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The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women Paperback – June 20, 1992


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (June 20, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385423977
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385423977
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (124 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #875,600 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In a country where the average woman is 5-foot-4 and weighs 140 pounds, movies, advertisements, and MTV saturate our lives with unrealistic images of beauty. The tall, nearly emaciated mannequins that push the latest miracle cosmetic make even the most confident woman question her appearance. Feminist Naomi Wolf argues that women's insecurities are heightened by these images, then exploited by the diet, cosmetic, and plastic surgery industries. Every day new products are introduced to "correct" inherently female "flaws," drawing women into an obsessive and hopeless cycle built around the attempt to reach an impossible standard of beauty. Wolf rejects the standard and embraces the naturally distinct beauty of all women.

From Publishers Weekly

Wolf's valuable study, documenting societal pressures on women to conform to a standard of beauty, hit PW 's hardcover bestseller list for one week.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Naomi Wolf was born in San Francisco in 1962. She was an undergraduate at Yale University and did her graduate work at New College, Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar.

Her essays have appeared in various publications including: The New Republic, The Wall Street Journal, Glamour, Ms., Esquire, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. She also speaks widely to groups across the country.

The Beauty Myth, her first book, was an international bestseller. She followed that with Fire With Fire: The New Female Power and How It Will Change The 21st Century, published by Random House in 1993, and Promiscuities: The Secret Struggle for Womanhood, published in 1997. Misconceptions, released in 2001, is a powerful and passionate critique of pregnancy and birth in America.

In fall 2002, Harper Collins published a 10th anniversary commemorative edition of The Beauty Myth. In May of 2005, Ms. Wolf released The Treehouse: Eccentric Wisdom from my Father on How to Live, Love and See. The End of America, published in September 2007 by Chelsea Green, is Naomi's latest book.

Naomi Wolf is co-founder of The Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership, an organization devoted to training young women in ethical leadership for the 21st century. The institute teaches professional development in the arts and media, politics and law, business and entrepreneurship as well as ethical decision making.

She lives with her family in New York City.

Customer Reviews

I was so excited to read this book.
gypsy_dancer
Wolf takes a very balanced approach in explaining the 'beauty culture' which helps keep women down, without resorting to conspiracy theories.
Ellen Denham
Look around and get yourself a better book.
Leonardo Alves

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

335 of 350 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca on May 3, 2002
Format: Paperback
In The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf argues that our culture's images of beauty -- found on television and in advertisements, women's magazines, and pornography -- are detrimental to women, as well as to the men who love them. She demonstrates that the concept of "beauty" is a weapon used to make women feel badly about themselves; after all, no one can live up to the ideal. Wolf DOES agree that beauty plays a legitimate role in our lives and in our attractions to one another. The problem, she says, is when beauty is defined as thinness, pertness, and youthfulness taken to extremes -- extremes that are literally unattainable for healthy women. And I agree.
Wolf's book explores 6 areas of life in which problems result from the beauty myth. Each has its own chapter that can be read on its own and still make perfect sense. I suggest starting with whichever interests you the most. They are as follows:
* WORK. Here, the author details the way the concept of "beauty" can be used to discriminate against women in the workforce. If women are too pretty, we're not taken seriously; if women aren't pretty enough, we can legally be fired for their perceived "homeliness." Then again, if we're too pretty, it's our own fault when they're sexually harassed; if we're not pretty enough, people doubt men would have actually harassed them. The author offers a dizzying list of legal cases lost by women which demonstrate the extent of this catch-22 -- compelling stuff.
* CULTURE. This focuses on the role of women's magazines (the sole arbiter of women's culture) in shaping our lives, by selling us on the need for beauty products by making us feel bad about themselves.
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97 of 107 people found the following review helpful By S.R.W. Phillips on October 10, 2003
Format: Paperback
I have read many books on feminism over the past few years, and have read books that dispute some of the statistics in this book. Nonetheless, it is a good read, because it makes you aware of things that are going on in the lives of young women.
Whatever the numbers, the fact remains that young women are slowly killing and disfiguring themselves in the name of that ever-unattainable, ever-subjective idea, "beauty." Is it really significant is five women a year die of bulimia or anorexia or if it's closer to five hundred? The fact remains that something is seriously wrong with these girls to make them think that they have no other way of being socially accepted. Does it matter how much the cosmetic surgery industry really grosses annually? After all, ten years or so after this book is written, we have shows on prime-time television like "Extreme Makeover," in which someone contacts the show and tells them how horrible they feel about themselves because of a physical flaw--a nose that is too big, eyes that are too wide-spaced--and the show promptly signs them up to be hacked away at, made into a modern-day Galatea, for the viewing pleasure of America. If you have watched this show, you also know exactly what Wolf is trying to convey in her chapter on Violence. She states that women are always told that they can look better in some way...and sure enough, once they get into the doctor's office, suddenly the nose is not the only problem anymore. Liposuction, [body part] job...sign me up. In watching another special on cosmetic surgery on MTV not long ago, two women were portrayed whose highest goal was to be--of all things for young women today to desire--[Magazine] bunnies.
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86 of 96 people found the following review helpful By Just Another Woodchuck on October 18, 2004
Format: Paperback
Interesting to me that the male reviewers seemed to uniformly hate this book! Settle down, guys--we're not all going to stop shaving and exercising, and if you don't have Paris Hilton panting over you, believe me, it's NOT because of anything Naomi Wolf said!

Whatever I may think of the author and her philosophy, as a rule I like a book that makes me see things in ways I hadn't before. This was one of those books. I don't agree with everything the author writes, but after borrowing it from the library, I had to buy it for myself so I could write in the margins about all the "a-ha!" moments it prompted. Sadly for those who like black and white, beauty, like most things, is on a continuum. People cite Etcoff's "Survival of the Prettiest" in opposition to this book, but if the premises of "Prettiest" were completely true, then after thousands upon thousands of years of evolution, why aren't we all collectively lovely? Why aren't the women who have the most offspring (ie, the fittest) also the Cindy Crawford clones? One of my former evolution professors, David Wilson, just published a study showing that people who shared common goals and interests rated each other as more attractive than they rated strangers.

I'm short, overweight, and past my prime in years, but I'm evolutionarily fitter than average (3 children), and have a strong husband who is a good provider (the biologically desired currency for males), and he even loves me!--from where I stand, it looks like most women can safely drop a lot of their beauty obsession, and I think Wolf says a lot that would encourage us to.
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