I probably should not have tried reading Mercedes Lackey s Fire Rose after reading this book That novel, a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, has a woman as the central character The woman, Rose, doesn t realize how beautiful she is and looks down her nose at other women whom she deems to have looks but not brains Rose has brains well, she thinks she does but doesn t think that she has looks, surprising considering how much effort seems to be put into assuring the reader that despite her claims Rose is, in fact, a looker Wolf has said a bunch of stupid and inane things since this book was first published and is probably known today by most people as the woman who 1 advised Al Gore how to dress 2 wrote a book about genital or C accused Harold Bloom of attempting to rape her, years after the alleged event Mr Bloom denies it, and in fairness, the story seems strange and unbelievable This is somewhat sad because there is plenty in this book to recommend it, and it has impacted books that have come after it That isn t to say this book is flawless It s not I would ve preferredstatistics I wondered why the section on face cream sounded like an anti abortion pamphlet meets urban legend Wolf s experiences at college were gone into way too much Paradoxically telling us she was a victim of the myth as well as rising above it For record, Elizabeth Bathory also killed noble virgin girls It was the virginity that was the draw In fairness, too, most of the arguments seemed to be supported with examples from white women The question of race is either left out or subsumed into the larger myth And this is a weakness True, Wolf couldn t discuss whether Beyonce was the break out star because of her skin color or her talent, but surely there must be something applicable example from when this book was first written That said, there is much in the book to at the very least make the reader think The book is at its best when Wolf argues that in a secular society beauty has become a religion Her comparisons really do give the reader something to think about Additionally, when she breaks down the ways the myth effects society it is difficult to stay not to see it functioning that way today At the very least, the section about lawsuits and harassment is worth a read And she is right what does it say if women are exposed every day to naked and sexual images of themselves and men are not treated the same way It is disconcerting Honestly, why does Cadeaux have to use kidde porn And what is going on with Dolce and Gabbana See Now tell me this book still isn t important. A great book about deconstructing the myth of beauty and recognizing how patriarchy emphasizes our appearances to harm us all Published in 1990, The Beauty Myth came out ahead of its time, as Naomi Wolf rails against the thin ideal, how companies lure women into buying products by making them feel insecure about their bodies, ageism, and so muchI feel glad thatandpeople talk nowadays about the cruelty of beauty standards and how we can love ourselves forthan how we look Wolf articulates this message with an extra edge of feminist politics, and I appreciate her fiery demand that we free women from the capitalist and sexist notion that their self worth comes from the external beauty of their bodies, instead of the radiance of their hearts.Overall, a good read I would recommend to those interested in body image, feminism, and the intersections of politics and appearances Wolf does neglect the experiences of women of color, and her writing sometimes drags, so The Beauty Myth does have its limits However, the book has contributed to the feminist movement in important ways, so I still give it four stars I will end this review with a quote I really appreciated from the end of the bookHow to begin Let s be shameless Be greedy Pursue pleasure Avoid pain Wear and touch and eat and drink what we feel like Tolerate other women s choices Seek out the sex we want and fight fiercely against the sex we do not want Choose our own causes And once we break through and change the rules so our sense of our own beauty cannot be shaken, sing that beauty and dress it up and flaunt it and revel in it In a sensual politics, female is beautiful The Bestselling Classic That Redefined Our View Of The Relationship Between Beauty And Female Identity In Today S World, Women Have Power, Legal Recognition, And Professional Success Than Ever Before Alongside The Evident Progress Of The Women S Movement, However, Writer And Journalist Naomi Wolf Is Troubled By A Different Kind Of Social Control, Which, She Argues, May Prove Just As Restrictive As The Traditional Image Of Homemaker And Wife It S The Beauty Myth, An Obsession With Physical Perfection That Traps The Modern Woman In An Endless Spiral Of Hope, Self Consciousness, And Self Hatred As She Tries To Fulfill Society S Impossible Definition Of The Flawless Beauty Jesus, I FINALLY finished this book UGH.I feel like I have been extremely negative about the last few books I ve reviewed, so it s a shame that this is the other one I have left to write up Because those other books were the ones I was reading to avoid this one Naomi Wolf is exactly the reason I don t read much in the ways of feminist tracts Blahblahblah male conspiracy blahblahblah It s a shame because some of her points ARE valid and thought