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The Beauty Myth

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3.89  ·  Rating details ·  14,244 Ratings  ·  785 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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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
Jessica
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 ag
...more
Lani
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
...more
Ian
Sep 24, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
...more
Alieda
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
El
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
...more
Andrew
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
Chris
Apr 15, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: feminist
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
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
...more
Rachel
Jun 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Ana Rînceanu
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.
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
...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 ...more
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
...more
Ceilidh
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
Ylenia
Nov 09, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ylenia by: Booktube
Shelves: i-own-it, 2016-reads
#NonFictionNovember 2016: IMPORTANT.

3.25 stars

We do not need to change our bodies, we need to change the rules.

I had high hopes for this book.
First of all, this is a condensed version of The Beauty Myth which, originally, was something like 380 pages. The version I read is the short and tiny one, barely 120 pages.
The original version was also published in 1990: 26 years ago. Me being stupid I thought 1990 was like 6 years ago, because it feels like that, but it's actually like a quarter of
...more
ayanami
Jul 14, 2010 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
Heather
Oct 23, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Katya
Jun 08, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
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
...more
David
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
It's a helluva book.

First, some caveats:

The book is 17 years old at the time of this reading. It did not correctly predict the future, and really, how could it be expected to? Not many of Naomi Wolf's prognostications of our dystopian nightmare future came true (but a fair number of trends have indeed increased). There is a great deal of hyperbole in this book, and also assumptions that the reader and those affected by the beauty myth are middle class and (even if unspoken) white.

However, this
...more
Cam S
Jun 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Po Po
Nov 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Jessica Warland
2.5 stars. Not a massive fan of this educational feminist book. Gotta be honest. It felt like a lot of the time was spent talking to me, the reader, as if the writer was a teacher and I respond much better to conversational non-fiction. However, it was really helpful in terms of statistics. It was written in 1990, and unfortunately, not much or enough has changed. Give it a go if you like really educational books, but I prefer ones that are much easier to read.
verbava
Jun 02, 2014 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
...more
Punk
Sep 01, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Whitney
Aug 08, 2007 rated it really liked it
"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
Lobo
Oct 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: akademia
Najbardziej przerażającą częścią opracowania Wolf jest jego aktualność. Owłosienia ciała kobiety wciąż wzbudza większe emocje niż jakiekolwiek palące zagadnienie społeczne, jak brutalność policji, zanik praw pracowniczych czy wszelkie formy wyzysku. Kontrola kobiecego ciała - a przez to zachowań, myśli i świadomości kobiet – wciąż jest zapalnym punktem naszej kultury. I chociaż Wolf pełna nadziei wypisuje nie tylko sposoby przetransformowania mitu urody tak, aby służył kobietom, a nie działał pr ...more
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
Kaethe
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.
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  • Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women
  • Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future
  • Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body
  • Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape
  • The Female Eunuch
  • The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution
  • Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture
  • Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape
  • Bitches, Bimbos, and Ballbreakers: The Guerrilla Girls' Illustrated Guide to Female Stereotypes
  • The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls
  • Full Frontal Feminism
  • A Brief History of Misogyny: The World's Oldest Prejudice
  • How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America: Freedom, Politics, and the War on Sex
  • Fat Is a Feminist Issue
  • 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
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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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“Women who love themselves are threatening; but men who love real women, more so.” 565 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.” 317 likes
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