Debbie Petersen's Reviews > The Beauty Myth

The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf
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Oct 16, 11

Read in October, 2011

Buried beneath a lot of hyperbole there are small nuggets of truth here and there in this book. However, once I got to her shrill assessment of cosmetic saleswomen, she lost me and was so off base and wrong that it made me doubt her conclusions in the rest of the book. Imagine my surprise to read that cosmetics salespeople "are trained with techniques akin to those used by professional cult converters and hypnotists. A former Children of God member says in Willa Appel's Cults in America:Programmed for Paradise that she sought out people in shopping malls who looked 'lost and vulnerable.'" Really? In my over two decades in the cosmetics industry and uncountable training sessions in that time, never once was I taught techniques in hypnotism or anything of the nature. I was taught how to match foundation correctly to a woman's skin tone, how to accomplish a smokey eye look, about the new season was bringing that we could look forward to using, etc. From page 108: "The saleswoman will move up close into the face of the shopper, ostensibly to apply the substances, but in fact generally much closer than she needs to be to do so." Wtf? "Cult converters are trained to stand very close to their potential subjects and stare fixedly in their eyes...you'd look for the weak spots in people." I can't wait to bring this book to the cosmetics department to share with my fellow cult leaders. I had no idea I wielded such power over women! All this time I thought I was helping them with skin care and makeup advice. Silly me. As far as standing too close, I have no idea where that came from. I do look into a woman's eyes to assist in choosing eye shadow colors. How else could I figure out which colors would be right for her?

So most of this book is extreme overgeneralizing and some rather dated conclusions which are really not relevant for today. Here is one quote I did enjoy from the end of the book: "The woman wins who calls herself beautiful and challenges the world to change to truly see her. A woman wins by giving herself and other women permission--to eat; to be sexual; to age; to wear overalls, a paste tiara, a Balenciaga gown, a second-hand opera cloak, or combat boots; to cover up or go practically naked; to do whatever we choose in following or ignoring our own aesthetic." This is the message I try to convey to the women I meet in my business and among my friends. You are already beautiful. Be yourself, proudly and without apology.
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