Beauty Myth, The

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The bestselling classic that redefined our view of the relationship between beauty and female identity.
In today's world, women have more 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."

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.

Customer Reviews:

  • Truer today than when it was written
    What makes this book so important is that it is just as, if not more, relevant today than it was in 1991. Women continue to be judged more by our appearances than actions, and while there do seem to be a few examples of progress (like Queen Latifah showing that beauty comes in many sizes and everyone loving Ellen DeGeneres' show despite her non-model appearance), these are exceptions that prove the rule. Models are slimmer than ever, anorexia is considered normal, and women continue to lose the battle for self-esteem.

    While the average reader may consider the writing to be a bit dry, Wolf presents one intellectually sound point after another. She even inserts a few personal memories which help the reader to identify with her as a person in addition to an accomplished thinker and writer. In addition, the pages and pages of notes prove that her statistics and arguments are based on intense research and not, as critics may suggest, merely whining. I would consider this to be essential "personal is political" reading for any person, of any gender, with a social conscience. ...more info
  • A Very Important Book
    The Beauty Myth is a must have for every woman in the world and the men who love them. Naomi Wolf hit the nail on the head about the isolating effect the beauty myth has on women, ie: women viewing each other with suspicion, women enacting painful, masochistic rituals to be "thin enough", "young-looking enough" and "pretty enough", while blinding women to the larger reality of the world like workplace inequality, economic inequality, lack of political power and the lack of intellectual freedom. How can they pay attention when all they can think about are their physical "flaws"? Except that's exactly where the powers of the society wants them - beaten down, fearful of oneself and each other and generally viewing oneself of low self worth. When you feel like that, you are no threat to the oppressive forces in society. In short, I completely agree with Naomi that the beauty myth has served as a distraction for women to keep them from realizing their full potential. Make sure that your teenage daughter has a copy of this book! It will be the most rebellious and courageous thing she's ever done - to face up to the ugly realities that are stacked against her. To dare to be different than pop culture's dictates.

    As for men, this book can illuminate to them how women think. If any man has ever wondered "what was she thinking?" or "why can't she be happy with her weight/hair/thighs, etc..." this book is for you. Especially if you find yourself unable to reach her and help her through her self-imposed exile and depression. While it's not a magic bullet to break through that prison, it helps if you speak the language.

    Another strength of her book is the historical approach to attitudes of sexism. They are so deeply ingrained that many readers will be shocked to find out that these attitudes aren't "moral or "natural" but rather, are leftover wrong thinking from earlier days. For example, the idea that women must suffer simply for being female (ie: able to have babies) is an ancient poison. No doubt, we are seeing this play out as anti-choicers bomb clinics, take to the courts and other tools at their disposal to make sure that women go back to being unable to choose when they want to have a baby, because suffering is the female way. Which comes from their desire to punish women for enjoying sex, which is another ancient, ingrained attitude. When viewed in historical context, their attitudes don't seem so holy. (They never were) Merely unexamined prejudices. (Which unfortunately, affects people other than themselves.)

    The only criticism of this book that I have is that I wish the book made more of an effort to distinguish between deliberate malice against women versus impersonal indifference. At times, this book makes it seem like every injustice against women is a result of conspiracy by the powers that be. But more likely, they are the result of indifference and unawareness. Sure, the end result is the same - women feeling down-trodden and sapped of all sense of power and agency, but it helps to clarify which problems can be solved with more awareness and education, and which problems can be better solved with passionate protests and political solutions that right these injustices. ...more info
  • I'm Sorry, I Just Don't Think This Book
    is good. She's privilegded by the same beauty standards she decry so much in her debut book. Beauty standards are fluid, never rigid, as she thinks they are. Her book fails to acknowledge that fact. Women, not men, control the beauty industry. Estee Lauder comes to mind. Women are individuals who choose their own images. Also, this book ignores women of Color, whose beauty standards are different from her own.

    I say read this book with caution....more info
  • The third wave
    Naomi Wolf does an expert job defining her point of view of what is going on during the third wave of feminism. This is a good book to contrast the other historical feminist periods. However, the reader needs to keep an open mind about her point of view.
    Good reference book to own. ...more info
  • interesting and well researched
    I'm not an expert in feminist literature and don't have any strong opinions on the subject. I found this to be a very interesting read, though quite a bit of it bordered on the unpleasant and the disturbing--rape, violence, surgical violation of the body. It also treads the line between the scholarly and the general interest book, although it's probably much closer to the latter. Very well written, it felt a bit tragic, poetic, philosophical, and almost Freudian in style. A general criticism: could it be that some women seek to beautify themselves, even in an extreme manner, somewhat independent of modern societal, or patriarchical, influences? An evolutionary biologist might argue that some if not most women might have an emphasis on beauty that is hardwired into their brains, and we are simply observing a manifestation of that inherent nature in the modern environment. Author of Adjust Your Brain: A Practical Theory for Maximizing Mental Health....more info
  • Biased.
    Reading this book was very torturous in some ways. Naomi Wolf presents extremely biased viewpoints based on one-sided facts. She completely disregards the role the other sciences (biology, etc) play in beauty with only a few paragraphs. I suggest taking her statistics and facts with a large grain of salt. She tends to focus on the superficial parts of a research that fits her support then disregard the general conclusions.

    This book, however, does address real issues that we face today. I recommend doing your own research and reading other books to provide a more well-rounded prespective. Survival of the Prettiest, The masculine mystique, etc...more info

  • crafty, well researched, honest
    much needed book... still.
    Body image, starvation, handicap...
    the only thing that bothered me was the absence of explanation about the ROOT. According to Wolf, both genders are being manipulated by the idea of lethal looks... but who? why?
    She, however, describes the "how" extremely well....more info
  • ...
    The existence of Ru Paul and "lipstick lesbians" blows the femnazi claim that beauty was created to opress women out of the water.

    If beauty was a concept designed to opress, then why would men and supposedly liberated women subject themselves to it?

    Evolutionary Psychology and evolution in general defies feminism, though feminism has never really been attentive to empirical evidence (observe how recent feminists claim that reason and science are instuments of male opression -- seems to me feminists subconsciously want to return the Victorian age -- women are supposedly irrational and apparently incapable of choosing if they want to have sex either, this being the claim that all heterosexual sex is rape.) Female beauty probably emerged as a means to attract vision-driven men.

    It seems only to give credulence to the theory that extreme left wingers and extreme right wingers are basicly the same, when one observes that feminists, by opposing beauty, fall into the same camp as Calvinists and fanatical Muslims.

    "Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault" -Oscar Wilde...more info

  • The David Foster Wallace of contemporary feminism
    Among other highlights, Ms. Wolf claimed in the original hardcover version of this book that the number of American women who died of anorexia each year was roughly three times greater than the total number of American men who died in Viet Nam during that war's twelve year course. (She had roughly 150,000 American women each year starving themselves to death. She was off by, at the very least, 149,600. Probably more. Any self-respecting scholar would have killed herself at this point. Not our Ms. Wolf.)

    It gets worse. Soon after publication, Naomi did a lengthy photo spread where she posed and frolicked for pages and pages in a 'women's magazine' sans irony. When the mind-boggling hypocrisy of this -- posing for a fashion magazine when she was out berating the fashion industry for destroying the lives of young women -- was pointed out to her she threw a legendary tantrum on the television news show '20/20'. Trust someone who lived through the times, it represented perhaps the nadir of progressive politics in the last twenty years. An ugly, illuminating moment that, among other things, provided the loathsome Rush Limbaugh with material he was still using as recently as last year's Presidential Campaign.

