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Beauty mania. Quando la bellezza diventa ossessione

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  1,838 ratings  ·  258 reviews
Award-winning Northwestern University psychology professor Dr. Renee Engeln reveals how the cultural obsession with women's appearance is an epidemic that harms their ability to get ahead and to live happy, meaningful lives, in this powerful, eye-opening work in the vein of Naomi Wolf, Peggy Orenstein, and Sheryl Sandberg.

Today’s young women face a bewildering set of contr
Paperback, 446 pages
Published January 18th 2018 by Harpercollins Italia (first published April 19th 2017)
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I consider this book invaluable now more than ever when, despite a revitalized women’s rights movement, objectification of women shows no sign of ending. In fact, as author Renee Engeln pointed out, not only do media continue to objectify women, women self-objectify. These are the sexy selfies, the dressing for the male gaze, to name two examples. That’s proof of internalization of media objectification, sexism that very often gets a free pass. It’s a sign that modern culture is what Engeln call ...more
Bam cooks the books ;-)
I found this to be remarkably sage advice from the author's grandfather: "Never be too proud of your youth or your beauty. You did nothing to earn them and you can do nothing to keep them."

And I quite liked this poem by Rupi Kaur that Dr Engeln quotes:
"i want to apologize to all women
i have called pretty.
before i've called them intelligent or brave.
i am sorry i made it sound as though
something as simple as what you're born with
is the most you have to be proud of"

And I've observed this many times
Mar 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
“Beauty sickness turns us away from the world and drains our compassion. It leaves us stuck in our heads, bound by our reflections.”

Highly recommend.
Paula Fernandez
I felt this book functioned more as an op ed than a piece of real research. I know the social sciences are pretty loose with what they accept as evidence, but the author has put about 80% of the weight of proving her points on a series of interviews of mostly young women who were directed to her precisely because they have the beauty sick characteristics she was looking for.

There was very little attempt to systematically approach the topic. "Beauty sick"is never formally defined... its left as
I anticipated that this book, like most psychology books designed for the General Public, would involve summarizing a lot of research I already knew in the way that was interesting and possibly related to my life. What I didn't expect was Renee's voice and passion to reach through the pages and make me feel how beauty sickness has affected me and others on a deeper level. I was sickened by the negative way women talk about and view their own bodies. I related to the shame people felt about their ...more
Aug 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a great book. I listened to it on audiobook and every day I came home with things to talk about with my wife.

I have often said that there's a handbook for boys and a handbook for girls but it's unfair that the boys handbook doesn't say anything about girls while the girls handbook includes the boys handbook in its entirety. I know that's just my own silly idea, But what I enjoyed so much about this book is I feel like I really gain some insight into The pressure that women and girls fac
Jan 13, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I must admit, I hold the opinion that anyone with eyes and a brain and some time to reflect upon the Western trends and obsessions would arrive at similar conclusions as Engeln even without interviewing all the different girls and women, but perhaps I'm wrong.
It was interesting enough, but neither particularly eye-opening nor really to the point but kinda all over the place.

Aurora Dimitre
The thing is--Engeln had some good ideas, and I think her thesis as a whole is something that is worth looking in to.

I wasn't as big of a fan of the execution, for a couple of reasons:
1) Just because someone does count calories does not automatically mean they have an eating disorder. Even if they count calories to lose weight. Eating disorders come from the actual feeling someone has toward food.

