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The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women (1991)

by Naomi Wolf

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3,090303,657 (3.78)48
Wolf says the new obsession with women's appearance arose as part of a violent backlash against feminism, a political weapon imposing on women new restrictions.

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this is outdated, both in the sense that i didn't find a lot of new-to-me concepts and ideas, and that the information in here is old and not very relatable. in fact, i ended up scanning just about the entire book.

i usually feel like i read each book that i read at just the time i'm supposed to. but this was definitely not true for this book. coming right on the heels of the new jim crow was particularly unfortunate for my reading of this book because of how much more the other resonated. partly it was that this was mostly not new information to me and so not revelatory, but this also wasn't in any way intersectional. it's very much a critique for straight white women, which just isn't that useful.

i remember slowly coming into this information when i was younger (starting around when this edition came out, actually) and finding it life-changing. so maybe had i read this book then, or even before then, it would have been a foundational text for me. that even seems likely. so it's too bad it came to me when it did.
  overlycriticalelisa | Nov 8, 2020 |
I really should have read this before now, given that it's such an important work, but at least I've finally read it now. As I said, it's an important read, but it's also a heartbreaking one, not least because so few of the things discussed in this book, published twenty-three years ago have changed. Some, like the weight of people in the media, have gotten worse. (I recently re-watched the very first season of Beverly Hills 90210 and was horrified by how skinny people in similar shows are today, compared to the relatively normal bodies shown in the media of my pre-teens and early teenage years.) If anything, the final chapter about how women can fight the myth was the most depressing of all, because that's not at all how feminism has travelled since this book's publication. Instead we get the so-called "post-feminist"age and ugh.

One thing that I did find lacking was any reference to the queer woman, especially as gay men are mentioned quite a few times. I think that positioning the issues solely in the realm of heterosexual relationships is far more limiting than the reality of things. The relationships of queer women are just as affected by the beauty myth – sometimes even more so. And the application of the argument to trans* experiences would also have been worthwhile. An omission due to the era, perhaps, but intersectionality is important nonetheless.
  Tara_Calaby | Jun 22, 2020 |
I know that Ms. Wolf is widely held as an expert on this subject and this is one of the major treatises on the subject, but this was very difficult to read because the ideas seemed to jump from one sentence to the next. I only picked it up for class, but I don't have any intention of reading any of her other essays. ( )
  AnnaHernandez | Oct 17, 2019 |
I liked this book much better the second time. It’s hard to get down the first time, although not because the ideas are complicated. They’re not. But they’re the water the fish swims in.
1 vote smallself | Jan 1, 2019 |
There are a lot of good points Naomi makes about the pressure women face when it comes to being a "beauty" and how no matter how we dress or what we do, we can't win. My issue with this book is that it doesn't explore in depth the rise of the beauty myth in advertising and because of that it reads like a conspiracy theory to keep women down, rather than try to look at other factors that played a role. Still an interesting read, especially from a historical standpoint because you can see how we have progressed and where we are still experiencing the same problems from when this book was written in the early 90s. ( )
1 vote wellreadcatlady | Oct 4, 2018 |
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Naomi Wolfprimary authorall editionscalculated
Park, ClareCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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It is far more difficult to murder a phantom than a reality.
--Virginia Woolf
For my parents, Deborah and Leonard Wolf
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At last, after a long silence, women took to the streets.
Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women's history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one.
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Wolf says the new obsession with women's appearance arose as part of a violent backlash against feminism, a political weapon imposing on women new restrictions.

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