    This women is a disgrace to feminism -- and I say that as a feminist. At her best, she's an idiot. A huckster so ignorant of the history of intellectual thought that she is able to bounce back from each disgrace, confident that as a nice person she can be neither a fraud nor an incompetent. Quite simply, she is the David Foster Wallace of the women's movement.

    In a manner worthy of Stalin many of the more ludicrous statistics, outright errors, misstatements of fact and rambling personal digressions found in the original version of this 'classic' tome have been wiped out without any comment or apology in this new edition. This, too, is despicable. Yet it remains a very silly, rather appalling book.

    What else is there to add? The fact that the author of this work still has a career says more about the importance of looks, social connections and a degree from Yale -- not to mention the sorry state of intellectual life in this country -- than almost anything I can think of.

    Read Christina Hoff Sommer's fine 'Who Stole Feminism?' for more of the ugly story behind this odious book....more info

  • An interesting read
    Naomi Wolf has written a passionate, involved book, that analyses the 'Beauty Myth' from a perspective that is first a woman's, and second a sociologist. While parts of this book are a bit extreme and political, on the whole it provides a new framework for thought, and many fascinating angles to consider in any discussion of beauty, culture or women's media.

    It is ironic that some of the criticism this book has received in these reviews ('Let her be ugly, or even average before she writes a book' , 'the way she throws her beautiful hair around') only goes to prove much of what Ms Wolf says - that her views as an author and a human being must be so inseperable from her looks, and that there is some quality of 'ugliness' that is absolute and which women should constantly strive to get out of.

    Feeling attractive is certainly every woman's right, but it is a feeling, not an absolute state. Anyone who has travelled out of America, and experienced diverse cultures, will testify to this....more info

  • The evidense for authers assumption are real myth
    The Beuaty Myth has very little substance to it. The author appears to be just letting out all her anger agianst the world. She maks many wery broad and damning accusations however she does not back any of these accusations up with any evidence. Also, she says the same thing over and over throughout the book. Mrs.Wolf beleives that there is a conspiracy of sorts agianst all women. This conspiracy has led to the stall that has occurred in the feminest movement. She beleives that corporations and men of the world are trying to make women bekeive that they are not pretty or that if they are that they are stupid. by doing this they are insuring that society will continue to be make dominated and that corportions will be able to continue to make a great deal of money from women. Mrs. Wolf does little to supprt this the reader is just expected to beleive it. Well I for one did not....more info
  • An angry book that speaks to, for, and against women.
    In her book, The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf brings up many ideas concerning women and their relationship with society in terms of beauty. While some of the ideas are OK Wolf tends to overdramatize a lot of things. Either she is blaming men and society as a whole for the opression of women through beauty or she is blaming women for letting it happen to them. She continually portrays women as victims of men, fashion, and the workplace. She undermines our sucesses and tries to place the blame somewhere. She drowns the reader with evidence to back up her opinion. While there are some things which I would have liked to agree with her on her tone is so angry and bitter that I couldn't take her side. At times I was even offended because she makes it sound like anyone even remotely interested in fashion or cosmetics is setting the womens movement back by adhering to societies vision of women. Some of the statistics that she gives as evidence of her opinion are surely outdated as this book was written over seven years ago....more info
  • Good intentions but far fetched and dry
    The Beauty Myth is a well intended book that brings to light the injustices that women serve, but is overly broad in concept and seemingly illogical. Wolf uses ample evidence to support the fact that women are mistreated and unjustly undergo far more than men do, however, her rational for why the beauty myth exisits seems a bit extreem and far fetched. The more I read The Beauty Myth, the more annoyed I became with the authors tone towards beauty and men. As a women, I aprreciated some of what was written but could never really buy into the concept of the beauty myth. Wolf, had a lot of facts about women and their struggle and made some very logical connections between why and how certain events evloved and allowed women to be so concerned with beauty. How and why women become engulfed by beauty is explained very well. However,I could never quite grasp how she logically can bridge the gap to men being responisble for the creation of the beauty myth. Also, she makes things to broad and vague at times. She catoragizes all women together, and I think that women as a whole are very different from one another and that gender is a very small and inconsequential likeness that people have in common. Also I found the book to be very repetative and almost as if she just puts more words in there not to prove her point and add more support, but just to add more words. I kept saying to myslef, you already said that, say something new. Maybe it was that I could never get past the feelings I felt in the begining of the book, about her being a man-hater, and so I never gave the book a chance, but I really did try to be open minded and objective about reading this book. I think what I found hard to grasp was the idea that women just have it so hard. As a young women, I felt that I would rather be a women today than in any other period in history. I just felt like enough is never enough, there is always something more to complain about. The last thing women need is to feel "sorry" for themselves and dwell on all the injustices of the world. So although some still exist, I hardly think that the ones that do exist are worth whinning about. The book seems to be rather extreem and harsh. And to add to the problem, it was dry reading. Although I did try and give Wolf some credit, she did an excellent job in finding facts about women and interpreting historical events and how those changes were brought about. And I do realize that she is mainly writing about the 80's and I really am not a daughter of the 80's but the 90's. What she is saying may have been true of the 80's, but I think it is out dated for the 90's. Overall, I would not recommend the book to anyone, except in reading what theories are out there regarding women and beauty obsessions....more info
  • The book distinguishes real vs. ideal.
    The Beauty Myth is an extrodianrily rare book. It focuses on how images of beauty are used against women by examining the figment all women measure themselves, and eachother, against - the Iron Maiden. The author, Naomi Wolf connects women's feelings of inferiority to the evidence they are dominated in religion, culture, and the workplace. Images of beauty in advertising and pornography contribute to the rise in cosmetic surgery and our society's obsession with thinness and perfection. The book attempts to illustrate how women are divided, as competetors for the scarce beauty there is that is recognized. Wolf presents a few great points and lots of supporting evidence. She lacks an interesting writing style, however, and hashes out the same point 200 pages too long. The Beauty Myth would make a moving essay, but as a book, beats a dead horse....more info
  • Mission impossible? Not so, according to Wolf.
    Makeovers are such an inherent part of growing up female that the ritual goes largely unquestioned by many young women. Naomi Wolf, from a decidedly Marxist angle, proposes that women should re-examine the purpose of "beautification" rituals; advertising; and magazine images in "The Beauty Myth." The essence of her book is that economy always determines what a society's beauty ideal is, and that this myth of ideal, objective beauty works politically to keep women striving for less freedom and choice. This myth encourages women to loathe themselves, through a quest for perfection in never-ending transformation. If there's one point that Wolf stresses, it is that women need to stop blaming themselves for negative self-worth. This is not about individual women, this is about a whole society of women. This is an epidemic, Wolf argues. She encourages women to see that a social atmosphere is what is really responsible, and she shows this through a sizeable amount of detailed examples and scholarly sources. Her prose is always sophisticated and at times, genius. Her use of metaphor, anectdote, and extensive analogy make her book a fascinating read as she ties aspects of female culture into the larger society (her analogies are especially effective in the "Work" chapter). In writing "The Beauty Myth", Wolf took the job upon herself to research and assemble facts about such things as marketing tactics and cosmetic surgery economics for women who don't have the time or resources to do so. True, she does seem to push an agenda--encouraging a third wave of feminism--but her ideas are sound, not radical. In tying all the facts together so cohesively, it is inevitable that she would have a grand theory. She does not detail a set plan for change--her overall intention seems to be to give women, and especially young women, a different way to see themselves. She shows how they have the ability to both propel or dispel the beauty myth. "The Beauty Myth" is a dossier of information, and Wolf leaves this self-empowerment mission up to us, should we choose to accept it....more info
  • Must Read For Feminists
    From the affluent, white female perspective, but still very relevant. Wolf explains how women adopt a third shift to take care of their beauty. It keeps our minds occupied and our pocketbooks empty so we don't start a revolution. I consider it a must read for feminists and pro-feminists....more info
  • This might help
    I actually wrote this comment as a reaction to one of the posts (under the comments section) but then realized that I meant it as a general comment on the book and people's reactions to it. I was fortunate in that I read this book in an academic setting. It was assigned along with many other supportive books, which together shore up any weakness in each respective argument.

