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

by Naomi Wolf

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3,247293,828 (3.78)50
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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Good arguments but presented really poorly. The first couple of chapters talk about the beauty myth like a conspiracy, as if there's a group of men holding meetings going "Hmm, how shall we make women feel inferior this time?" Naomi Wolf never clearly identifies "the oppressors" (which I infer from the text that it's a combination of various factors, including social hierarchy, the economy, and so on) though she does mention much later in the book that regular men are not into the thinness and beauty standards set by the beauty myth. For most of the book she writes as if women are victims with no agency of their own, and her very brief discussion of eating disorders reduces the women who suffer from them to victims who caved into societal and cultural pressure, whereas it comes from a combination of things including depression and genetics, rather than simply aggressive advertising. It's really a shame, since this is such an important topic that everyone, male or female, should read about, but it's just written about so poorly here, with little evidence to back things up. Despite these flaws, Wolf does, however, paint a very clear and precise picture of the ways that women's minds and bodies are attacked (psychologically, metaphorically) on a daily basis. ( )
  serru | Oct 6, 2022 |
this is outdated, both in the sense that i didn't find a lot of new-to-me concepts and ideas, and that the information in here is old and not very relatable.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 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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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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