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The Beauty Myth

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3.89  ·  Rating details ·  15,056 Ratings  ·  879 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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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
Thomas
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
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
Tanja Berg
Nov 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, feminism
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
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
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
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.
Emily
Nov 07, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, feminism
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.
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
#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
Maria
Aug 22, 2017 rated it liked it
после каждой такой книги хочется водрузить флаг куда-нибудь - мол, я взошел и герой. впечатления, меж тем, противоречивые. с одной стороны, "миф о красоте", безусловно, произведение для феминистской риторики программное. бодипозитив растет оттуда, осмысление сексуальности, объятие разумом масштабов насилия - страницы и страницы переворачиваешь с жуткими цифрами статистики об изнасилованиях, педофилии, увечьях, убийствах, смертности от анорексии, жертвах пластической хирургии. знать это всё надо, ...more
ayanami
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
Sophie
Aug 17, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: social-science
A tough read! Wolf zooms out to dizzying heights, makes questionable jumps in logic and sweeping generalisations, and the book is badly in need of an update (the chapter on Culture particularly is almost obsolete).
That said, looking at history from such height does lay bare patterns you otherwise can't see. And I recognized a lot of the beauty myth's insidious influence in my own life, and feel a little more able to deal with that now. I found the last chapter hopeful and helpful.
Also, I've neve
...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
Ayala Levinger
Aug 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
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
...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
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
...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
More about Naomi Wolf...
“Women who love themselves are threatening; but men who love real women, more so.” 586 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.” 345 likes
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