    But since that is not possible for everyone, I think that if you read this book along with Susan Faludi's "Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women," you might find yourself surprised about the subject of a conscious conspiracy to keep women down. Susan Faludi, as opposed to some of the complaints against Naomi Wolf, actually uses real interviews and facts to back up her arguments about the state of the public sector.

    I completely agree with many reviewers that say it is important to read the book and make up your own mind, but you might get a better understanding of the situation, and what Naomi Wolf is trying to say, if you also read Susan Faludi's book. I was shocked and amazed by what I read, and without substantial facts to back up her arguments I'm not sure I would have put as much stock in them. ...more info
  • an oldie, but a goodie
    Some of the stats and facts contained in this book are a wee bit dated, but that's a small minus in light of the many plusses of this powerful book! I started reading it, hoping I wouldn't like it and could put it aside but from the first opening pages, I was hooked!

    On page three, Ms. Wolf writes, "The stronger women were becoming politically, the heavier the ideals of beauty would bear down upon them, mostly in order to distract their energy and undermine their progress."

    Wow. So, fiddling around with beauty is something that keeps us distracted and distressed, and inhibits the realization of our full potential! Further, she writes, "The beauty myth is not about women at all. It is about men's institutions and institutional power" (p. 13).

    If you're ready to have you eyes opened to the facts of women's beauty, take a few hours and read this book. You'll never look at a glossy woman's magazine the same way again....more info
  • Very insightful despite some flaws
    The Beauty Myth explores the contemporary culture of feminine beauty. Its thesis made up of several parts:
    1. That the concept of feminine beauty is more a social construct as opposed to a completely biological idea.
    2. That it is very successful at debilitating women's progress within work, home, society, relationships, etc.
    3. That this has been developed as a political tool, aimed at countering the advances of the feminist revolution.

    I think she deals with 1 and 2 very well, however in 3 she falters a bit in that she is too conspiratorial without much proof. She makes it seem that she's talking about some conscious conspiracy to keep women down (this is how many reviewers have interpreted her) - I think this isn't what she was saying but she's not too clear on that point.

    Even if you disagree with a huge chunk of what she says in this book, it will still bring in a host of insights that clear-thinking people will hopefully not fight to accept. For instance, she looks at how the "ideal-looking woman" has been and is being continuously redefined to be just out of reach.

    Many will find it hard to swallow a lot of what she's saying, all I can say is read it and make up your own mind. However reading a lot of Amazon reviews of the book was very revealing as many of the negative reactions were very knee-jerk and quite brazenly dismissive even though a lot of these people have probably not read the book.

    I personally agree with a lot of what Wolf says about society today and the way the female body is used as a political weapon - but no matter what you think this will be a very revealing and insightful read....more info
  • Read it, guys.
    If you ever wanted to know the Right Answer to "honey do I look fat in this", you can probably get it by just reading the Coles Notes for traditional relationships in modern wester culture, also known as "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus". However if you really want to understand it, or if your relationship has gone a little outside the bounds of traditional, you need this book. It's not an easy read and I think Ms Wolf overextends on some of her arguments. However, if you think that line like "I don't understand women" are a cop-out and you're willing to make the effort, this book will reward you enormously....more info
  • Spare me
    Wolf offers a few intriguing, perhaps even useful, insights in her book, The Beauty Myth, but you'll have to put up with so much shoddy overall writing (including, but not limited to, lack of logical structure, as well as a seemingly endless torrent of conjecture), that you're just about guaranteed to walk away with a pounding headache.

    Wolf seems to assume expert-level knowledge about various religions and their respective, complex traditions, market economies, and even gender studies, among others, molding her understanding of each to fit her preconceived notions and support her case. But like I said already, (and I'm not discrediting every single idea she proposes), so much of each case she tries to build is based upon conjecture and unscientific theory that it's hard to buy very much of what she's selling. (I thought higher education was supposed to help make a more thoughtful, clear and critically-thinking individual ... I'm a little disappointed that this work came out of a Yale graduate.) Apparently Wolf also thought that using lots of big words and complex sentence structures is to be equated with good, clear, effective communication. In fact, it ends up being a bit of an insult to any reasonably educated, curious reader, and an embarrassment to her. (You don't want to have to ask if she's living in an isolated ivory tower, but it's the feeling that you get.)

    The Beauty Myth is no humble inquiry attempting to shed light onto a topic that any one of us could stand to benefit from, it's a biased, myopic, defeatist commentary (despite what may have been better intentions). I don't think I can say much more here than what other thoughtful critics have already offered. I'd say keep looking.

    I've continued to mull over some of the things Wolf proposed in this book and, while I continue to hold to my criticisms, I will concede that if you are willing to put up with those problems, some of her general ideas are worth considering. Objectification of women is still a problem today, and anyone cognizant of that has some responsibility to work towards eliminating the problem. I still believe her take-home message is much too defeatist and in that sense, poorly serves her reader, but I think that equality in the contex of choice is something worth fighting for. That much I wanted to clarify. ...more info
  • a feminist classic
    This book should be required reading for all freshmen girls. Even if you don't agree with its central premise or find its style infuriating this is something you should be talking and thinking about, especially as our culture increasingly sexualises young girls at earlier and earlier ages. ...more info
  • The Unattainable Aim to Become a Mannequin
    The fashion industry is a 100 billion dollar a year industry, just in the United States! The cultural programmers, advertisers, and marketing psychologists have devoted much time, money, and brainpower into the problem of turning people into consumers - of how to make people feel "not right" unless they buy the consumer goods marketed to make them "feel right". And of course, the goal of becoming a plastic mannequin is unrealistic and unattainable, thereby ensuring that billions will continue to be spent in trying to attain the unattainable.

    Naomi Wolf exposes the unrealistic and impossible standards of mannequin female beauty as a destructive form of social control. She chronicles the history of the beauty myth and the ways it affects every woman's home, health, and work. She challenges the fashion industry's ideal of feminine mannequin-like perfection as a culturally-programmed myth manufactured by the wordpushers from the fashion industry's various sectors, ranging from the diet industry to fashion magazines to cosmetics to Hollywood and Bollywood. She says that its a myth that ravages a woman's pyschological health and even imperils their health (many cosmetics are preserved with formaldehyde-releasing biocides commonly known as Grotan BK or Solvitose 2453 that cause scleroderma). Many women suffer from eating disorders because they feel that they do not have a choice in meeting the culturally-programmed obsession with mannequin-like beauty.

