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Beauty and Misogyny: Harmful Cultural Practices in the West (Women and Psychology) Paperback – August 12, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0415351829 ISBN-10: 0415351820 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Series: Women and Psychology
  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (August 12, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415351820
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415351829
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.7 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #354,361 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"In Jeffreys' latest book, she questions why the beauty industry is expanding, and why liberal feminists should see a virtue in women having the power to choose practices that a few years back were condemned as oppressive. The critique of beauty practices... has today all but disappeared, making way for procedures that 'break skin and spill blood'. ... Jeffreys tends to see things coming before they happen. She was the one who warned, in the early 1980s, that pornography and sadomasochistic sexual practices would invade the lesbian community. They did. She predicted a global trend to call for the legalisation of prostitution. There was. ... There is little, if any, feminist critique of men's cross-dressing, but in Beauty And Misogyny Jeffreys provides a unique analysis. ... Jeffreys offers no comfort zone for her readers. Unlike some feminist theorists, she refuses to couch her arguments in inaccessible, academic language, or to accept that feminism has achieved its aims. For Jeffreys, the word "complicated" does not exist. The reason for women's oppression is horribly simple: men want their power and, for that reason, they will keep women in a state of subordination to maintain it." - Julie Bindel, in The Guardian, 02 July 2005

"It is refreshing to have the feminist critique of beauty practices expanded to encompass the new cosmetic surgeries, piercing, and tatooing, as well as arguing against the liberal feminist and postmodern interpretations that are accepting of them. ... Taken as a whole, the book is shocking, as it includes many extreme practices of self-mutilation and cosmetic surgery that were new to me. It is also intellectually stimulating because it takes a strong position that condemns all beauty practices. ... It is also persuasive, as it shows how women are the losers. ... Although each woman may think she is freely choosing what she does to her own body, the pressure from male individuals and cultural institutions is powerful and hard to resist. This is a decidedly feminist interpretation that shows once more how the personal is political. ... This book serves as a reminder to some of us that contemporary beauty practices are by women, but not for women. They benefit the sex industry, the plastic surgeons, and the fashion and cosmetic industries. Jeffreys's analysis will add new perspective for third-wave feminists and postfeminist women. It deserves to be widely read. Beauty & Misogyny belongs in women's studies and public health classes and on the shelves of academics, clinicians, and parents of daughters. It would benefit any woman who was considering plastic surgery or buying a new tube of lipstick." - Michele Hoffnung, in PsycCRITIQUES, June 2006

About the Author

Sheila Jeffreys is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Melbourne where she teaches sexual politics, international feminist politics and lesbian and gay politics. She is the author of 5 books on the history and politics of sexuality, and has been active in feminist and lesbian feminist politics since 1973.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Malvin VINE VOICE on January 4, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Beauty and Misogyny" by Sheila Jeffreys is a powerful work by a prominent second wave feminist on the severe psychological and physical harm that our sexist society inflicts upon women. Ms. Jeffreys persuasively argues that western women express their relative status of powerlessness and subordination through beauty practices in an effort to conform to the expectations of their male oppressors. Through her astute scholarship and analysis, the author identifies ways in which we might begin to create an equalitarian world where women are freed of the burdens of male-imposed behaviors.

Ms. Jeffreys' thesis poses a formidable challenge to neoliberal feminists who have suggested that women exercise agency or 'choice' with respect to their appearance. By rooting her analysis in capitalism's tendency to divide economic activity into the public (masculine) and private (feminine) spheres, Ms. Jeffreys contends that beauty practices serve to reinforce the social hierarchy by heightening gender identification. As the neoliberal economic system has increasingly allowed the marketplace to function as the arbitrator of morality, these practices have become more extreme. In fact, the author submits that the United Nations' definition of harmful cultural practices (which in the past had been used to condemn the developing nations of the world) might now be more appropriately read for its description of how western democracies are currently mistreating women through an imposition of needlessly destructive beauty practices.

Interestingly, Ms. Jeffreys traces many widely-accepted beauty practices to their origins in prostitution, including the wearing of high heels, makeup and surgical enhancements. Ms.
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12 of 23 people found the following review helpful By J. Warfle on November 18, 2012
Format: Paperback
When I first discovered this book I was very eager to read it. I'm a feminist; I don't wear makeup or high heels and I thought this book would be enlightening. Unfortunately, any hope I had of learning anything from this book was killed by chapter 3, when the author airs her opinions on Transsexuals.

According to her, MTF transsexuals are all sexual deviants who get off on wearing women's clothing, while FTM transsexuals are just trying to grasp male power. Jeffrey's scoffs at transpeople who state they've always felt like they were in the wrong body; according to her they are all "coached" to say that by their doctors. This is SO ignorant, as anyone with even the smallest knowledge of the transgender community would know.

I just can't believe how old fashioned and outdated this book is! And it was published 2005, not 1975! On page 95, the author even says that "Homosexuality cannot be explained by genes or hormones but is a socially constructed form of behavior. Gay men develop an identification with "femininity" as a result of being shut out of, and often badly persecuted and harassed by masculine society." Where has this woman been for the last 10 years?! How can I take anything she says seriously when her views on gender and sexuality are so out of date?

I highly recommend you AVOID this book. It is not worth the money.
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5 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Karl on September 19, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book is a very important, well-argued wakeup call to those among us who have bought into the fantasy of the "power of consumer choice". Buy it, read it, give it to your friends. We all need to be conscious of the lies we perpetrate in our damaging "beauty" practices and the inarguable role these practices play in reinforcing women's oppression.
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6 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Dave Frederick on June 23, 2008
Format: Paperback
If you are looking for a book that presents a feminist critique of U.S. beauty standards, I would suggest reading The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf instead. It's much more digestible and it's a classic that many have read. I'd only suggest this book after reading The Beauty Myth if the social construction of beauty is something that very very strongly interests you and you have a background in feminist theory/sociology/philosophy.

My main issue with this book is that the first 25% of the book is a complete nightmare to wade through for anyone who doesn't already have a strong background in feminist theory or philosophy. Seriously, I have a bit of a headache. I'd say it's more written for grad students and professors in Women's Studies than for the general population or general college students. It does get more digestible after that, when she discusses applications of her theories to specific examples.

She tries to set her up as being radically different in philosophy from Wolf, but in my opinion the basic claims are the same: beauty norms subordinate women and give men power, women often don't recognize this, men and capitalist system have a stake in keeping women dissatisfied, it's not necessarily a "choice" to wear make-up/be thin/get cosmetic surgery when there is so much pressure to have a certain look and adhere to expectations for your gender. The only part that seemed completely new and fresh to me was chapter 3 (critiquing "transfeminity").
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