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Beauty and Misogyny: Harmful Cultural Practices in the West

(Women and Psychology)

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  233 ratings  ·  23 reviews
Should western beauty practices, ranging from lipstick to labiaplasty, be included within the United Nations understandings of harmful traditional/cultural practices? By examining the role of common beauty practices in damaging the health of women, creating sexual difference, and enforcing female deference, this book argues that they should.

In the 1970s feminists criticize
Paperback, 216 pages
Published June 23rd 2005 by Routledge (first published May 1st 2005)
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3.97  · 
Rating details
 ·  233 ratings  ·  23 reviews

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Nov 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Although there is a certain amount to recommend in this thorough critique of beauty practises, it also contains some significantly problematic elements. I found it deeply thought-provoking, though, so much so that I started writing my review before I’d even finished reading. For that, it deserves three stars.

‘Beauty and Misogyny’ links neatly to Gail Dines’ Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, which provides quite a bit of practise to back up Jeffreys’ theory in chapter four. It also a
Jul 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
“In the west women are supposed to be empowered, possessed of opportunities and choices unimaginable only a generation ago, yet these same women are hobbled by clothing and shoes, maimed by surgery in way that the feminist generation of the 1970s could not have imagined.”

If you care about women, this book will make you angry. Jeffreys makes lucid and incisive analysis of the harmful standards of beauty and the choices women have under them, which are no choices at all. A true antidote to the poi
missy jean
Jan 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Jeffreys details the physical and psychological harms caused by Western beauty practices, and argues that they should be considered as being from the same mold as harmful cultural practices from other parts of the world. I completely agree with this-- FGM in Africa and labiaplasty/breast implants in the USA grow from similar male-centric ideologies, that women's sexual attractiveness to men and their ability to meet arbitrary cultural beauty standards are paramount pursuits for women, worth cutt ...more
Liz Gum
Apr 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Fantastic book. As a recent "born again" radical feminist (former liberal feminist), I have been digging into any radical feminist literature I can get my hands on. I learned so much from this book. Things that I feel like I always "knew" but could never quite come to terms with psychologically. Jeffreys makes clear the material reality that Western women live in, and it can be hard to swallow for some. However, she ends on a hopeful note, showing the reader that just because misogyny is the nor ...more
Aug 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
An eye opening read for sure, especially as Sheila Jeffreys is my lecturer at the moment. Her commentary though radical is thought provoking and that I can appreciate. Though I didn't agree with it all, I was able to indulge in new viewpoints that I've ner considered before.
Nov 16, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I found this book of hard-core, old-school feminism whilst browsing the half-empty shelves of my soon-to-be demolished local library.

The central tenant of this book is that western beauty practices (from lipstick wearing to high heels and breast implants) should be registered with the UN as ‘harmful cultural practices’.

Not sure that I understood all of it (I skipped some pages), nor agreed with everything, but I do agree that most of us are spending too much time waxing, plucking, dying, exfoli
Lestari Hairul
May 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The book that haunted me long after I was done with it. I stopped wearing makeup and bras, f'real.
Oliver Björnsson
Mar 04, 2017 rated it did not like it
I hasten to insert myself into feminist debates, but this book is hateful.

I'll let Judith Butler take over:
" I have never agreed with Sheila Jeffreys or Janice Raymond, and for many years have been on quite the contrasting side of feminist debates. She appoints herself to the position of judge, and she offers a kind of feminist policing of trans lives and trans choices. I oppose this kind of prescriptivism, which seems me to aspire to a kind of feminist tyranny.

If she makes use of social constru
Feb 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I give this book 5 stars for presenting fresh, controversial perspectives on sexism and gender in America and the UK. I found this book randomly and read it from start to finish in one day. I lowered my rating to 4 stars because I reserve 5 stars for books I would happily read more than once.

I don't need to agree with all or most of the arguments an author presents. What I need is for an author to present arguments and ideas in a way that blows my mind and makes me critically think about how I
Sep 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book deserves to be more popular in my opinion. It highlights something that many people in the West take for granted. Women are expected to wear makeup, remove all body hair, diet until they are an `acceptable' weight and even contemplate drastic cosmetic surgery if their bodies do not match up in every way to modern society's ideas of beauty. Where is the difference between some cosmetic surgery practices and cultural practices in other countries which mutilate women as a matter of routin ...more
Gayle Noble
May 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: feminism, non-fiction
I'm not sure that 'enjoyed' is the right way to describe my experience in reading this book as parts of it made me absolutely furious. It was certainly very informative though.

Being naturally tall, I've never felt the need to wear heels so have been spared the pain and I rarely wear make-up but even I have not been immune to some of the demands talked about in this book. I find it depressing that women, from being young girls, are made to feel that every bit of their bodies are not good enough a
Roane Swindon
Jun 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
I absolutely enjoyed this book from cover to cover. It is filled with interesting anecdotes, little-known facts, and theories on sexuality and the media that will open your mind. Highly recommended!

Read my full review on my blog here.
Dec 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
Sheila Jeffries is a very extreme militant kind of feminist, and so she gets alot of bad press. HOWEVER....IF you put that aside, and read this book, some of the points about plastic surgery, make up, sex industries, and fashion, are extremely thought provoking and interesting.