    Lastly, Wolf says that the feminist movement is affected by the cultural programming too. She presents an abundance of evidence that artifical beauty standards are quietly undermining the work of feminism. This critical view of the fashion industry seems to echo similar complaints made by Judeo/Christian/Islamic/Sikh women and Hindu women who, in a nutshell, lament the backward direction of current society to a Pagan Rome of two thousand years ago. ...more info
  • The sisterhood has a bible!
    I was so excited to read this book. Women, we've been looking for the enemy in all the wrong places. The enemy is smeared on our faces every morning and wiped off at night. The enemy is brand name clothing that only comes in sizes 0-4. The enemy is getting richer and more powerful every day that we fail to acknowledge it. I wish this book could be required reading for women in America- sort of a rite of womanhood. ...more info
  • living up to the standard of female beauty
    In the Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf (NW) mounts a stunning array of evidence to establish a surprisingly basic thesis:

    (*) That the media/advertisers/businesses use beauty as a standard standard that is applied solely to women

    (*) That this standard is then used in the workforce, and is the basis for hiring, firing, promotion, denial of promotion, sexual harassment, denial of charges of sexual harassment, etc.

    (*) That preoccupation with a media-imposed artificially-high and artificially-maintained standard of beauty keeps women preoccupied with things that are irrelevant to their jobs, skills, education, hard work, etc.

    (*) That in order to keep their jobs, advance professionally, and maintain a romantic relationship, women have to spend large sums of money, plenty of time, and pay a lot of attention to their looks -- in order to maintain the kind of look they see in magazines and advertisements, and which seems to be expected of them.

    NW makes many additional claims, and I, or any reader, for that matter, may chose to disagree with them. But the book is fascinating in the statistics and stories and facts it compiles. I found the book valueable if for no other reason than that it forced me to consider why beauty is applied only or mainly to women, and why it seems to be applied in areas to where it is irrelevant: Why should a female news reporter be expected to look like an anorexic fashion model? Why are her male colleagues judged by completely other standards?

    In establishing her case, NW does a superb job. An astonishing job. Sometimes, she does too good a job, in that the book seems to fire in too many directions, some of which are not essential to her main thesis. For example, the book gives off a distinct foul odour of religion-bashing, which is not really necessary for the central theses the author makes. I thought it was a low point of the book, where NW "explains" the rationale behind various religious practices and then relates these to discrimination against women. There is no religion that is THAT clear about the rationale behind its practices: Claims such as "Jews do X because of Y" and "Catholics do Z because of T" are almost always bound to be gross over-simplifications of religious practices and beliefs. A book on the myth of beauty is the wrong place, in my opinion, for a Reader's Digest guide to world religions, and religion-bashing does not serve the author's purpose. On the contrary, most religious leaders today would otherwise agree with NW wholeheartedly that for whatever social/economic reasons, female beauty has been used, abused, and made a tool that has de-facto enslaved the hearts, minds and bodies of women.

    NW has been generous enough, in the spirit of Betty Fridan's Feminine Mystique (which seems to serve as an inspiration for this book), to point out the toll that the [Feminine] Beauty Myth has taken on men as well: That genuine relationships are possible only when couples see each other as they are, and for what they are.

    All in all, this is a good book, and one doesn't have to agree with each and every point in order to enjoy reading it. Get it, read it, and make up your own mind.

    ...more info
  • Dangerous, triggering sensationalism.
    What an awful book this is. On the pretext of telling women not to be preoccupied with their looks and weight, Wolf has written several hundred pages about women's looks and weight. Her intentions, I am sure, were righteous; but the "empowering" framing message fades away in comparison to the hypnotically graphic struggle-porn that forms the bulk of the text. As I read these horror stories about breast surgery and analyses of cosmetics advertisements, I had an all-too-familiar feeling of prurience. The cumulative effect was similar to that of the women's magazines Wolf deplores, but more inimical. I am a college-educated female with a history of mild eating disorders, and I closed the book feeling more insecure and depressed about my looks and weight than I had in years. In conclusion, anyone with a history of bulimia and / or anorexia ought to stay well away from "The Beauty Myth" unless she has total confidence in her immunity to triggering materials.

    Another not-so-minor quibble: Wolf's chapter on "Religion" exposes her total ignorance of Christian doctrine, be it Catholic or Protestant. She writes from the premise that Christianity is anti-woman, apparently expecting that her readers will accept this common canard without any logical arguments to back it up. This further stains her intellectual credentials.

    ...more info
  • It's not about Beauty anyway
    Let me explain my circumstances while reading Beauty Myth. The book was used and someone made comments throughout the book in the margins. The comments enlivened the book a bit. The previous reader essentially called Wilde a whiner and a liar as the author presented her view of women as resentful, man-made beauty queens.

    After thinking about Beauty Myth over a series of months, I find this book does overly victimize women. Women are not stupid. We buy the magazines, watch the news, watch commercials and watch the shows that continue to idolize the thin female. Women have money and money dictates what is acceptable.

    No one is forcing women to look skinny. We're kidding ourselves. If we really wanted to start a revolution and dispel the Beauty Myth we'd stop watching soap operas, stop watching shows were the starlet is 10 pounds underweight, we'd stop buying magazines that tell us how to loose twenty pounds in 2 weeks and we'd stop making dewy eyes over merchandise that is sold by supermodels. Are we doing this? No.

    We are telling the advertisers that want and need to make money that they don't need to change what they are doing, because we (educated women with money) are still buying.

    This whole thing is not about Beauty anyway. It's truly about feeling loved. This is an ancient and eternal issue. It will not find resolve in books, but in the lone heart of a woman as she does battle and makes due with her self-esteem.
    ...more info
  • Deeply Flawed Central Thesis
    The first edition of this book had several factual errors and exaggerations. To her credit, Wolf has corrected some of these errors. However, the main thesis of her book, and a deeply flawed one at that, has remained unchanged. Wolf argues that having been scared by the increasing successes and power of women in the West, some men decided that the best way to put women in their rightful place is to occupy their thoughts with self-appearance and starve them.

    Some concern with self-appearance is not difficult to understand. Humans have a basic aesthetic sense and desire attractive mates. Therefore, where one ranks on an attractiveness scale should be somewhat of a concern to many people because one realizes that others also desire attractive mates. Women often tend to be very selective with respect to choosing a male partner, and the men whom they desire, usually having their choice of women, will naturally go after the more attractive ones. Hence the reason many women are preoccupied with their looks...they want the best man they can obtain and know that men value beauty. If women were less choosy about men, they would need to be far less concerned about their looks because some men will sleep with almost anything. Surely, patriarchy cannot be blamed for making women choosy about men because most men would prefer that women have lower standards.

    It is true that female high fashion models tend to be young and skinny; however, these models also tend to have multiple traits more typical of men, i.e., they tend to closely approximate the physique of adolescent boys. This should not be difficult to understand if one considers the fact that the typical high fashion designer is a male homosexual. See a newly published book in this regard: "The Nature of Homosexuality: Vindication for Homosexual Activists and the Religious Right." For a visual comparison of haute couture models vs. glamour models, see the supporting materials for this book at

    Influenced by the high status of haute couture models, several women diet unnecessarily and may also indulge in excessive exercise. Male [...] fashion designers are to blame for this, not patriarchy. Once you control for the influence of high fashion models-courtesy male [...] fashion designers-and fashions, the beauty industry is largely responding to a mostly innate desire among women to make themselves attractive but is not generating this desire. ...more info
  • An eye opener
    Interesting to me that the male reviewers seemed to uniformly hate this book! Settle down, guys--we're not all going to stop shaving and exercising, and if you don't have Paris Hilton panting over you, believe me, it's NOT because of anything Naomi Wolf said!

