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The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women Paperback – September 24, 2002
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
My main criticism of the book is just that there are often times when it's insufficiently clear on whether she's speaking literally or metaphorically. Like, in the chapter titled "religion" I think an uncharitable person might interpret it as saying that beauty is literally a new religion whereas I'm pretty sure that's not actually what she means. For this reason I would prefer if anti-feminists didn't read this book because it would be easy for them to misinterpret it and take things out of context in ways that would make feminists seem crazy.
Anyway, to answer to some of the negative reviews- whether or not the author herself uses makeup and/or looks pretty in her promotion of the book is irrelevant. As she says in the book, people will dismiss women's arguments for her being "too pretty" or "too ugly" and there's no in between. If she completely neglected her appearance people would say that she just wrote the book because she's an ugly woman who's jealous of beautiful women. There's no way for her to look that would give her credibility in everyone's eyes, and judging arguments based on features of the author is an ad hominem anyway.
And no, it isn't so outdated as people are saying. I mean, some statistics and such are out of date, but the main points still stand. Just because modern feminists aren't talking about these things so much anymore doesn't mean the problem has been solved, it just means that they're distracted and/or the patriarchy is winning this battle. Those who think "everyone already knows all this already" are either naive or out of touch with today's teens and twenty-somethings. I'm a twenty-something and just about every day on facebook I'll see at least one of my friends saying something or other that promotes beauty culture. I'm not even in an especially image-conscious area. Internet feminists are all about "eyeliner sharp enough to kill a man" and if you dare to criticize the industry they say you're the one being misogynistic for judging things that some women like.
The Beauty Myth expands on the statement that “beauty” is a way to keep women as inferiors. Women fought for their rights and earned them, so society had to find a new way to suppress them. This book portrays a unique inequality beyond one of monetary value that women face between them and men; women are bound by impossible standards of appearance alongside working day in and day out to achieve status, while men simply must work hard to be successful. "What women look like is considered important because what we say is not,” Wolf tells us, illustrating this profound point in a such a simple way, showing readers that the facts would all be this simple if they were not purposefully hidden from us.
This book serves to expose the unfairness of the images of beauty. This seems so simple, but Wolf manages to separate her arguments into six main chapters, each filled with anecdotes and authorization through supported research. Reading through her novel as a woman, I felt that she was speaking to me personally. With each statistic, any woman reading this is faced with a simple fact that she is part of these numbers. While the book may emotionally appeal to women, I feel it would also be a great read for men. Men are often oblivious to the fact that the images of women around them are designed to put normal women’s appearances to shame, and could use this book to learn to not fall prey to ignoring a woman’s intelligence because of the way she looks.
The only weakness I see in Wolf’s writing is her absence of a counter-argument. There are parts of the novel where skeptical readers may be left with their doubts since she never addresses the opposing side of the argument.
The Beauty Myth promises to leave both male and female readers haunted by Naomi Wolf’s passionate fury towards the feminism movement.
It has to be said, though, that even a broken clock is right twice a day, and there are few clocks more broken than Naomi Wolf. She generally backs her theories with research that is dubious at best, and it's gotten her into hot water more than a few times over the last decade. As far as factual research goes, this book is unfortunately no exception. HOWEVER. In spite of the dodgy research, her analysis of the deep underpinnings of our society's obsession with beauty and the damage it does to women (and men) is spot-on. Take the numbers with a grain of salt, but take the ideas to heart.