provokingThe concept of the Beauty Myth hardly needs explaining to most women I think most self aware Western women are at this point aware of the manipulation and self hatred that we are surrounded by on a daily basis Unfortunately, I think much of the book points the blame outward instead of inward We can only blame the patriarchy for so much I amthan aware of my own hand in the Beauty Myth and my own unhappiness.Wolf s book is broken into several chapters, the first few of which I found obnoxious and tired The book is written in a very academic style, and just beats a dead horse to a pulp The last few chapters did finally begin to perk up as I had hoped as Wolf discussed Violence and Culture and their effects on modern women.I don t have the energy to put into a good long review of this book, and I m not sure I even want to waste anyof my time on it anyway I think slogging through the first 2 3rds of the book was POSSIBLY worth it for some of the later chapters, but I m not sure I would recommend it to anyone. God dammit, this is such an important argument, why can t it be better presented Wolf clearly takes her cue from Betty Friedan, but Friedan s argument was devastating, fully exposing the manifestations of a myth in our culture Meanwhile, Naomi Wolf writes a hopelessly sloppy and superficial analysis that falls into one of the great pits of the literature of social change assumption of conspiracy and or a myth functioning as a conscious organism instead of a complex assemblage of assumptions, s, norms, and attitudes Oh shit, I ll have to bring her up at my secret man meeting next week.It feels like she had a string of wise observations, and indeed some of them are extremely wise Does a beauty myth exist Is the beauty industry evil and manipulative Do we live in a society that encourages eating disorders and violence against women The answer to these is absolutely, obviously, yes But then, rather than generating an argument analyzing how a beauty myth is generated and effected, she merely spits out her data polemically, and some of those data are rather suspect.As someone who has read and continues to read a lot of critical theory cultural studies stuff, I hate to say it, but writing like this is a direct effect of the golden age of high theory in North America roughly 1975 95 Impressions were privileged over data, screeds over arguments Shit like this could fly with both the reading public and the academic left back in 1989, but looking back, it seems amateurish Naomi Wolf, please, I really want to like you, but let s do better next time, let s By the time I had read twenty pages of The Beauty Myth, I realized that this is one of the most important books I will ever read Admittedly, I was initially skeptical of Wolf s central thesis that the cultural myth of feminine beauty is a political and economic weapon used by the male dominated world to undermine women s advancement in society but, by the time I had finished reading the first chapter, I had a changed perspective of the world This is a book, in my opinion, that should be required reading It is a book about the very atmosphere women negotiate daily, and from an early age one in which we intuit the importance of our looks, and are apprehensive about our beauty as an indication of our status, competence, wealth, power, and credibility one in which we are manipulated by powerful corporate advertisers to feel insecure, so we will remain the largest underpaid labor pool, and simultaneously the largest consumers of unnecessary products, in the world Without this dichotomy, created by the beauty myth, the world s economy would collapse. I have always been wary of reading this book, even though I knew a lot would resonate with me A part of me knew that a lot of it, however, would make me cringe Like oh, I don t know the overwrought hyperbolic statements and inaccurate history and data I picked it up thinking maybe I could just get over some of those mistaken details.God, that was hard.All of that aside, the positive is that there is a lot of good information in this book There is a problem in media and social media, but this predates that , it is oppressive to women, and I feel it does need to be addressed There isfocus put on what a woman looks like rather than what she is capable of, or her skills There is still a strong population of people men and women who will read her skills and automatically make something sexual and dirty out of it This is a problem It s a problem that the Miss USA pageant is tossed off NBC because of truly awful things Donald Trump said about immigrants not that what he said wasn t reprehensible, but it bothers me that a stupid, sexist performance like a beauty pageant could otherwise have continued, regardless of what damages those images produce for everyone, if he hadn t said something else stupid.I am on board with a lot of what Wolf wrote There are problems out there.But the answer to those problems rather, the way to get people to pay attention to those problems, is not to exaggerate statistics Reading this, I was led to believe that every single woman is anorexic, and I actually found myself wondering if I was doing something wrong since I am not anorexic It was a strange moment in my reading, and I was bothered by it Eating disorders are a serious enough problem, but the numbers do not need to be