    Whatever I may think of the author and her philosophy, as a rule I like a book that makes me see things in ways I hadn't before. This was one of those books. I don't agree with everything the author writes, but after borrowing it from the library, I had to buy it for myself so I could write in the margins about all the "a-ha!" moments it prompted. Sadly for those who like black and white, beauty, like most things, is on a continuum. People cite Etcoff's "Survival of the Prettiest" in opposition to this book, but if the premises of "Prettiest" were completely true, then after thousands upon thousands of years of evolution, why aren't we all collectively lovely? Why aren't the women who have the most offspring (ie, the fittest) also the Cindy Crawford clones? One of my former evolution professors, David Wilson, just published a study showing that people who shared common goals and interests rated each other as more attractive than they rated strangers.

    I'm short, overweight, and past my prime in years, but I'm evolutionarily fitter than average (3 children), and have a strong husband who is a good provider (the biologically desired currency for males), and he even loves me!--from where I stand, it looks like most women can safely drop a lot of their beauty obsession, and I think Wolf says a lot that would encourage us to....more info
  • Sentence by sentence, the stupidest book I've ever read
    Naomi Wolf was a lovely young slip of a girl when she wrote this remarkably brainless book. The only reason people paid attention to this idiotic book was because Naomi was young and hot-looking. It drove Camille Paglia insane that Naomi was being treated like she knew anything about life. Naomi has done a lot of growing up since then, and I imagine she must be pretty humiliated that people are still reading this deeply awful book....more info
  • A new perspective
    It is an eye-opener.

    Why is that, really, that commercials, even aimed at women, have sexual connotations? After I read this book, I flipped through the resent Cosmo: the only ads that DO NOT have sexual connotations are the ones for tampons and pads.

    What's wrong with getting old? Why is every new wrinkle becomes such a tragedy for women? Why do women STILL, ten years after this book was first published, say, in numerous surveys, that they'd rather loose 20 pouns than achieved a personal/career goal?

    This book does make me angry. But it also makes me think, and look from a different perspective on the world.

    Definite must-read for all women....more info

  • An interesting look into social perspectives and beauty...
    This book was an enlightening look into our society's expectations of beauty and the ideals that are placed on women. Wolf covers the exploitation and idealization of beauty at every opportunity to demonstrate how this detracts from women as human beings and objectifies them within a social hierarchy. Though some of her conclusions may seem far-fetched and unsupported, many women can understand the trappings of attempting to fit in and will find Wolf's writings particularly meaningful. As a young girl, for instance I often felt depressed and dejected because I did not exemplify our culture's standards of beauty. Bombarded by magazines and movies showcasing rail-thin models with ridiculously over-exaggerated features, I judged myself harshly- one reason why my self-esteem plummeted during my teenage years. Perhaps if I had read this book earlier I might have been spared years of discontent.

    The Beauty Myth helped me to realize the fallacy in this desire to fit within this pre-arranged standard, and led me instead to focus on my own sense of beauty- a keen intelligence, understanding, and strength of will. This is perhaps the most redeeming quality of her writing: Wolf has an uncanny ability to connect to other women and promote an image of self-acceptance, beyond the clich®¶ stereotypes that control beauty.

    Wolf covers everything from cosmetic surgery to religion with adept poise, and asks us why we are so inclined to judge our manner of appearance as critical to ourselves. Though I disagree with some of her primary conclusions, of beauty being utilized as a form of subjugation against women and so forth (these ideals seem intrinsic to our culture of "sex sells" and are not necessarily related to patriarchal tendencies), I do agree that many of the unrealistic standards of beauty in our country place women at a disadvantage because they draw our attention to exterior features rather than more important aspects- our mind and character.

    I must admit that much of Naomi Wolf's conclusions are based on her perception, filtered through her feminist positions and observations on a personal and social level which probably don't represent the whole. I give it four stars instead of five because, even though the writing is superb and many of her ideas on the mark, She doesn't back up her conclusions with factual information or evidence. The suggestion that men specifically use beauty as a means to control women seems a bit ridiculous and over-inflated. This is America, after all- and women have more opportunities than ever before.

    Overall, this book is a remarkable read for those interested in the social perception of women or women's studies....more info

  • changed my life
    it was translated to hebrew lately.

    i just finished reading it now.

    i'm so glad i read it. its full of amazing ideas. important to weman of all ages.

    what can i say? read it....more info

  • Good wake up call
    This book really hit home. Naomi Wolf touches on a lot of the same things that I have observed around me and wondered why nobody is talking about. I wam also a former anorexic who grew up in a school where three of my friends were anorexics and many others had issues with their weight and food. I was always very aware that I was starving myself to be skinny like the girls in the fashion mags. This is an epidemic resulting from a social problem, not just an "individual" weakness, which is why the number of anorexics and other women with eating disorders is increasing. The only problem I have with the book is that not enough solutions and encouragement are offered, and I believe we will overcome these social problems through actions of both men and women. However, raising awareness of the issue is a big step. Womens studies courses are another valuable way to raise recognition of both problems facing women and society and give some recognition to the strong women of history who were left out of the history books. Perhaps in the future womens' issues we be adressed in mainstream classes along with those of men....more info
  • EVIDENCE, anyone?
    I read this book to expose myself to the feminist perspective. It was very disconcerting, to say the least. You have to read this book to be able to appreciate how insane this woman is.

    Firstly, reality check, Naomi- about 70 girls die annually from anorexia, not 150 000.
    How did that one get past the editor?

    If all the 'evidence' that you can offer to support your theories are anecdotes, people's statements of their feelings, statements of your feelings, and incorrect stastitics that have no scientific link to your claims in the first place, then I hope your theory doesn't relate to surgical procedures, because a lot of people will likely be hurt at your and your followers' hands.

    Pedictably, though, this 'theory' appeals to many people's feelings. It's too bad rationality and skepticism aren't prevalent in the population- especially amongst the members of the population who think that Women's Studies is an academically respectable course.

    How do I know that a computor is in front of me? I can see it, I can touch it; if anything exists, there must be physical signs of its existance, even if we can't measure them.
    This woman does not require physical evidence to believe that something is true. It does not matter that 150 000 women don't die of anorexia anually- she believes that there is an anorexia epidemic. To her, you wouldn't have to see, feel, or measure physical properties to determine whether a computor existed or not; if she 'felt' it existed, then it would.
    At least, if she had consistency, she would make that judgement, but she most likely does not. Consistency in analysis procedure suggests rationality. This woman is clearly not rational, to say the least.

    Save your brain and your money. If you want to learn about beauty, read about research into beauty- averageness studies, studies with babies(who have had no exposure to the media). Read about evolutionary biology. Evolution- mountains of evidence. The Beauty Myth- none.
    Nuff said...more info

  • Wake up call without any resolution...
    I first read this book years ago back in college during the midst of my feminist study phase. What this book has in information, it also lacks tremendously in formulating a resolution. Although a lot of her facts stated in the book can be categorized as a bit farfetched in leaping to conclusions with a lack of control in her research, it does provide substantial information on the influence of the media and how the status quo goes on about controlling women.

