Read The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf for free with a 30 day free trial. Women who complained about the beauty myth were assumed to have a personal. This exam is based on Caroline Knapp's Add Cake, Subtract Self-Esteem and Naomi Wolf's The. Beauty Myth. Both essays offer a perspective on the forces that . NAOMI WOLF. The Beauty Myth. Before Kate Moss there was Twiggy, and before Twiggy, well, women weren't expected to look so slim-not, at least, if we judge.
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fulfill society's impossible definition of "the flawless beauty." Annotation. In this controversial national bestseller, feminist scholar Naomi Wolf argues that there is . The Beauty Myth. Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth: Hw Images of Beauty Are Used. Against Women. Anchor Books. It last, after a long silence, women took to. The beauty myth by Naomi Wolf, , Anchor Books edition, in English - 1st Anchor Books ed.
Where modern women are growing, moving, and expressing their individuality, as the myth has it, beauty is by definition inert, timeless, and generic. They alerted diet programs that they must not misleadingly promise permanent weight loss results without sufficient studies to back up those results. Women who complained about the beauty myth were assumed to have a personal shortcoming themselves: Every woman should read it. There is no longer an ad budget driving magazine articles about breast-size anxiety, articles that once fed that anxiety and created even more demand for the product. The same is argued in Simone de Beauvoir 's The Second Sex , in which she recounts the effects of societies that condition adolescent girls and young women to behave in feminine ways.
The contemporary backlash is so violent because the ideology of beauty is the last one remaining of the old feminine ideologies that still has the power to control those women whom second wave feminism would have otherwise made relatively uncontrollable: It has grown stronger to take over the work of social coercion that myths about motherhood, domesticity, chastity, and passivity, no longer can manage. It is seeking right now to undo psychologically and covertly all the good things that feminism did for women materially and overtly.
This counterforce is operating to checkmate the inheritance of feminism on every level in the lives of Western women. Patriarchal religion declined; new religious dogma, using some of the mind-altering techniques of older cults and sects, arose around age and weight to functionally supplant traditional ritual.
Reproductive rights gave Western women control over our own bodies; the weight of fashion models plummeted to 23 percent below that of ordinary women, eating disorders rose exponentially, and a mass neurosis was promoted that used food and weight to strip women of that sense of control. Women insisted on politicizing health; new technologies of invasive, potentially deadly cosmetic surgeries developed apace to re-exert old forms of medical control of women. Every generation since about has had to fight its version of the beauty myth.
It is very little to me, said the suffragist Lucy Stone in , to have the right to vote, to own property, etcetera, if I may not keep my body, and its uses, in my absolute right.
In , Betty Friedan quoted a young woman trapped in the Feminine Mystique: Eight years after that, heralding the cataclysmic second wave of feminism, Germaine Greer described the Stereotype: In spite of the great revolution of the second wave, we are not exempt. Now we can look out over ruined barricades: A revolution has come upon us and changed everything in its path, enough time has passed since then for babies to have grown into women, but there still remains a final right not fully claimed.
The beauty myth tells a story: The quality called beauty objectively and universally exists. Women must want to embody it and men must want to possess women who embody it. This embodiment is an imperative for women and not for men, which situation is necessary and natural because it is biological, sexual, and evolutionary: Strong men battle for beautiful women, and beautiful women are more reproductively successful.
None of this is true. Beauty is a currency system like the gold standard. Like any economy, it is determined by politics, and in the modern age in the West it is the last, best belief system that keeps male dominance intact. In assigning value to women in a vertical hierarchy according to a culturally imposed physical standard, it is an expression of power relations in which women must unnaturally compete for resources that men have appropriated for themselves.
Beauty is not universal or changeless, though the West pretends that all ideals of female beauty stem from one Platonic Ideal Woman; the Maori admire a fat vulva, and the Padung, droopy breasts. Nor is beauty a function of evolution: Its ideals change at a pace far more rapid than that of the evolution of species, and Charles Darwin was himself unconvinced by his own explanation that beauty resulted from a sexual selection that deviated from the rule of natural selection; for women to compete with women through beauty is a reversal of the way in which natural selection affects all other mammals.
Anthropology has overturned the notion that females must be beautiful to be selected to mate: Evelyn Reed, Elaine Morgan, and others have dismissed sociobiological assertions of innate male polygamy and female monogamy. Female higher primates are the sexual initiators; not only do they seek out and enjoy sex with many partners, but every nonpregnant female takes her turn at being the most desirable of all her troop.
And that cycle keeps turning as long as she lives. The inflamed pink sexual organs of primates are often cited by male sociobiologists as analogous to human arrangements relating to female beauty, when in fact that is a universal, nonhierarchical female primate characteristic.
Nor has the beauty myth always been this way. Though the pairing of the older rich men with young, beautiful women is taken to be somehow inevitable, in the matriarchal Goddess religions that dominated the Mediterranean from about 25, B.
In every culture, the Goddess has many lovers…. Among the Nigerian Wodaabes, the women hold economic power and the tribe is obsessed with male beauty; Wodaabe men spend hours together in elaborate makeup sessions, and compete—provocatively painted and dressed, with swaying hips and seductive expressions—in beauty contests judged by women.
If the beauty myth is not based on evolution, sex, gender, aesthetics, or God, on what is it based? It claims to be about intimacy and sex and life, a celebration of women. It is actually composed of emotional distance, politics, finance, and sexual repression. The beauty myth is not about women at all. The qualities that a given period calls beautiful in women are merely symbols of the female behavior that that period considers desirable: The beauty myth is always actually prescribing behavior and not appearance.
Competition between women has been made part of the myth so that women will be divided from one another. Youth and until recently virginity have been beautiful in women since they stand for experiential and sexual ignorance.