2) Also, CICO isn't going to not work because of your magical metabolism. You're eating less/more
I've been a huge fan of Renee since I took her Intro to Psychology course way back in the day. This book is like seeing her lecture: conversationally engaging with lots of anecdotes and data. That said, this book almost felt TOO narrow in focus and too dependent on case studies. While Beauty Sickness's effect on women is a worthy research topic, I felt like the book didn't focus enough on how to navigate Beauty Sickness other than to opt out, which is not always an option. How does Beauty Sickne ...more
Aug 06, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-2019
I wish I learnt more about the author's research from this book because she hardly gives any details on her methods and mostly focuses on quoting some of the women she interviewed. I also found a few parts quite embarrassing - she literally admits that she heard about k-pop from an Asian-American woman she had talked to, then googled some info and... decided to put her opinion in the book. Considering Renee Engeln is a university professor, it's just... Yeah, I'll leave that sentence unfinished. ...more
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
If, as the author posits, the vast majority of women waste an inordinate amount of time and mental energy obsessing about whether their appearance meets an unattainable ideal, that is a true waste. Her research at Northwestern University seems to support this. And the solution, if I understand correctly, is simply not to talk to girls about their appearance. Girls are already deluged with media images of retouched, photoshopped women. Lets do our daughters and granddaughters a big favor and stop ...more
Apr 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Yes. Important. Ladies, the science supports some of what you already know. But! Some of what maybe you think you know isn't supported by the data. The first 75% is not too cheerful, but the last quarter is 1) really heartening and 2) really USEFUL. Share this book with your loved ones. ...more
Apr 04, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy, sociology
I love the idea, the message and the stories of interviewees but the writing style of this book is not my favorite.

The beauty sick is a complex problem and seems to be unable to change in this society. The advice from this book is to turn down the volume of beauty sick inside your head. You can do that by loving your body for its function instead of focusing on the beauty part. Moreover, women should decrease fat talk about themselves and others. Society has put much pressure on women's appeara
Jul 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminism, non-fiction
I was introduced to Dr. Renee Engeln on Alie Ward's podcast, Ologies, where Englen was interviewed about beauty standards. Englen was smart and funny and just the right amount of angry—a lot—so I sought out her book.

And it's excellent, but for obvious reasons I could only read a chapter at a time. The good news is that even though the subject matter is very difficult to read about, the prose is very easy to read—though I did immediately get sick of the term "beauty sickness." I almost feel like
Hiba Arrame
Sep 26, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology
This is a very self-centered review, do feel free to skip

I have always struggled with my appearance and body image, I remember it started when I was around 10 or 11 and one of my sisters told me that my belly looked like I'm pregnant. She might not have meant it in a mean way but it stuck with me, and my yearning to a slim body started then.
Then, in middle school, I started noticing how my eyebrows met in the middle, and I started hearing from other girls how ugly that made me look and I shoul
Feb 11, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The concepts presented were powerful and really pushed me to think about the way I say and do things related to appearance. I think awareness is the real key to changing the way society views beauty. I hope to be more aware as a woman and especially as a mother.
Jul 10, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was intrigued by this book a couple months ago when I heard the author interviewed on NPR. Having two teenaged daughters I thought it would be beneficial to hear her advice on how to limit the influence of the ever-present pressure to be thin and beautiful that we see and feel in this society. I was disappointed to find that the majority of the book is spent discussing the problem and all the studies and research showing that there IS a problem, and very little time giving solutions on how to ...more
This book was really hard to get through because it was so emotionally draining. I found myself thinking multiple times “There’s no way to get around all of this cultural obsession. It’s a never ending, but ever deepening cycle.” But the last chapter redeemed it and gave hope. This author did a LOT of really great research and had great interviews and cultural examples. I’m just rating it this way because it took such an emotional toll on me to read it.
Andrea Pm
Mar 06, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: maybe
I end up reading this book because my Instagram feed recommended it, but it was so tedious to read the same stories different names. The information is so repetitive, the data so meh, a lot of blaming media and parenting issues. Although it was a good idea badly executed, I wish the author would have explored other cultures, like Europe, Africa or the Middle East. Also. I won't recommend it. ...more
Apr 01, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The messages in this book are important, but it was soooo repetitive that I found it hard to read. Hence why it took me 2 months to finish.
Rose Elliott
Oct 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a fascinating study of society and the expectations it places on women in regards to dress, make-up, weight, and beauty/appearance in general. The author's thesis, that a cultural focus on beauty serves only to hurt women, is well thought out and backed up through interviews and studies she discussed in the book. Interestingly enough, I finished this book and then logged in to Twitter to see that AOC's expensive (and borrowed) Vanity Fair photoshoot outfit was causing an uproar. It was ...more
Sep 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I would HIGHLY recommend this. I didn't see myself as one particularly afflicted with "beauty sickness," but I am so glad I read this. It really helped me see things the way I want to, instead of how I've been conditioned to. That makes it sound like it's one of those books that makes us think we've all been brain-washed and the only cure is through reading this book, which usually means its a ridiculous book. But this was fantastic.