    I do appreciate her references to Betty Friedan's "Feminine mystic", (a much more accomplished and important work), and I do agree with her view on the creation of the physical awareness on women after WWII, especially when females realized that they could work for themselves while their hubbies were away fighting a war. It was during this time, that the media saturated the airwaves with the creation of the stay-at-home mom as more women began working. The popularity of the television only heightened the media influence on society as a powerful tool to mislead people into insecurities and fears to create more consumption on products that would inherently make people feel better about themselves.

    As expected, the majority of this book focuses on eating disorders and plastic surgery that is so common in western culture. I also appreciated her comment on how the media are now exposing men into similar physical abuse as can be seen by the recent exploits of the metrosexual male, but I was rather angry toward her conclusion, toward which she devoted just a few pages. In her conclusion, she states that no male - not even one who is concerned about media and corporate mis-portrayal of the ideal female - can be involved in solving this problem. It is up to the women and women alone. Furthermore, she develops no resolution or even a hint of an idea to pursue in order crack that self-image, which she calls the iron-maiden.

    Naomi Wolf clearly wrote this book to create a buzz, which it definitely does, even if it does lack a resolution and a clear concise view on how to tackle this problem. More than anything, this book does inform about the past and the present state of the women movement. It may cause some anger for those who attempt to read this book but it's important nonetheless to create awareness on the media power of social repression....more info

  • Misunderstanding of anorexia and bulimia
    Given recent research that indicates that anorexia and other eating disorders are the result of obsessive-compulsive disorder, there is no reason to condemn fashion magazines or the ad industry as "causing" this disease. Wolf's attempt to explain this disorder through looking at the media surrounding women is no doubt well-intentioned but simply incorrect....more info
  • Great.
    Great. Now, Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie will be coauthoring a book called "The Work Myth" describing what an utter waste of time our national preoccupation with resume' writing, pouring over want ads, professional preparation and vocational education, networking and the like are, while in other venues, mocking those who are not wearing the latest designer labels and owning the latest expensive toys....more info
  • feministic to the core
    This book is not for everyone. I read the chapter on religion and threw it aside.

    I was rather disgusted by the whole feel of the book. The overly feministic view puts one on the warpath with men and that to me is just as harmful as any other type of war. Blaming scripture for making women inferior is a longshot and ludicrious at best. Do we really have to reach this far to find someone to blame? Cant find anyone? Blame God!

    No thanks I dont need more negativity in life. I dont need to go searching for a reason to be MAD like people suggest....more info

  • Changed the way I think about beauty
    I read this book as I was passing my 30th birthday, and it gave me a lot to think about. At the time I was living with a roommate, a woman about my age. One day I came home to find her sobbing over a pile of Vogue magazines, despairing that she would never look like the models on those pages. I thought my friend was beautiful, but because she was short and curvaceous instead of tall and thin, she felt hopeless about her looks. Then someone gave her this book. We passed it back and forth between us, discussing it for several weeks. The end result was that we both realized how much the media affects how we see ourselves. Both of us came out of this experience with a much saner view of beauty, both for ourselves and the women around us. It was a real eye-opener! I didn't agree with all the conclusions the author drew, but the ideas were powerful enough to stick with me to this day, 11 years later. I am able to admire tall, thin women without idealizing them, and I consider my short, petite figure to be just fine, thank you very much....more info
  • on "hunger"
    In her controversial bestseller, Wolf posits a relationship between female liberation and female beauty in which women pay for every economic and political success with another restrictive or subordinate measure at the hands of a brutalizing patriarchy. The backlash against everything feminism has achieved is a demanding and punitive "beauty myth" that keeps women in place by proscribing impossible models of femininity, creating insecurity and self-hatred that can then be easily exploited by the fashion world, Hollywood, glossy magazines, and the lucrative diet and cosmetic surgery industries. In an unforgettable move in her chapter on "Hunger," Wolf turns the tables and describes the mysterious disease ravaging America's best and brightest young men, ostensibly leaving Dartmouth's star quarterback and the editor of the Harvard Crimson resembling Holocaust victims. After six paragraphs of expounding on how "the future is committing suicide," Wolf reveals that in fact the apocalyptic phenomenon she describes is very real, but occurring among women rather than men. Like the Minnesota study, "Hunger" reminds us of the gravity and violence of anorexia and bulimia. Wolf's rhetorical trick might be even more powerful now than at its initial reception because it defamiliarizes eating disorders and shocks even those of us who have long been exposed to their reality; such a shock may well be the only tactic for communicating with young girls so steeped in disordered culture that reading online "tips and tricks" for throwing up from girls in hospital beds is assimilated unproblematically....more info
  • If you're not angry, you're not awake
    The day before I read this book, I was leafing through a fashion/beauty magazine which included a breakdown of what the "average woman" spends on beauty products and treatments each year. Their featured "average woman" spent around $12,000 a year on cosmetics, hair cuts, face cream, facials, and other beauty "essentials." How lucky for their average woman that she's not earning minimum wage!

    The magazine, seeming to realize how excessive that figure was, gave women tips on what products they could cut back on and only buy the $7 version of because the $25 version is no better. So why do women still spend money on $25 wrinkle treatments? Perhaps because magazines like this spend a couple of pages every month hard selling them?

    What Naomi Wolf's book really made me realize was not so much how much our culture sells women pointless products and pressures them into striving for a certain narrow picture of beauty, but the extent to which it has harmed women in so many areas - not just with obvious things like eating disorders, but with the degree of violence which women become willing to perpetrate against themselves, as well as the ecomonic impact on women. Men may argue that they too have things they are "pressured" to take part in or judged by, but these examples are disingenous, things that large numbers of men do not take part in, and not something on which their ability to even hold a job is affected by. Men are not fired as they get older, *purely because of their looks.*

    Men who feel attacked by the fact that Wolf regards this control of women as part of the patriarchal structure and plan evidently miss the point that patriarchy does not equal all men. Wolf is not blaming men, she is blaming patriarchy - and there is a big difference. It is about a consciousness, a structure, a manner of relating and behaving to the world, whether the people working in the beauty companies or the media are male or female (though it is a truth that the vast majority of the financial/corporate and political power in the Western world is controlled by men). Men can be and are oppressed by patriarchy, and other books have addressed this topic, but they don't happen to be oppressed in this particular way so it is not something relevant that Wolf's book needed to address....more info

  • Fascinating and disturbing
    I have read many books on feminism over the past few years, and have read books that dispute some of the statistics in this book. Nonetheless, it is a good read, because it makes you aware of things that are going on in the lives of young women.

    Whatever the numbers, the fact remains that young women are slowly killing and disfiguring themselves in the name of that ever-unattainable, ever-subjective idea, "beauty." Is it really significant is five women a year die of bulimia or anorexia or if it's closer to five hundred? The fact remains that something is seriously wrong with these girls to make them think that they have no other way of being socially accepted. Does it matter how much the cosmetic surgery industry really grosses annually? After all, ten years or so after this book is written, we have shows on prime-time television like "Extreme Makeover," in which someone contacts the show and tells them how horrible they feel about themselves because of a physical flaw--a nose that is too big, eyes that are too wide-spaced--and the show promptly signs them up to be hacked away at, made into a modern-day Galatea, for the viewing pleasure of America. If you have watched this show, you also know exactly what Wolf is trying to convey in her chapter on Violence. She states that women are always told that they can look better in some way...and sure enough, once they get into the doctor's office, suddenly the nose is not the only problem anymore. Liposuction, [body part] job...sign me up. In watching another special on cosmetic surgery on MTV not long ago, two women were portrayed whose highest goal was to be--of all things for young women today to desire--[Magazine] bunnies. They went in for things like a nose job and a [body part]job, and suddenly you saw the doctor pointing out all the other things "wrong" with them. The two relatively thin (and when I say "relatively," I mean they were probably underweight, but not as skinny as anorexic-looking models) girls were told that they should do something about invisible "saddlebags" and also maybe should consider doing something about the excess fat on their thighs--again, barely visible to the naked eye.

