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The Beauty Myth

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  26,336 ratings  ·  1,786 reviews
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, ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published September 24th 2002 by Harper Perennial (first published 1990)
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Body Peace University Read this book multiple times. Where things bother you, it is good to ask yourself if you have bought into that myth or use it to survive in some way.…moreRead this book multiple times. Where things bother you, it is good to ask yourself if you have bought into that myth or use it to survive in some way. Sometimes the statements that are unsettling most challenge our views. Not saying her information is correct or that her research in that area is perfect. just wondering if you fixate on that potential detail to avoid uncomfortable information.(less)

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 ·  26,336 ratings  ·  1,786 reviews

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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
Sep 24, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Nov 30, 2007 rated it really liked it
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 a
Sep 09, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Jo (The Book Geek)
I've had this book on my shelf for a rather long time, and if I'm honest, I was a little anxious about reading it. I realise how dated it is, but also, I knew it wasn't going to make for light reading. I was right on both accounts, but, quite a lot of it I was in total agreement with.

For instance, it is well known, that in some workplaces, women are judged on their appearance, rather than their personal skills. And yes, this still happens, even more so than people think. We as women, are judged
Sep 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great book about deconstructing the myth of beauty and recognizing how patriarchy emphasizes our appearances to harm us all. Published in 1990, The Beauty Myth came out ahead of its time, as Naomi Wolf rails against the thin ideal, how companies lure women into buying products by making them feel insecure about their bodies, ageism, and so much more. I feel glad that more and more people talk nowadays about the cruelty of beauty standards and how we can love ourselves for more than how we look ...more
Aug 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Kara 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
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
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
Tanja Berg
Nov 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminism, non-fiction
Although this book was released in 1991, it is still relevant today. The liberation of women in the sense of getting legal rights as human beings, such as voting rights and access to birth control, lead to a backlash. In order to disempower women, we were made to think we were ugly and inundated with images of what the perfect woman should look like and how to get there. Bulimia and anorexia are still rampant. A woman is still supposed to be wrinkle-free, and we're still supposed to spend inordi ...more
Julie Ehlers
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 and ...more
Jun 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Literary Ames
*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 behavi
Katie Boyer
Nov 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 14, 2021 rated it liked it
In spite of my own mind, I cannot blame this book for some of its more outdated aspects. Wolf could not have predicted the impact social media would have on beauty standards in modern society, which makes the sections of the book that look hopefully towards the future ring depressingly hollow. However not being on the cutting edge of feminist theory does not necessarily diminish the value of this book, rather I found it to be a great personal reminder of what is truly important when considering ...more
Maja  - BibliophiliaDK ✨
Sadly, this book is still very much relevant today...

"'Beauty' is a currency system like the gold standard."

"The beauty myth is not about women at all. It is about men's institutions and institutional power."

"It would be pathetic if young women had to go back to the beginning because we were taken in by an unoriginal twenty-year campaign to portray the women's movement as 'not sexy'"
Scarlett O.H.
This book really changed my view of the world. I think every woman should read this book. The ranking of women by an officially approved beauty ideal and the invisibility in the media of all non-standard beautiful women is only getting worse now with social media and the popularity contest that this has turned into!

It was a bit hard to get into at first and here in the Netherlands where I live, cosmetic surgery is still not as popular and common as in America (thank god!) but there is enough in
Yellow Rose
Aug 21, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
Mar 10, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminism, us
To live in fear of one's own body and one's life is not to live at all. The resulting life-fearing neuroses are everywhere. They are in the woman who will take a lover, go to Nepal, learn to skydive, swim naked, demand a raise, "when she loses this weight" - but in the eternal meantime maintains her wow of chastity or self-denial. They are in the woman who can never enjoy a meal, who never feels thin enough, or that the occasion is special enough, to drop her guard and become one with the moment
Lolly K Dandeneau
Feb 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Review from May 2020:
"For every feminist action there is an equal and opposite beauty myth reaction."
This is the central thesis of The Beauty Myth, which challenges the notion of 'beauty' as a metric for women's valuation and identifies its usage, especially in modern times, as a deliberate and debilitating counter to the emancipation gained by western women under first and second wave feminism.

And it's true. While beauty has always been pain, it has more subtle implications from the tw
Mar 26, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Nov 07, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminism, nonfiction
This book took me forever to get through! My favorite part was how it put into words things I’ve thought or felt but was unable to vocalize. However, it does feel a bit dated, it’s incredibly dense, and I thought some of her generalizations were a bit problematic. I definitely see why this is considered essential reading on the feminist bookshelf, but its density dulled the power of the message for me.
This book provided me with a good second-hand understanding of the role beauty played in the 80s, but I wish I had read it earlier because if you have insight into how advertising works, most of this book will sound familiar. While I do think that the internet has changed how we see beauty, this book was still worth a read as an intro into advertising and body image as seen through a feminist lens.
Feb 08, 2022 rated it really liked it
Shelves: feminism, politics
Point off for data falsification , though all the data is skewed in the correct way exaggerating statistics to fit a certain narrative is never a good look and takes away from the credibility of an incredibly accessible if not generalized piece of feminist literature. However if you have a moronic but perhaps well meaning man in your life they might be able to dig into this one to try and understand your woeful feminine psyche
Barbara (The Bibliophage)
Inspired by The Beauty Myth and by its author Naomi Wolf, I went to the gym this morning with a new set of eyes. And no makeup, my hair pulled back in a poof of raggedy curls on my head. Oh wait, that’s how I always go to the gym or the pool for my workouts. But the nudges and whomps on my head from Wolf’s 1990 book feel as relevant today (or possibly more so) than it must have then.

Naomi Wolf is a scholar and philosopher, as well as being a feminist writer. She analyzes the details of women’s l
Ayala Levinger
Aug 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
damn wrote a long review and it is gone.
I have read it a long time ago and also met Naomi and she signed my over-read marked all over copy!
I recommend this book a lot, together with Emer O'toole Girls Will Be Girls: Dressing Up, Playing Parts and Daring to Act Differently especially in a FB group I moderate for women (or people who are precieved as women) who don't remove body hair. I find this book helpful. it keep you focusing on your anger about lookist oppression.
I only find the conclusio
Jul 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, feminism
The brilliance of this book is demonstrating how the patriarchy is self-reinforcing, as well as the price women pay for meeting (or not meeting) the beauty standard. It's a great work of feminism, even if Wolf has since said some really stupid stuff. ...more
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Our Shared Shelf ...: The Beauty Myth: Best Chapter? 4 31 Oct 21, 2017 09:33PM  
Seattle Feminist ...: Saturday Brunch 6 10 Aug 09, 2017 03:05PM  
Our Shared Shelf: Images of Women in Ads and Pornography 9 256 Aug 06, 2017 08:37AM  
Feminists Startin...: INTRO + THE BEAUTY MYTH 35 29 May 27, 2016 11:40PM  
Feminists Startin...: WORK 6 12 May 08, 2016 07:29AM  

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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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