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The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women

3.90  ·  Rating Details  ·  12,751 Ratings  ·  617 Reviews
Explores the phenomenon of the violent backlash against feminism that uses images of female beauty as a political weapon against women's advancement. " "The Beauty Myth" is a smart, angry, insightful book, and a clarion call to freedom. Every woman should read it." -- Gloria Steinem.
Paperback, 368 pages
Published June 20th 1992 by Anchor Books/Doubleday (first published 1990)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Crystal Starr Light
A seminal feminist work, "The Beauty Myth" digs into the ways that the pursuit of beauty has hampered feminism. How many women rush to pursue the next makeup line instead of equal pay for equal work. How many women are in a Catch-22 at work - you must be pretty and feminine, but not TOO pretty and feminine, else it's your fault for sexual harassment! At a time when many are saying there is no need for feminism, Wolf shows that sexism is still alive and well and how trying to adhere to the Perfec ...more
Nov 30, 2007 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ag
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-provoking...

The concept of the Beauty Myth har
Sep 25, 2008 Ian rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sarah Palin
Shelves: nonfiction
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 att
Aug 01, 2011 Alieda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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 ...more
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, bu
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 c ...more
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, ...more
Jun 20, 2007 Rachel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all women
This is the second time I've read this book in a two month time period. It's just full of huge ideas. Yes, the author has an agenda, and yes, she comes across a little harsh at times. However, the overall message of this book has changed the way I'll look at my body forever: Love your body because YOU are in it--not the other way around!

My belly fat and butt-fat-dimples don't scare me the way they used to. Fat is just a substance--one that our female bodies need to live, reproduce, and satisfy
Ben Babcock
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 g ...more
Literary Ames {Against GR Censorship}
*Cross-posted on Wordpress and BookLikes.

Naomi Wolf does not have a way with words. Dense, vague and ambiguous language; sweeping generalizations; and seeing a deeper meaning or intent where a simpler explanation is more likely and appropriate – which created a conspiratorial air that everyone, or just men, were doing everything they can to oppress women and repress their desires. Frustration had me skimming, and I found myself regularly defending men and questioning women’s complicit behaviou
I like a lot of what Wolf says, even if she frequently says it in the most overwrought manner possible, but I'm not sure the book completely stands up on its own merit. It's a long book, much longer than the most recent feminist pieces I've read, but for all of Wolf's trumpeting and data quoting, she gets a little conspiratorial at times, then she'll just blame the patriarchy with no further explanation. It got tiring after a while. But it does discuss some important topics like our modern ideal ...more
Apr 08, 2016 Sam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is often sighted as a must read book for those entering into the world of feminism (be them male or female) and despite some of its points being somewhat outdated, I can see why. Granted Wolf doesn't necessary make her points brilliantly well she does present a lot of information, statistics and research that allows the reader to make up their own mind to a certain extent as well as letting her guide them through. As a woman that has been raised to reject what is referred to as the Beauty M ...more
Julie Ehlers
May 28, 2015 Julie Ehlers rated it really liked it
As I have mentioned several times here on Goodreads, I bought this book when it came out in paperback in 1992 and attempted to read it almost immediately. Unfortunately, The Beauty Myth lacked the snap, crackle & pop of Susan Faludi's similarly themed Backlash, which came out around the same time, and which I devoured immediately and then reread several times purely for entertainment value. Although Susan Faludi, like Naomi Wolf, was only in her early 30s, she was already a seasoned reporter ...more
Katie Boyer
May 30, 2014 Katie Boyer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminism
SO glad I read this despite how long it took me (I would read a chapter at a time over a few months basically). Each chapter is focused on a different topic (sex, religion, violence, hunger, etc.). I wish I had taken more notes or highlighted more while actually reading it.

Though it was a bit heavy and dense for me at times, it has some really good info and explanations of feelings I have that I have trouble vocalizing or understanding. These problems are not just personal, they are cultural an
Oct 26, 2010 ayanami rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2010
Good arguments but presented really poorly. The first couple of chapters talk about the beauty myth like a conspiracy, as if there's a group of men holding meetings going "Hmm, how shall we make women feel inferior this time?" Naomi Wolf never clearly identifies "the oppressors" (which I infer from the text that it's a combination of various factors, including social hierarchy, the economy, and so on) though she does mention much later in the book that regular men are not into the thinness and b ...more
Jun 08, 2011 Katya rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011, feminism
Having mixed feelings for feminist manifestos seems to be the theme for me lately.

As a 'feel good for yourself' read, The Beauty Myth definitely finds the mark. It points out why exactly women feel inadequate because their bodies are not good enough, and why that is not true. I was especially touched of her portrait of an aging woman, where the wrinkles and laugh lines aren't a stigma of shame, but, on the contrary, evidence of a full life. I think this is an important message any woman should c
Cam S
Jun 15, 2007 Cam S rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: every woman I know
It's so melodramatic to say that every woman should read this book, but, well, every woman should read this book. Published in the early '90s, it definitely touches on points that have changed and evolved over the past 15 years, but the foundations of Wolf's argument are just as relevant today as they were then.