inflated We know women can die from risks due to cosmetic surgeries, it s in the news all the time, butas an afterthought, a sideline article, something we re all a little shocked and saddened by, but then you hear comments at lunch like I will need liposuction after this meal.We have short memories.Wolf reminds us of all of these issues, andIt s powerful stuff, but she makes it seem too powerful She exaggerates and embellishes her statements, as if a statement alone wouldn t be worthy of reading, or maybe she worried the numbers alone might not make enough of an impression on the readers Unfortunately, however, it all comes across as a bit paranoid and hysterical yes, hysterical That thing that women are constantly accused of being because they are emotional It s awful, I know But what Wolf did here too many times for my comfort was make everything seem like a giant conspiracy, something we should be terrified of, instead of offering suggestions or encouraging us to work towards a solution.I know this is crazy, coming from me, but this needed to be less about the patriarchy keeping us down andabout consumerism as a whole, capitalism It s consumerism that keeps women going to get their hair styled every few weeks Do you know why women payin hair cuts styles than men It s because the hair salons know that women will pay it Why will women pay it Because marketing makes us feel like we need it Is it possible to say that marketing is made up primarily of men, and so they re the ones raising the bar for what a woman should look like Sure, you could say that But we stilloften than not go for that haircut.Again, this isn t about blaming the victim I agree with most of Wolf s points about what are problems in society this was published in 1991 and, sadly, a lot of the issues are just as common today In 2009, TV personality Heidi Montag had 10 cosmetic procedures done in one day 10 She almost died, and later admitted it was the worst decision she had ever made I can pretty much hear what Wolf would have to say about that.Did this admission caution others to not consider getting cosmetic surgery Probably not Just like the death of Olivia Goldsmith in 2004 during cosmetic surgery didn t deter Heidi Montag from getting 10 procedures done in one fucking day Goldsmith s death inspired Suzanne Vega write this song, so I know some people are listening, but I wishwould as well.I don t claim to have all the answers I would love to see changes in marketing and I would love to see consumers fight back and refuse to pay for these things that claim they will make us look younger and fresher if we all did that, then marketing would have to change I would love to see a natural looking woman on TV who looks her age I would love to see beauty pageants be a thing of the past I would love for women to stop putting each other down and side eyeing each other, and start encouraging each other and supporting each other I would like for women celebrities to be known for their work rather than what they re wearing on the red carpet, or how their hair looked, or if they look pregnant or not.There s still a lot of work to be done, and I think Wolf brings up a lot of solid points in this book But the minute you start talking about conspiracies, watch everyone s eyes glaze over and their ears slam shut Your good points are suddenly not going to be heard It makes me sad because, again, there s so much good information here, when you cut through the overwriting.So, the nutshell version is we need to be better to ourselves stop trying to change, alter, improve upon ourselves Let s just live our lives and be healthy and work hard and care about each other And stop letting anyone make you feel there is anything wrong with you It starts early, and it s hard to overcome But it can be done, and we can help each other If we re capable of tearing each other down, just think about how capable we could be to build each other up. One of the nice things about writing reviews on a place like Goodreads is the audience I can pontificate about a book, and about subjects like feminism, for as long as I like, which is something I can t do with my friends in person at least, as I discovered empirically, not if I want to have friends in person Call me But you people, you crazy people, are different, because no one is forcing you to read my reviews, so I am going to assume that if you are still reading, it s because you are generally interested in what I have to say about The Beauty Myth, or perhaps you are some kind of search engine spider indexing this review for Google Hello there I ve thought for a long time about what I want to say about The Beauty Myth I am a young, white, reasonably well off male who performs gender in a conventional way, which means in general my life is not all that bad Part of my ongoing relationship with feminism and gender studies involves acknowledging the privilege and social capital I have in our society, and learning how I can act to mitigate the effects of that privilege Also, I m young Like, I was a year old, if that, when The Beauty Myth first came out A lot has happened in the past twenty years, and although many parts of this book still ring true, it s important to note that I have no baseline for comparison Anything I know about the world of the 1980s is second hand knowledge So I had no choice but to