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If you have wasted even a minute of today worrying about the way your hair, breasts or thighs look, or about the wrinkles around your eyes, or whether your winter “wardrobe” is working for you … this book is for you.
Wolf argues that beauty is the “last, best belief system that keeps male dominance intact”. Somehow we’ve been flogged the idea that to be beautiful (which we must, or else no one will love us) we have to look a certain way: thin, youthful, smooth-skinned, small-nosed, silky-haired, etc. Hey presto: your average woman feels ugly her entire life, and old, too, for most of it. What better way of keeping her in her place?
Wolf uses the phrase “cultural conspiracy”; it’s hard to imagine exactly who the conspirators might be. Then big money makes an entrance, and it all gets nice and clear: women who feel old and ugly will buy things they do not need. An “anti-ageing” cream, say, or a blouse very little different from the blouses they already have. (Men, as Wolf notes with some prescience, would be well advised to listen up: powerful industries have a vested interest in them feeling old and ugly too.)
Wolf argues that women’s magazines have played a pivotal role in the selling of the beauty myth. They have done more to bring feminism to the female masses than any feminist periodical, she says, but “the formula must also include an element that contradicts and then undermines the overall pro-woman fare: in diet, skin care, and surgery features, it sells women the deadliest version of the beauty myth money can buy”. And why? Because “advertisers are the west’s courteous censors”.
The Beauty Myth doesn’t always convince. It might have benefited from some robust pruning. But it is a brilliant, bracing book. “When you see the way a woman’s curves swell at the hips and again at the thighs, you could claim that that is an abnormal deformity,” writes Wolf. “Or you could tell the truth: 75% of women are shaped like that, and soft, rounded hips and thighs and bellies were perceived as desirable and sensual without question until women got the vote.” Ouch!
The world has changed – a bit – over the past decade and a half, but not enough: this remains essential reading.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Women: A quick reminder … The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf | Books