably fairly well-read in women's studies texts, but I enjoyed Walter's style and thought she had a fresh and engagingly honest approach to her topic. Walter's basic thesis is that far from sexism dying a death in western culture, it is actually gaining new ground, as the increasingly sexualisation of girls and women is masked by the rhetoric of choice and empowerment. But, as Walter convincingly argues, how free are the choices we make when our entire culture is predicated on women's wor ...more
Natalie Salmon
Sep 17, 2011 rated it liked it
I respect the fact that Natasha Walter admits early on in the book that she made a mistake in the
late 90s when she said women had just about achieved equality and that choice was an enabling factor in this. At the time I was not quite as optimistic as Natasha but certainly more optimistic than I am now. I don't have any children but I do have lots of nieces and after reading this book I am more worried for them than ever. The statements from teenagers and young women in this book are saddening
Sep 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
De los mejores libros que he leído. Este libro toca temas desde el sexismo hasta los estereotipos por los que estamos controlados, tanto hombres como mujeres. Si tienen la oportunidad de leerlo háganlo, no se van a arrepentir.
Yo lo compré porque quería averiguar un poco más sobre esta tercera ola del feminismo, y este libro me ha ayudado muchísimo. Me gusta que la autora no da sólo su punto de vista, ella investiga y da muchos puntos de vista de un solo tema, y explica el por qué ella no apoya
Adrienne Urbanski
Jul 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 fo
May 10, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: feminism
This is a pretty good book for introducing someone contemporary UK feminism and exploring some of the sexist issues that are effecting women today. However, if you are already a reader of feminist works you might find the book a tad on the shallow side. I don't mean that the topics or the book itself was shallow, but rather it doesn't have the in-depth analysis or radicalism that more advanced feminist readers may prefer.

Walters admits in the first section of the book that she isn't going to de
Mary Karpel-Jergic
Jun 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a depressing read. Depressing when first published (2010) and depressing six years later here in 2016. What has happened to the ideals of equality that feminism argued for? It seems to have been replaced with an ideal of womanhood as modelled on the dolls they play with. "Paris Hilton to Victoria Beckham, take the plastic look so far that they seem to have been created by Mattel"

"this image of female sexuality has become more than ever defined by the terms of the sex industry."

Look aroun
Dec 14, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: feminist
Living Dolls could easily be split apart into 2 different books. While I was captivated by the second half of the book the first half was so hard to read, I had to force myself to go on. As a 17 year old I don't feel like the hypersexual culture that Walter described is in any way as prevalent as she thinks. In a way, it's worse, women are expected to have sex and at the same time be virgins, the smart not hot and hot not smart dichotomy still exists. Walter noticed a small part of culture that ...more
Jul 23, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who liked No Logo
Living Dolls deals with the ways capitalism and the sex industry have adopted feminist terminology, in order to make both appealing to girls and women who have been raised with the idea that they must empower themselves.

When it comes to the sex industry, it is important to realize that the internet has made porn more easily accessible. This in turn has made porn aesthetics mainstream, and has led to the success of photographers such as Terry Richardson or Tyler Shields. These photographers empl
Jun 01, 2018 rated it liked it
New drinking game: buy an audiobook, play first part of Living Dolls and drink on every phrase "dissociation of her feelings from her body" (effects of one night stands and friends with benefits).
You won't lose much if you start right from 2nd part.
Mark Hebden
Feb 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: feminism, politics
How much does our modern society objectify women, and to what extent have women themselves been duped in to joining in, in a bizarre ritual of compulsive self-loathing? Those seem to be the central questions behind this latest book from Natasha Walter. She argues that feminism is ripe for a new “third wave” given the historical burdens that women still disproportionatly carry, and new all too modern equivalents that have been loaded on to their backs. The chapters on the pressures of fashion, pl ...more
Adam Hyde
Aug 29, 2013 rated it liked it
It's about modern sexism, and it's very interesting. The bits that i'm most interested in are where it talks about science, and so called biological determinism. Whereby certain scientists (most popularly Steven Pinker in The Blank Slate) have argued, with padding from scientific studies, that boys and girls are genetically programmed into traditional gender roles, such as boys being less communicative and more apt at spacial awareness, and girls being more chatty and less able to deal with more ...more
Mar 12, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: feminism
The tone of Living Dolls is judgemental and moralistic throughout. Walter looks at cultural products such as Nuts magazine and lap-dancing clubs and comes to the conclusion that our society is "hyper-sexualised" and women are devaluing themselves and, basically, turning into sluts. In a particularly priggish chapter, the author gasps in horror at a young woman who has had 22 sexual partners and calls for a return to an age of "flowering of intimacy" and "emotional engagement".

The intentions are
Aug 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
During the past years I started to have mixed feelings about the exposure of female bodies. I wanted to see if my uneasiness was shared by other people and to my relief I found that the return of sexism is being noticed and is currently under study. Since there is plenty of literature on the subject, it was not easy to choose a book, but if you like me did not follow the developments of the feminist movement, I guess this one is a good start.

The book is divided in two parts: the first explores t
Lucinda Elliot
Aug 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
An excellent and disturbing reading, confirming many of my concerns about the threats to feminism by the acceptance of pornographic images and attitudes into mainstream culture and its acceptance as non exploitative by most feminists,the degradation of sexual relationships into market commodities, the sexualisation of little girls and the passing off of such male defined activities as pole and lap dancing as 'informed choice' on the part of women, and therefore, 'empowering'.

This has been part
Paige Watts
Jan 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
I'm studying a lot of gender issues in my Media and English classes this year, and wanted to read a something that would be beneficial for my coursework in both subjects. I went to the college library and chose this book because I thought the cover was cool; I've never read any feminist literature before, fiction or non fiction, so I had no idea where to start.
After taking a little while to get through the book, I did really enjoy it. I found the arguments to be strong and straight to the point
Mar 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An excellent written work. I found Walter's book absolutely inspiring and motivational. A must-read for everyone, specially those individuals who think that feminism is no longer necessary, as gender inequality is finally over (which, of course, isn't). It takes a deep view at how our society sexualizes girls, starting at a very your age with "glittery pink", dolls, babies to take care of, make-up... and so on, whereas boys are taught to be more adventurous, agressive, dominant...everything rela ...more
Mar 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
This was one of those books that I was really interested in reading, but terrified of what I would find out! I'm doing research for a paper on the US "purity craze" and read this to contrast, but I found many of the underlying themes to be the same!

Walter combines interviews, research, and her own very keen observations to show how far women have come, and how far they've consequently digressed. I found it particularly interesting when Walter presented a biological determinism stereotype and th
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British feminist writer and human rights activist. She is the author of Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism (2010, Virago) and The New Feminism (1998, Virago), and is the director of Women for Refugee Women.
Her father was Nicolas Walter, an anarchist and secular humanist writer; her grandfather was William Grey Walter, a neuroscientist. After attending North London Collegiate School, she read Engl
“While girls have always been encouraged to see self-decoration as a central part of their lives, today they are also exposed to a deluge of messages, even at an early age, about the importance of becoming sexually attractive. These dolls are just a fragment of a much wider culture in which young women are encouraged to see their sexual allure as their primary passport to success.
This highly sexualised culture is often positively celebrated as a sign of women's liberation and empowerment.”
“The rise of a hypersexual culture is not proof that we have reached full equality; rather, it has reflected and exaggerated the deeper imbalances of power in our society. Without thoroughgoing economic and political change, what we see when we look around us is not the equality we once sought; it is a stalled revolution.” 2 likes
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