read The Beauty Myth as someone firmly grounded in today this is the only world I have ever known.For someone like me, who is so young and technophilic, the absence of Internet and World Wide Web in this book is conspicuous I could not stop thinking about that while I was reading, because it s a technology I take for granted I ll even go so far as to contend that the mainstream adoption of the Web is the most fundamental social change since The Beauty Myth was written And so how has this change affected the Beauty Myth that Wolf outlines In some ways it hasn t, of course The double standard of dress, the professional beauty qualifications, is still there Ads on television and now the Internet are still relentlessly gendered Pink beer, anyone Cosmetic surgery has only gottencomplicated andaccessible, while botox treatments and tanning parlours abound The beauty myth is still in operation.In some ways, however, the advent of the Internet has had a huge impact, particularly when it comes to how the media influences the beauty myth Wolf criticizes women s magazines for running so called editorials about a product next to ads for that type of product, lamenting the fact that this is often a condition of getting the advertising She quotes Gloria Steinem as saying that advertisers are dubious of the idea that women will look at ads for shampoo without an accompanying article about hair washing Yet she adds an interesting counterpoint we can t condemn such magazines entirely, becausethey represent something very important women s mass culture A woman s magazine is not just a magazine The relationship between the woman reader and her magazine is so different from that between a man and his that they aren t in the same category A Man reading Popular Mechanics or Newsweek is browsing through just one perspective among countless others of general male oriented culture, which is everywhere A woman reading Glamour is holding women oriented mass culture between her two hands.This preciousness of media that we otherwise want to criticize for supporting the beauty myth is an interesting point However, the Web has resulted in an explosion of available spaces for women to congregate and converse True, it s not without its disadvantages by and large websites and blogs continue to be a male dominated phenomenon But just the fact that any woman can create often for free, which removes the need for beauty related advertising spaces for discussion among women is something that did not exist twenty years ago Now there are countless blogs devoted to feminism or other issues of women s, gender, and sexuality rights The Web is certainly not an equal space or a level playing field in any sense of these terms, but it is, for the moment, open That is incredibly uplifting, in my opinion.Unfortunately, there are plenty of ways the Web has exacerbated the effects of the beauty myth In the same chapter Culture , Wolf mentions that the pornography industry has the unfortunate side effect of creating unrealistic standards of beauty Men watch pornography and get this idea of what women are supposed to look like nude and what sex is supposed to sound and look like , which puts pressure on women to conform to these fantasies Of course, we all know that the Internet is for porn, and so in that capacity it has only made the spread of this misinformation easier.I m focusing on the media aspect of The Beauty Myth because this is what grabbed me, both because of my fascination with the Internet and because I m taking an Education, Media, and Gender class right now One week the professor asked us to come to the next class performing gender differently, to break the gender dress code I wore tights with my shorts many of my other male classmates wore articles of feminine clothing or even makeup What about the women Well the class concluded the exercise wasdifficult for them I don t know what fashion was like at universities in the 1990s, but these days sweat pants and a T shirt are quite acceptable for members of any gender, especially given the late nights one stereotypically expects of students It wasdifficult for the women to break a dress code when no such code really existed at the university some wore jerseys or baggy clothing, and one wore her Carhartt overalls Nowadays women can wear pants without anyone blinking, but it is still rather uncommon to see men wearing a dress.Now we enter the dangerous waters of feminist discourse When I drop the F word in casual conversation, quite a few of my friends who are mostly women wince feminist still connotes man hating woman or, less extremely, someone who is concerned with women s rightsso than rights in general There is a great deal of resistance to the connotation of feminism as gender equality for all, and at the risk of making a straw man, I think this is why we get men s rights advocates I have come to the conclusion, however, that there is no proper way to consider feminism except as a movement for total gender equality Wolf herself makes this point in The Beauty Myth the myth needs men to continue dressing in very bland, restricted ways, because this prevents men from expressing themselves It reinforces the false dichotomy of man stoic and woman empathetic If we are to defuse and deconstruct the beauty myth, Wolf opines, then one thing we have to do is start accepting that