    Wolf claims all this is political--a move to keep women down. And I'm not sure if I completely buy into the fact that it is all a political move to do just that, but I certainly realize that there is a definite cause for concern. If even one girl binges and purges, it's too many...and the fact remains that models are, in fact, horribly underweight, and then they have their photos retouched and airbrushed to make them look even skinnier. Women cannot compete with that which does not exist.

    This book is definitely a good buy--it's easy reading and thought-provoking. I would recommend it to anyone interested in women's studies...and I would also recommend it to any woman, especially one who plans on having children, because it is so important to break this cycle of unattainable expectations....more info

  • The gender agenda
    Naomi Wolf has written a winner for the women's political movement with the 'Beauty Myth'. However, she has done it with flawed logic and misuse of facts to further the female political agenda. The book offers many valid and potent messages, however had the inconsistencies been better concealed the impact would have been more powerful. Lacking a logical thread and qualification, it is filled with contradictions, and clearly unsubstantiated conclusions. The premise of the book, that women are oppressed by external beauty, is driven systematically and maliciously by a male dominated society. This is done to prevent women from achieving full liberation and taking their rightful place in society, truly a cosmetic shackle. In past generations, pregnancy and childbirth were not easily avoidable, creating 'prisoners of the womb'. Advances in contraception now offer greater freedom to women while civic liberty, access to workplace opportunities, and equal social standing have all been hard fought battles. With liberation close at hand, males scrambled to remain dominant. For this they fabricated the 'beauty myth'. Women found themselves pursuing material outer beauty, a clearly trivial, disempowering exercise. Rejecting any link to bio-logic Wolf posits that slimmers ailments, cosmetic surgery, violence and the like, were designed by men to retain control. This approach is simplistic, avoids gender neutral social conformity, and ironically, denies women responsibility over their own destiny.

    Many valid observations are made on diet and hunger, and their enslavement of female bodies and minds. Commercial hunger sells cosmetic manipulation to the desire for slim and young beauty. Yet no connection is made to the enslavement of all human society, male and female. While the outcomes differ, the conformance mechanisms are principally the same for both genders. Wolf highlights social aspects that affect women without providing a balanced view of those affecting men. The claim our society condones female mutilation, but not male, ignores obvious examples in the extreme endeavours of sport, war and adventure that men are driven to pursue. Should we put this down to how women manipulate male behaviour and therefore a female responsibility?

    The predominantly western beauty myth around which this book is based, is helped in part, by mothers teaching their daughters behaviour that will result in diet and image related problems from adolescence. Wolf discounts any female responsibility for this, instead blaming media and institutions who manipulate the female psyche. These faceless organisations of the beauty industry are staffed with high numbers of women, none of them responsible. Men carry the burden of deliberately creating and promulgating the exploitation of women through the beauty industry. Women are puppets, from the hungry models to the countless millions that buy the percieved trivia of magazines and beauty aids, removing wrinkles, fat, hair, clothing etc, while men do 'real' things like run businesses, climb mountains and race Formula 1 motor cars.

    Wolf does concede that some men do not support this tyranny - she almost allows herself to see some of the real issues her book fails to address - but the pull of preconceived ideas proves too strong and the needle slips back in the groove. She discounts any innate biological basis for beauty in human mating behaviour. The issue of ageing women she puts down to male fear of the power in older women, not entertaining the idea that younger women offer better breeding prospects than old. Like any good politician Wolf is not distracted by facts.

    Ironically, in building her case that men are totally responsible for the oppression of women, she denies women control over their own lives. She asks that women be 'allowed' to take their rightful place in the running the world as a better place for all, yet her book takes pains to show how little responsibility they have taken for their lives in the past. Why then, are things going to change, is responsibility parcelled out like food in a famine? You either control things, or you don't. Having someone allow you to control is no control at all. Our impact on society is measured by our contribution, or lack of.

    Wolf has unwittingly disempowered her own gender, possibly doing more harm than good to the female cause, by denying them any responsibility in todays world.

    My criticism of this book, to this point, has been as one-eyed as the book itself. There is no question men and women share equal responsibility for our world. We both have strengths and weaknesses, being different sides of the same coin. Until cloning becomes a practical reality for human reproduction - and it will - men and women are locked into the contradictions of conflict and cooperation that color many intimate relationships. Power struggles are an unavoidable consequence.

    There is also no question that the victims of eating disorders like anorexia, cosmetics and hair removal show enslavement of individual women to practices, that by relative human standards, are harmful or sometimes fatal, and I do not question their suffering. What is not offered is a balanced social context of men and women. Men are victim to the same processs, though the specific outcomes differ. A parallel book could be written about the enslavement of males to their bizarre habit of fighting in national and personal wars, dying in reckless adventure and sporting events, crashing fast cars, the list is endless. All this, in an attempt to gain status and control among ourselves, in order to improve our chances with women. Why should we hold men responsible for this behaviour? We all know it was Helen's face that launched a thousand ships in the Trojan War, and not the men sitting inside, clutching swords.

    As a gender political book, the Beauty Myth is powerful and worth reading. However, for those readers looking for objectivity, not political rhetoric, this book will disappoint....more info

  • Fascinating
    This book is not a condemnation of beauty--Wolf herself is an exceptionally beautiful woman--but is rather a critique of 'beauty' as a saleable product. While some of the statistics are exagerrated, the basic concepts of the book are grounded in reality. The chaper that compares the marketing strategies of cosmetics companies to cult indoctrination is brilliant, and will be especially useful to older women. Though Wolf's fervor is sometimes embarassing, the book aids the reader in learning a "new way to see" that is pro-beauty and pro-woman....more info
  • Essential reading
    This book altered my whole perception of beauty as it is presented culturally and socially. I just wish I had read it when I was an impressionable teenager. Furthermore, I wish that everyone who claims that feminists have nothing left to fight for would read this book. Wolf's well written and thought provoking take on Western society's obsession with beauty clearly proves that we unfortunately have a long way to go until men and women are truly equal.

    Warning! This book may cause a great deal of rage and a sense of hopelessness. Don't be discouraged by all the depressing statistics that Ms Wolf presents - make a wow to yourself and all the other women out there to refuse to silently accept to be objectified and lessened. That, and not the latest miracle cream from L'Oreal, is what we are truly worth....more info

  • Nooooo! That's All Wrong!
    Diet, exercise, make-up, orthodontia, Rogaine, plastic surgery, well-chosen clothes...Do whatever it takes to be beautiful! It's an eternal value, not something invented by Madison Avenue. As you grow old, just pray your erudition, compassion, and material success compensate for your accumulating wrinkles.

    "Beauty is one of the rare things that do not lead to doubt of God." --Jean Anouilh

    A recovered anorexic and grad school virgin, Naomi Wolf is stuck in a 1960s and 70s victim-mongering feminism. Even Wolf soulmate and "Backlash" author Susan Faludi started to see that female beauty confers intimidating status and sympathize with the powerlessness of men in her latest book "Stiffed" (1999).