Aging in women is unbeautiful since women grow more powerful with time, and since the links between generations of women must always be newly broken: Older women fear young ones, young women fear old, and the beauty myth truncates for all the female life span. Though there has, of course, been a beauty myth in some form for as long as there has been patriarchy, the beauty myth in its modern form is a fairly recent invention.
The myth flourishes when material constraints on women are dangerously loosened.
Before the Industrial Revolution, the average woman could not have had the same feelings about beauty that modern women do who experience the myth as continual comparison to a mass-disseminated physical ideal.
Before the development of technologies of mass production—daguerrotypes, photographs, etc.
Physical attraction, obviously, played its part; but beauty as we understand it was not, for ordinary women, a serious issue in the marriage marketplace. The beauty myth in its modern form gained ground after the upheavals of industrialization, as the work unit of the family was destroyed, and urbanization and the emerging factory system demanded what social engineers of the time termed the separate sphere of domesticity, which supported the new labor category of the breadwinner who left home for the workplace during the day.
The middle class expanded, the standards of living and of literacy rose, the size of families shrank; a new class of literate, idle women developed, on whose submission to enforced domesticity the evolving system of industrial capitalism depended.
Most of our assumptions about the way women have always thought about beauty date from no earlier than the s, when the cult of domesticity was first consolidated and the beauty index invented. For the first time new technologies could reproduce—in fashion plates, daguerreotypes, tintypes, and rotogravures—images of how women should look. In the s the first nude photographs of prostitutes were taken; advertisements using images of beautiful women first appeared in mid-century.
Copies of classical artworks, postcards of society beauties and royal mistresses, Currier and Ives prints, and porcelain figurines flooded the separate sphere to which middle-class women were confined. Since the Industrial Revolution, middle-class Western women have been controlled by ideals and stereotypes as much as by material constraints.
This situation, unique to this group, means that analyses that trace cultural conspiracies are uniquely plausible in relation to them. The rise of the beauty myth was just one of several emerging social fictions that masqueraded as natural components of the feminine sphere, the better to enclose those women inside it.
Other such fictions arose contemporaneously: All such Victorian inventions as these served a double function—that is, though they were encouraged as a means to expend female energy and intelligence in harmless ways, women often used them to express genuine creativity and passion. The cloying domestic fiction of togetherness lost its meaning and middle-class women walked out of their front doors in masses. So the fictions simply transformed themselves once more: Inexhaustible but ephemeral beauty work took over from inexhaustible but ephemeral housework.
As the economy, law, religion, sexual mores, education, and culture were forcibly opened up to include women more fairly, a private reality colonized female consciousness. By using ideas about beauty, it reconstructed an alternative female world with its own laws, economy, religion, sexuality, education, and culture, each element as repressive as any that had gone before.
Since middle-class Western women can best be weakened psychologically now that we are stronger materially, the beauty myth, as it has resurfaced in the last generation, has had to draw on more technological sophistication and reactionary fervor than ever before.
The modern arsenal of the myth is a dissemination of millions of images of the current ideal; although this barrage is generally seen as a collective sexual fantasy, there is in fact little that is sexual about it.
This frantic aggregation of imagery is a collective reactionary hallucination willed into being by both men and women stunned and disoriented by the rapidity with which gender relations have been transformed: The mass depiction of the modern woman as a beauty is a contradiction: Where modern women are growing, moving, and expressing their individuality, as the myth has it, beauty is by definition inert, timeless, and generic.
And the unconscious hallucination grows ever more influential and pervasive because of what is now conscious market manipulation: Societies tell themselves necessary fictions in the same way that individuals and families do. Henrik Ibsen called them vital lies, and psychologist Daniel Goleman describes them working the same way on the social level that they do within families: The collusion is maintained by directing attention away from the fearsome fact, or by repackaging its meaning in an acceptable format.
However, for most people these beauty standards are neither healthy nor achievable through diet or exercise. Women often place a greater importance on weight loss than on maintaining a healthy average weight, and they commonly make great financial and physical sacrifices to reach these goals. Yet failing to embody these ideals makes women targets of criticism and societal scrutiny.
Perfectionistic, unattainable goals are cited as an explanation for the increasing rates of plastic surgery and anorexia nervosa. Anorexia is one of the most prevalent eating disorders in Western countries "affecting an estimated 2. They suffer from a "serious mental health disease that involves compulsive dieting and drastic weight loss". This weight loss is the result of deliberate self-starvation to achieve a thinner appearance, and it is frequently associated with the disorder bulimia.
Anorexia's deep psychological roots make it difficult to treat and often extend the recovery process into a life-long journey.
Some feminists believe the beauty myth is part of a system that reinforces male dominance.
According to Naomi Wolf , as women increasingly focus their attention on their physical appearance, their focus on equal rights and treatment takes a lower priority. The same is argued in Simone de Beauvoir 's The Second Sex , in which she recounts the effects of societies that condition adolescent girls and young women to behave in feminine ways.
According to Beauvoir, these changes encompass a "huge array of social expectations including physical appearance, but unlike the social expectations on boys, the social expectations on girls and women usually inhibit them from acting freely". Studies reveal that women today strive to achieve aesthetic ideals because they recognize the correlation between beauty and social standing. According to Dr.
Vivian Diller's book Face It: What Women Really Feel as their Looks Change and What to Do About It , "most women agree, reporting the good looks continue to be associated with respect, legitimacy, and power in their relationships". Over the course of history, beauty ideals for women have changed drastically to represent societal views.
In , women with a thinner frame and small bust were seen as beautiful, while the ideal body type of full-chested, hourglass figures began in the early s, leading to a spike in plastic surgery and eating disorders.
Society is continually shifting the socially constructed ideals of beauty imposed on women. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. The Beauty Myth Cover of the first edition. Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women.
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