men can dress up, wear colourful clothing, etc Suddenly something that was a men s rights issue actually turns out to be a women s rights issue when considered from a different perspective it s not about one gender winning over any others it has to be about equality.That s as prescriptive as I m going to get though I have been reading a lot about discourse around feminism the meta feminist discussion, if you will both because I feel that it better equips me to participate in these discussions and because, as a lover of language and philosophy, it provides insights into where feminism has been and where it is going in the twenty first century And I want to avoid attempting to lock my idea of feminism or anyone else s idea of feminism into a strictly defined, concrete role That way lies trouble However, I just wanted to express the reasoning that let me put to rest any latent concerns about the role of feminism vis vis alternative terms to describe gender equality Whew Semantics can be exhausting I could probably go on at quite a length about The Beauty Myth As I said above, I focused mostly on what Wolf says about media As a future teacher, I am keenly interested in the effects media will have on my students, as well as how our society in turn influences those media So that was the perspective with which I read The Beauty Myth There is a lotto this book, however, then just a treatment of media Wolf covers so many different aspects of society This is not a niche book but a broad picture, one which she has organized into eight different chapters I only wish the chapters themselves were better organized their internal structure borders at times on the incoherent The Beauty Myth is not an easy book to read, because some of the facts and stories that Wolf relates are quite visceral in their effect but she also seems to have so much to say that she can get carried away The result is both fascinating and frustrating at the same time.I am reluctant to attach any type of recommendation to this book, because I feel like there would be far too many qualifiers This is probably not the best introduction to feminist polemics it is not that accessible and quite academic Moreover, although it still remains relevant, it cannot but help being dated by now I think people would besatisfied seeking outrecent books first That being said, if you re like me and interested in questions of standards of beauty, then this could be a rewarding experience My schedule and my own reading habits made me plough through this book in days when it would probably be something best lingered over while one reads other material, but that s up to you As it is, The Beauty Myth definitely earns its memorable status, but how you judge and remember it will depend entirely on the effect it has on your personal philosophy of feminism and gender. I highly recommend it to everyone, not just women I think is is really important for men to read books like this, too It is all about how the A Our modern ideals of beauty are mostly driven by the advertising industry and not intrinsic cultural or biological preferences, and B How our modern ideals of beauty put women at a disadvantage to men.I have a few disagreements with her, listed below, but I agree with her in general and it s a really good book to read, even if you are not going to agree with her, just to make yourself think about some of the questions she raises.Concerns 1 Data she plays fast and loose with her statistics sometimes I have no doubt that data in the form in which I wish she had presented it i.e percentages instead of absolute figures, or comparable figures across time geography would still back her up, but her argument is less compelling with the current hodgepodge of data.2 Biological perspective I understand that s not what this is about, but as a bio anthro major, I just can t let it go entirely There are some attributes of modern American beauty, like extreme thinness, that are not found in too many other cultures, and those probably ARE driven by the ad agencies and other cultural institutions as Wolf argues But, there are other attributes, such as a low waist to hip ratio having a skinny waist relative to your hips, regardless of the absolute size of your waist that are near universal I think the biological theory that this desire is driven by signals that a woman is fertile explain this universality a lot better than Wolf s theories of stakeholders of power that perpetuate cultual ideas useful to themselves Which brings me to3 Who are these cultural oppressors Wolf never really makes clear who The Man , my term not hers, that is perpetuating all these ideas Yes, she does specify that the ad agencies are part of The Man and that the average guy is not But there does seem to be an unwritten undercurrent of an idea that there are power stakeholders out there conspiring to keep women down I favor explanations that A don t require one to believe in concerted actions by groups i.e conspiracies , and B assume that all actors are acting in their own self interest This is why I believe her about the ad agencies They getif they sellweight loss products and cosmetics, so of course they want women to think they are fat and ugly But who else besides the ad agencies are responsible for all this A very popular book in the relatively modern feminism movement, I have mixed