    "I'm tired of all this nonsense about beauty being only skin-deep. That's deep enough. What do you want--an adorable pancreas?" --Jean Kerr

    When Susan Brownmiller, Germaine Greer, and Betty Friedan wrote about women's belittling mistreatment 30 or 40 years ago, it was called for. MUCH has happened since then. Naomi Wolf missed the train. Women are now 60% of North American college students and climbing. They're at the center of families and enjoy custody privileges when a family breaks up. They live seven years longer than men and have much lower rates of alcoholism, drug addiction, suicide, learning disabilities, mental retardation, and disorders such as autism and hemophilia. If a woman is beautiful besides, this is icing on the cake.

    "Beauty is an ecstasy; it is as simple as hunger. There is really nothing to be said about it. It is like the perfume of a rose: You can smell it and that is all." --Somerset Maugham

    Naomi Wolfe should go have chi tea and hommus with Andrea Dworkin (followed by a game or two of Scrabble?). They can picnic in the shadow of the Ugly Tree from which one of them fell (Ms. Dworkin) and commiserate about how vicious men are. They can then go off and be "roommates" together in a grass hut, away from all that men have done to culture--like the telephone, the computer, the airplane, and electric light.

    "Everything ugly weakens and afflicts man. It recalls decay, danger, impotence; he actually suffers a loss of energy in its presence." --Friedrich Nietzsche

    [...]P>"Beauty is our weapon against nature; by it we make objects, giving them limit, symmetry, proportion. Beauty halts and freezes the melting flux of nature." --Camille Paglia...more info

  • So true
    This is a good book for any person that is upset with the media and the values that society upholds. I agreed with most of the book and read it very quickly. A good book to read on your own or maybe even for a women's studies course....more info
  • Waste of paper
    I can't help thinking about those poor trees slaughtered for printing this book!!!

    This is the silliest and faultiest book I've read in years. It's an insult to the intelligence of readers and an insult to women. The pseudo-scientific tone with lots of statistics is just a disguise for a weak and biased thesis. Logical fallacies abound and the notes are a mess.

    Here's my interpretation of Wolf's ideas: Beauty is a very recent thing invented by men, women's magazines, the cosmetics industry and the plastic surgeons. It's an invention aimed at keeping women busy and unhappy. Since women are much more productive than men are, men would succeed in keeping women out of the power structure by keeping them busy in trying to look pretty. By keeping women unhappy for not being as pretty as the models in the magazines the cosmetic and plastic surgery industry would make billions of dollars by taking ever increasing shares of women's paychecks. Wolf ends the book with a sort of manifesto in which she invites all women to slow down with the grooming in order to free themselves from the tyranny of men, cosmetics and plastic surgeons. Ugly women of the world unite - she could have written.

    Now the problems with the theory:

    * Beauty is not a new invention
    It's not even a human invention. For more details on this check Desmond Morris' books such as The Naked Ape or Intimate Behavior or check the excellent Nancy Etcoff's Survival of the Prettiest.

    * Women have brains
    Men, women's magazines, plastic surgeons and the cosmetic industry cannot control the minds of over three billion women. If that sort of control were possible the ice-cream industry would use it as well and promote fat as beautiful therefore increasing tenfold its sales.

    * The idea that women can unite against the "Beauty Myth" is tremendously naive. The reason why women use beauty as a strategy is because it works. If a significant part of the female population were to listen to Wolf's ideas and stop grooming themselves the rewards for the few women who would ignore the manifesto would be very high. With the increase in the number of women following Wolf the reward for not following her would grow exponentially since there would be less competition for men or whatever other reward there is for looking pretty. It would be an unstable system and very soon it would fall apart.

    The book is very weird. At a certain point, just out of the blue, the author states that she is still a virgin. Her virginity is not my business, actually nobody's business other than her own so why declare it? It sounds like Britney Spears. Now for me, reading on a book written by a Doctoral candidate a statement that she is still a virgin sends alarm bells going off everywhere.

    On another weird chapter the author gets very personal and describes again out of the blue how she became anorexic by the age 13 and all the suffering that followed. I take that as an insurance policy - you might not like my book but if I tell you how much I have suffered you might at least like me.

    Take my advice, save your money, save your time, and, for God's sake, save those innocent trees. Look around and get yourself a better book.

    ...more info

  • Insightful, incisive, and an interesting read!
    In The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf argues that our culture's images of beauty -- found on television and in advertisements, women's magazines, and pornography -- are detrimental to women, as well as to the men who love them. She demonstrates that the concept of "beauty" is a weapon used to make women feel badly about themselves; after all, no one can live up to the ideal. Wolf DOES agree that beauty plays a legitimate role in our lives and in our attractions to one another. The problem, she says, is when beauty is defined as thinness, pertness, and youthfulness taken to extremes -- extremes that are literally unattainable for healthy women. And I agree.

    Wolf's book explores 6 areas of life in which problems result from the beauty myth. Each has its own chapter that can be read on its own and still make perfect sense. I suggest starting with whichever interests you the most. They are as follows:

    * WORK. Here, the author details the way the concept of "beauty" can be used to discriminate against women in the workforce. If women are too pretty, we're not taken seriously; if women aren't pretty enough, we can legally be fired for their perceived "homeliness." Then again, if we're too pretty, it's our own fault when they're sexually harassed; if we're not pretty enough, people doubt men would have actually harassed them. The author offers a dizzying list of legal cases lost by women which demonstrate the extent of this catch-22 -- compelling stuff.

    * CULTURE. This focuses on the role of women's magazines (the sole arbiter of women's culture) in shaping our lives, by selling us on the need for beauty products by making us feel bad about themselves. It also notes that advertisers pressure the magazines into this, because only if women feel terrible about themselves will high-income women spend a quarter (yes, a quarter) of their each paycheck on beauty products.

    * RELIGION. Convincingly argues that the quest for thinness has replaced the quest for moral virtue and heavenly salvation, and shows how this quest has the same effects that religion once did -- of keeping women submissive and preoccupied.

    * SEX. Demonstrates that the beauty myth actually supresses female sexuality by making many women too self-conscious to engage in sex freely and comfortably, and moreover, that excessive dieting leads to a diminished sex drive. It also argues that the beauty myth hurts men by making them unaware of what real women look like, and by giving them the role of "appraiser of beauty" instead of the role of "partner" -- further impacting sexual relations.

    * HUNGER. The beauty myth convinces women to "willingly" go hungry, to eat fewer calories per day than famine victims in third-world countries, which results in ironic weight gain and/or in eating disorders (compulsive eating, anorexia, and bulemia). Includes a compelling account of the author's own battle with anorexia.

    * VIOLENCE. This is not about domestic violence, but rather the self-inflicted violence of cosmetic surgery, which is so painful and damaging to the body. Interesting comparisons with Victorian sexual surgery and with potentially deadly experimental medical research (which is unethical). The author questions why so many women are willing to risk diminished erotic responses and even death in order to be made thin or small-nosed or large-breasted or whatever. Her conclusion is that culture implies that women are better off dead than old or ugly-looking, making it a reasonable risk.

    In conclusion, this is a very strong, compelling book. At times, some of what Wolf says is a bit hard to swallow -- but read as a whole, it presents a solid argument about the sickness of our society today. Men, read it for your wives; parents, read it for your daughters; and ladies, read it for yourself.

    Highly recommended....more info