I appreciate having a better understanding of how the every da
Every woman should read this.
Anna Morgenstern
3.5\, not a strong 4.
I kept feeling while listening to it that it is what "The Beauty Myth" tried to achieve but failed (more about that on : my review here).
Firstly, this book actually acknowledged the existence of non-white women which was nice, however, it was still lacking in more diversity; here too the LGBTQ+ community was never mentioned.
Second, and I know it's not fair to compare them on the base of relevance since they were written decades apart, "Beauty Sick" is more relevant to nowada
Apr 06, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Nothing new or unique that couldn't be found in Naomi Wolf's work. There were a lot of takes presented that completely ignored systemic imbalances in power and privilege. Most of the time the author presented two opposing intersections of identity as equal whole completely ignoring the element of power and societal expectations that negatively effect one group significantly more than the other. I had to increase the speed of the audiobook after about half way through because it was clear the aut ...more
Sep 18, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Book club pick, some of the members are connected with NW university and know her. I found this didn't tell me anything particularly new and insightful. The way she presents her findings as presuming that this is breaking news! to the reader got irritating after a while. Perhaps this is a tool best placed in the hands of an unsure teenager. I have to say the most 'shocking and provocative' to quote the blurb, thing I found was the comments and responses to the bleedingly obvious social experimen ...more
Jul 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
If you are human, have children, or are interested in bettering society in general, for the love of everyone read this book. It's message is clear, concise, and understandable. No one is perfect. We will never reach what the world perceives as an "ideal" for our bodies, but how can we combat that ideal? Time to learn how to help yourself, and help others with it as well. Pick up this book somewhere and give it a shot. You won't regret it. ...more
Sep 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminist
Wonderful. A great follow-up to The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf. The science is there in studies of how America's obsession with beauty hurts women, but the heart of the book is in the case studies -- candid and loving interviews with real women. And the ending is so positive! There is hope that we can recover and help the next generation of women learn to love their bodies for what they can do in all their infinite variety. ...more
May 20, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Horrible. This book was sent to me at work (I teach women's and gender studies), but I think the target audience is teenage girls and young women more than it is college professors.

Please do not give this to your daughters, or to anyone. Renee Engeln is obsessed with "beauty"; it's unhealthy and only propagates the problem. She even says as much.

Instead, read The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf.
Beauty Sick is a thought provoking and illuminating read which explores the way that girls and women of all ages are affected variably by the concept of "beauty sickness". Engeln succinctly explores the various elements of beauty sickness from the need to constantly check the mirror to not being able to leave the house without make-up or the belief that as women we can only be happy and successful if we fulful the coventional beauty standard portrayed in the media. It covers topics such as objec ...more
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Dr. Renee Engeln is a professor at Northwestern University, where she teaches about psychopathology, the psychology of women and gender, social psychology, and the psychology of human beauty. She is an award-winning professor, having amassed over a dozen teaching awards at both Loyola University and Northwestern.

Engeln is regularly interviewed by media outlets, including The New York Times, Chica

News & Interviews

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252 likes · 26 comments
“Beyond creating unrealistic ideals and distorting our idea of what women actually look like, media images of women do another type of damage as well. They are one of the main sources of the sexual objectification of women, constantly conveying that women's bodies exist for others to evaluate and use at will. When we see women portrayed as objects in media imagery, it's a reminder of how often women are valued only for their bodies. The message of these images is clear: You exist for being looked at. 9 likes
“Idealized media images of women are far from being the only important target when it comes to our beauty-sick culture, but their sheer ubiquity means we can't underestimate their impact. We also cannot pretend that what we see in the media doesn't shape our thoughts and behaviors. It might be tempting to think that your mind is locked behind some protective wall, safe from the influence of the media onslaught, but that's not how brains work. We are all affected by these images. Their influence is insidious, and there is no magic force field to keep it out.” 5 likes
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