thoughts on this It s a book I wanted to like but couldn t.Wolf s basic premise is that beauty is an artifical concept that is used systematically to oppress women primarily for political purposes The book is replete with figures, statistics, citations a total of 268 , and quotes, which are distributed throughout six sections or topics work, culture, religion, sex, hunger, and violence In each section, Wolf attempts to show how the concept of beauty has historically kept women in positions of inferiority and how it continues to do so In general, I agree that political oppression does exist and that patriarchal and religious structures are a root cause of this I also agree that the image of the ideal woman that dominates in popular culture is problematic and troubling in multiple ways But I cannot follow Wolf s steps to reach her over reaching conclusion.First, and not necessarily foremost, the information offered by Wolf paints a dismal portrait of how women have been objectified, lied to, and exploited for centuries I completely get that But the information appears clumsily pasted together, inconsistently presented, and at times set forth with no citations at all There were many instances where I wondered if a sentence or phrase in quotations marks was a quote from a source or from Wolf herself This is inexcusable in any scholarly work, and so in this case it is an additional reason why I don t consider The Beauty Myth a scholarly work Rather, it issuitable as a compilation of the research of others Unfortunately, what Wolf clearly provides as supporting documentation or research is almost exclusively that supporting documentation There are scant contrary voices here We are presented with Wolf s side and only her side There s little for Wolf to actually dispute because, well, everything proves her thesis Everything.Second, I found little in the way of actual argumentation here What we see are statistics, anecdotes, and statements from others that state how women have been treated in various circumstances, and these are quite alarming and insidious But she doesn t adequately connect the how to the why Somehow, broad and general declarations are supposed to get us there, and there are few attempts to address other possible causes.Third, the problem may not so much be beauty, but simply the nature of capitalism At times, Wolf railed against the marketplace and I had the expectation that she was going to channel Karl Marx Surprisingly, she did not But the nature of capitalism is that some thrive while others whither Advertising preys upon the consumer in every avenue of life just as clothing and cosmetics manufacturers use ads to engender desire in their target audience One needs an i Phone just as a woman needs another shade of rouge This is nothing new Why must Wolf attribute it to somethinggrandiose and far reaching than the simple drive for profit using psychology as a lever and insecurity as a fulcrum We see this in pharmaceuticals, hair growth products, gym equipment, auto commercials, herpes medicine, and presidential campaigns There s no mystery here.As a whole, it s as if this development of the beauty myth were another necessary progression in history, as naturally as it seemed to follow from what preceded it Wolf posits at one point that the artificial concept of beauty is perpetuated and transformed actively and institutionally, as if there is a grand conspiracy to imprison women by creating an idea of beauty as a weapon But she doesn t satisfy the need or perhaps just my need for an explanation Her theory does imply a conspiracy a worldwide conspiracy by folks who are positively brilliant and to whom women must be completely transparent and malleable.On an unrelated point, I was annoyed near the start by the hasty denial of any relationship between evolution or sexual selection and beauty it was given one whole paragraph Instead, Wolf says that beauty is subjective and provides a few examples from diverse cultures to make the point Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as they say This is true enough But in the end, Wolf says, all women are beautiful Thus, beauty is ultimately a nullity It means nothing But Wolf doesn t mind using flattery to make a point.What astounds me is that in all this discussion of beauty, women, and sexuality, there s virtually no examination of the relevance of gender or homosexuality check the index it s mentioned on two pages Perhaps she wanted to offend her 1991 audience with some pointed statements, but not too much There s no genuine reflection on what the terms masculine or feminine really mean, although they re used casually enough as if their meaning is beyond question And she also attempts to link the practice of plastic surgery to eugenics performed by the Nazis I found this to be absurd It s also worrying that Wolf subsequently admitted to Time magazine that some of her statistics in the book were overstated and that it appears she removed some of those figures from later editions.Although I ve used much of this space to criticize Wolf s book, I also think that its examples of open and shameless brutality, psychological as well as physical, against women are enlightening and mortifying In spite of the book s shortcomings, it raises pointed concerns that demand and now receive serious attention For that, Wolf deserves kudos.