I’ve featured Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth (1990) here before. I’ll keep featuring it. It changed my life. The Beauty Myth analyses how the pursuit of a standardised, impossible, high-maintenance physical beauty claims women’s time, money, health, sanity, & humanity. It’s a book every man & woman should read: it’s incisive about the ways in which advertising, industry, commerce, popular culture (inc. films & women’s magazines & porn), & even the healthcare industry collude to create a reality where health & happiness become almost impossible for millions of educated, sane citizens. (This is also why I repeatedly feature works by & on the Third Reich, & Nazi leaders.)
In my teens, I suffered from anorexia nervosa; I recovered in a few years. It was only later that I read The Beauty Myth. I was furious. When we suffer from a mental illness, we blame ourselves. We feel guilt, shame, & anxiety. The Beauty Myth examines the origins for eating disorders – & for interpersonal conflict; low self-esteem & anxiety; the epidemic demand for cosmetic surgery; intersex conflict exacerbated by the beauty myth; & how the multi-billion-$ business in makeovers/fashion/beauty feeds on women’s insecurities to demolish our time, money, and peace of mind. All by creating the myth that it’s not enough to be human; it’s not enough to be healthy, active, kind, skilled – women must also be beautiful.
Some further excerpts:
“It’s okay to be successful & intelligent & skilled as long as you’re also beautiful. The beauty requirement has replaced the requirements of domesticity, chastity, etc.”
It was women’s success in the workplace that generated the Beauty Myth: Women were succeeding at work, threatening men’s status: “…Even with two shifts, at this rate, women would still challenge the status quo. Someone had to come up with a third shift fast…” Enter: the beauty myth. The third shift that women are told we must pursue. [Note: Wolf does not suggest that there was an actual meeting of evil men plotting women’s psychological demise – though her relentless polemical language makes it read that way.]
“For every feminist action there’s an equal & opposite beauty myth reaction… Beauty becomes the condition for a woman to take the next step. You are now rich. Therefore, you must get even thinner.”
“A barrage of imagery that makes women feel they are worth less than men, or worth only what they look like, maintains this status quo… proving that the myth is political, not sexual.”
“The Beauty Myth keeps women materially & psychologically poor. It drains $ from the very women who’d otherwise pose the greatest threat… New York Woman describes a typical career woman: this 32-year-old spends nearly 1/4 of her $60,000 income…on self-preservation.”
Read a PDF or Kindle copy of The Beauty Myth to save paper.