Wolf does get a bit preachy at times--I found myself skimming through sections where I felt a little like I was being beaten over the head with a point that had been adequately stated al
Jul 16, 2014 verbava rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: on-human-beings
навіть якщо здається, що мені-то, людині розумній і теоретично підкутій, яка усвідомлює сконструйованість естетичних канонів і тиск ідеології на особистість, книжка з назвою "про красу" дасть небагато нового, її варто читати. бо від цього потужного і пристрасного тексту щось змінюється не лише на інтелектуальному, а й на чуттєвому рівні – і змінюється в той симпатичніший бік.
звісно, застереження лишаються, особливо якщо бути, як я, прихильником ідеї про даремні пошуки злого умислу там, де все мо
Aug 16, 2007 Whitney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"So the beauty myth sets it up this way: A high rating as an art object is the most valuable tribute a woman can exact from her lover. If he appreciates her face and body because it is hers, that is next to worthless. It is very neat: The myth contrives to make women offend men by scrutinizing honest appreciation when they give it; it can make men offend women merely by giving them honest appreciation. It can manage to contaminate the sentence 'You're beautiful,' which is next to 'I love you' in ...more
May 23, 2014 Heather rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, own-it
Although it did make me think and it did make some good points, it has so many holes it's not even funny. Wolf focuses almost exclusively on the concerns of middle class white women. How can you talk about the suffering that beauty ideals can cause without talking about how white supremacist beauty ideals hurt women of colour? How can you talk about how beauty ideals affect romantic relationships without talking about queer women? How can you talk about gatekeeping based on meeting the beauty id ...more
Lolly K Dandeneau
Feb 28, 2009 Lolly K Dandeneau rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I especially liked the chapter on sex. A lot of women I know and have known and likely will know certainly have issues with their own sexuality and thinking about it in terms of 'am I sexy to HIM' rather than what makes me feel sated or what makes ME feel sexy. We are a very image based society. But I have also seen a turn around where men are starting to obsess about being good enough too, however, they are nowhere near the overload of an IDEAL BODY we women have to suffer through. Now that I h ...more
poorvi cowkur
The book brings up some great points about how in our male dominated world, the beauty myth is being used against women to undermine their achievements in society and compels them to focus all their energy in trying to obtain this never achievable goal of embodying the ultimate portrait of beauty.This promotes a culture of narcissism where women are taught to want to be desirable objects (the definition of desirable keeps changing with the whims of the capricious profit-motivated fashion industr ...more
I would have every person I know read this book. Wolf’s exposé of our skewed culture is even more relevant today than it was when it was published 20 years ago. Now if a woman speaks out against the insanity, she is labeled a “feminazi”, as though desiring equality is on par with fascism. A potential candidate for the President of the United States suggested the criticism he received from a woman over his sexism was due to her being on her period, or as he so eloquently stated, “bleeding from h ...more
Po Po
Nov 15, 2014 Po Po rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Whooaaaaaaa. Love, love, love this. Originally published in 1991, the numerical data is heavily outdated (expected for a 23 yr old book), but the idea of the "beauty myth" remains relevant.

Naomi Wolf's Beauty Myth is a treasure trove of conspiracy theories.

Although I don't agree that there were secret meetings and an organized plan by men-in-power to objectify and subordinate American women, I do agree that female marginalization did and still does occur. I don't agree that men-in-power somehow
This books makes the strong connection between mysogeny in popular media and consumerism. I agree with what Wolf says though I think that much of what she says about the objectification of women now applies to men to some degree as well.

The main point that she presents in the book is that even though modern Western women have a lot of new found rights and freesoms, they are still being subjected to the same kind of social control they experienced before the womens liberation movement. She expl
Jul 23, 2010 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminism
The Beauty Myth is pretty brave. It is brave because Wolf claims that women are living under a form of medieval mind control. This system of oppressive thoughts is created by the beauty industry seeking to make a profit off of women's insecurities and is perpetuated by patriarchal institutions that have a vested interest in withholding rights from women. This is a brave claim because it is so easy to refute. I can hear a critic say, "How do you know what women are thinking, Ms. Wolf?" And while ...more
Yellow Rose
Aug 21, 2012 Yellow Rose rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
According to the author beauty is a myth,I think the authors book is a myth. So much information and literature is published saying quite the contrary in fact that most women want to be beautiful and feminine no matter how much the feminists brainwash them. For scientific knowledge on the subject please read the "Survival of the Prettiest" By Nancy Etcoff.

Wolf writes about Work and complains that women work so much that and that now there is a standard of beauty that she must look good for a job
Sep 07, 2010 Felicity rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What is the Beauty Myth? I've read a lot of discussion about body image, beauty standards, and objectification, and this book comes up often, but I didn't know what the central "myth" was. Now I think it's more of a network of myths, a Gordian knot that Naomi Wolf tries to slice through here. The Beauty Myth might be expressed:
1. The beauty standard is objective and immutable (often, "based in inescapable biological fact") rather than cultural.
2. Women's value is determined by their beauty. (val
Nov 30, 2009 Punk rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Non-Fiction. Wolf argues that the media presents an unattainable ideal of female beauty in order to control women's behavior, divide their attention, curb their independence, erode their confidence, and turn them against themselves and each other, all for political gain.

I agree with a lot of the things Wolf says: women are underpaid compared to men; women have to put up with hiring practices that discriminate based on age and looks; women are treated as objects; women are often the subject of se
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Feminists Startin...: INTRO + THE BEAUTY MYTH 35 15 May 27, 2016 11:40PM  
Feminists Startin...: WORK 6 9 May 08, 2016 07:29AM  
The F-word: June NON-FICTION selection THE BEAUTY MYTH 15 37 Jun 29, 2015 08:29PM  
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  • Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message That Feminism's Work Is Done
  • Listen Up: Voices from the Next Feminist Generation
  • Sexual Politics
  • For Her Own Good: Two Centuries of the Experts' Advice to Women
Naomi Wolf is the author of seven books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Beauty Myth, The End of America and Give Me Liberty. She has toured the world speaking to audiences of all walks of life about gender equality, social justice, and, most recently, the defense of liberty in America and internationally. She is the cofounder of the Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership, which te ...more
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“Women who love themselves are threatening; but men who love real women, more so.” 495 likes
“A culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, but an obsession about female obedience. Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one.” 257 likes
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