Share via Email A lap dancer in a club in Cork, Ireland. Photograph: Sean Smith In her book, The New Feminism, Natasha Walter argued that the feminist adage the "personal is political" needed to ditch the "personal" and focus on broader political goals. Walter now says that she was "entirely wrong". In Living Dolls, she paints a frightening picture of the personal, one where young women are told the best they can be is a pole-dancing glamour model, and where the embrace of biological determinism or the idea that gender differences are physically ingrained rather than socially constructed enforces a glittery pink world in which discrimination and inequality are dismissed as reflecting "natural" preferences.

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Share via Email Natasha Walter. Is she ever in a rage before breakfast? Does she ever rant at sexist comments on TV? Which is great, of course, but her sensibility has always intrigued me. Most strong political arguments do, necessarily, arise from a wellspring of anger. So what makes Walter furious? What drives her? So buy her, take her home and have a wank.

There is this unbelievable obsession with [extreme] anal sex. What you said gave me back the will not to give in. I believed that we only had to put in place the conditions for equality for the remnants of the old-fashioned sexism in our culture to wither away. I am ready to admit that I was entirely wrong. There was still this big gap to close, but I felt that we wanted to close it, and it was possible to close it, and therefore we would.

She was born in to Nicolas, an influential anarchist once imprisoned for heckling Harold Wilson, and Ruth, who was also politically active. She shakes her head. I ask how she felt at the time, and she says that she was "disappointed. That just was not what the book was about. I hated all that. There was a slightly bitter tone that crept in. In this section, Walter looks at the way that arguments for biological determinism have suddenly multiplied in recent years.

When Walter first had her daughter, she says, "I was hit by this deluge of pink. Now I think I can be much more wholehearted.


Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism by Natasha Walter

Walter was famous for her book, The New Feminism, where she controversially argued that in the modern West, feminism should focus on clear demands for political equality rather than more prevalent concerns surrounding cultural change. Not so now. I am ready to admit that I was entirely wrong. Walter develops an account of this resurgent sexism through chapters that explore pole dancing, prostitution, pornography, and the impact such phenomena have on the experiences of intimacy and the emotional lives of girls in contemporary society. She makes a convincing case that not only have such things grown in a narrowly-quantitative sense, but they have been normalised in an unprecedented way. Once private sexual cultures that are structured, economically and socially, in relation to the sexual gratification of male consumers have reached the mainstream, pole dancing and pornography have become, at worst, socially acceptable and, at best, actively valorised as outlets for a liberated and ostentatious female sexuality. Even prostitution has been subject to a profound normalisation through television and the media, reflected in surveys finding the number of men willing to admit using prostitutes has doubled between and


Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism by Natasha Walter: review

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, is described in terms of power and success, largely as a ploy to sell products. Likewise, gender differences in children are played up as genetic inevitability in order to sell increasingly fancy toys and newspapers. However when women continue to earn less, experience discrimination, and suffer disproportionately from rape and violence, such tendencies merit consideration. Choice becomes meaningless within a constrained context of stereotyping, pervasive marketing, and peer pressure, all telling women they must behave in a certain way. I know I bring this up a lot, but the rhetoric of choice, assumed to be neutral and freely made with coercion, sounds exactly like neo-liberal economic ideology.

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