While I do not buy Jeffreys' idea that as a women, you cannot be a feminist if you sleep with men, I do think she makes some excellent observations about society, and the roles and perceptions of women within the west espe
I'm just not able to finish this. There are some interesting ideas in this book, although I think the whole take on homosexuality and transgender is a bit simplified and, to be honest, strange. For the subject matter I'd love to finish it, but this would need some editing... On the other hand this doesn't really give me a lot of new ideas, so decided to lem it. If you want to feel sick all over, read the chapter about labiaplasty...
Sep 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Just amazing. Sheila Jeffreys is never afraid to name the truth. Clear and concise
Apr 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
scary , insightful, clever, "ballsy" ;) feminism with hammers.
Nov 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Honestly regardless of the ideology this was such an amazing reading experience. I was googling things (if anyone is tracing my internet usage and history I'm sorry for the ... alarming searches), having a perpetual internal debate and pacing around my room thinking about this book and my own opinions

I really adored that the writing style for this book was so simple and straightforward which allows your time and focus to be devoted to the actual content, rather than having to google obscure jarg
Sep 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: feminism
This book was more than I was expecting in many senses. I do not agree with her interpretations of Christianity, but I do sure agree that many beauty practices directed towards women are influenced by prostitution and pornography, and she's quick to criticize the liberal movement for it. This is sure some level of awareness worth mentioning in the Left. Especially relevant for its callout of Bill Clinton's positive attitude towards the sex industry (and women in the US were supposed to vote for ...more
Jan 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book in my opinion, is a must read for all women.

It's hard for me (a guy) to really swallow the level women have internalized culturally mandated beauty practices to a point of complete acceptance, however because of that inability, it was quite easy for me to see the institutionalized self hating of women in our culture after reading this book. Not sure if that makes sense!

Having said that, she makes a very compelling case against Western beauty practices: make-up, cosmetic surgery, high
Feb 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
theres a lot of controversial stuff in here regarding transgenderism but i really think this is so essential for women.
i've been having a lot of trouble recently with the idea in popular feminism right now that turns makeup, heels, and hypersexualisation into some kind of empowering tool. jeffreys critiques the ways these things restrict and harm women, maintaining inequality, and details all the toxicity and damage which products, fashion, and cosmetic surgery result in which is largely ignored
Juliana Santos
Feb 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Quem tem medo do feminismo radical ?
Não resta pedra sobre pedra após a leitura atenta deste que é um divisor de águas para a interpretação de tradições culturais de beleza no ocidente escrito pela feminista Sheila Jeffreys. No livro, ela expõe a hipocrisia de feministas ocidentais em taxar práticas de beleza direcionadas exclusivamente a mulheres como “escolha” e “capacidade de exercer agencia” quando na cultura ocidental e taxar práticas similares das culturas orientais como “opressivas”. ( ex
Jun 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
While I couldn't quite get behind some of Jeffreys discussions about transgenderism, this is a good read nonetheless.
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Bhuvharshita Bhargava
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Jan 09, 2017
Margarita Omm
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Nov 02, 2014
Eslam Matty
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Jun 08, 2016
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Sheila Jeffreys writes and teaches in the areas of sexual politics, international gender politics, and lesbian and gay politics. She has written six books on the history and politics of sexuality. Originally from the UK, Sheila moved to Melbourne in 1991 to take up a position at the University of Melbourne. She has been actively involved in feminist and lesbian feminist politics, particularly arou ...more

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“Both the veil and makeup are often seen as voluntary behaviours by women, taken up by choice and to express agency. But in both cases there is considerable evidence of the pressures arising from male dominance that cause the behaviours. For instance, the historian of commerce Kathy Peiss suggests that the beauty products industry took off in the USA in the 1920s/1930s because this was a time when women were entering the public world of offices and other workplaces (Peiss, 1998). She sees women as having made themselves up as a sign of their new freedom. But there is another explanation. Feminist commentators on the readoption of the veil by women in Muslim countries in the late twentieth century have suggested that women feel safer and freer to engage in occupations and movement in the public world through covering up (Abu-Odeh, 1995). It could be that the wearing of makeup signifies that women have no automatic right to venture out in public in the west on equal grounds with men. Makeup, like the veil, ensures that they are masked and not having the effrontery to show themselves as the real and equal citizens that they should be in theory. Makeup and the veil may both reveal women’s lack of entitlement.” 11 likes
“Women incorporate the values of the male sexual objectifiers within themselves. Catharine MacKinnon calls this being "thingified" in the head (MacKinnon, 1989). They learn to treat their own bodies as objects separate from themselves. Bartky explains how this works: the wolf whistle sexually objectifies a woman from without with the result that, ``"The body which only a moment before I inhabited with such ease now floods my consciousness. I have been made into an object'' (Bartky, 1990, p. 27). She explains that it is not sufficient for a man simply to look at the woman secretly, he must make her aware of his looking with the whistle.

She must, "be made to know that I am a 'nice piece of ass': I must be made to see myself as they see me'' (p. 27). The effect of such male policing behaviour is that, "Subject to the evaluating eye of the male connoisseur, women learn to evaluate themselves first and best'" (Bartky, 1990, p. 28).

Women thus become alienated from their own bodies.”
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