The Beauty Myth

Written by Naomi Wolf

Peel: A rather modern academic book examining how beauty keeps women restrained in relation to: work, culture, religion, sex, hunger and violence.

I found this a great book to read with a grain of salt. The book presents much more of how the beauty myth operates rather than why, or examining the causality behind the beauty myth. In general much of the book reads as intuitively plausible, minus the quasi-conspiracy theory parts. A few generalizations seemed over the top, such as make-up sellers using cult practices to maximally promote their product. There are notes in the back of the book, but I would have found footnotes much more helpful to know while reading where the information is coming from. The strongest chapters were work, hunger, and sex.

On the other hand, Wolf does tend to beat a dead horse with repeating some of her ideas, especially in the beginning. Wolf also very quickly shuts down any argument with measures of beauty correlating to evolution. But it seems that a tiny bit of beauty reasoning might be found here, since cross culturally similar waist to hip ratios are preferred.

All in all this was a powerful read, showing many cases of brutality and unfairness against women. The book is very thought provoking as to what feminism means, and how to try and promote it without backlash.

If a second edition of this book were produced, it would be interesting to examine how stupidity has been eroticised, how the beauty myth has spread further to males, how gender presentation affects the beauty myth, and looking at the beauty myth with respect to queer people. If the beauty myth does exist, beyond the products existing, then I would like to see the causality and how it was created intentionally to keep women out of power explored more. The current version of The Beauty Myth is written and caters to a very straight, middle-class, white, and cis audience.

Nibble: “Having no fat means having no breasts, thighs, hips, or ass, which for once means not having asked for it.”

I would recommend this to any woman who wants to examine their concept of beauty, and any person who wants to think more about this issue.

My Rating: 8 out of 10 nonconventional blue apples

I borrowed a paper copy from the CSPH library.

Naomi Wolf’s Site

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Speak

Written by Laurie Halse Anderson

Peel: After busting a summer party, no one at school wants to be friends with Melinda. So she’s stuck alone in her mind, and even there has become threatening.

This was a very difficult, but gripping, book to read, as every step of the way you want to be there for Melinda. Melinda’s character is remarkably realistic and sympathetic. The book is written as Melissa in a very close first person, and one gets to hear her darkly humorous take on high school. The prose is on the weaker side, many other characters are flat, and at times the symbolism is heavy handed; but given that the narrator was a freshman in high school, this made her more believable and affective.

There is a rather worrying message that the author seems to be conveying in her ending- that one should be hopeful for retribution. The ending itself felt too quick for me, and lost the realistic feel that Anderson had in the rest of the novel.

Nibble: “May is finally here and it has stopped raining. Good thing, too- the mayor of Syracuse was about to put out a call for a guy named Noah.”

I would recommend this to everyone.

My Rating: 9 out of 10 growing apple trees

I borrowed a paper copy from the CSPH library; click here to read the extended version.

Laurie Halse Anderson’s Site

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Five Minute Erotica

Edited by Carol Queen

Peel: A collection of thirty-five steamy stories by various authors, aimed at heterosexual women.

Each story is, on average, three pages. Thus, there’s not so much to be done beforehand in terms of character development or description. Not all of the stories include explicit sex, but somehow incorporate sex into it- like an email from a lover, or thoughts about one’s partner. The stories are written for heterosexual women, though the situations change gender narrations they stay heterosexual for the most part. Besides who the stories are written for, the stories themselves are on the diverse side. For example, there are stories with power play, alien abduction, spanking, and dressing up as a kitten.

All in all the stories were a mixed bag for how sexy they were, and they tended to be on the tame side of acceptable kinkiness. Some stories were on the predictable side, especially the more vanilla ones. There are a few more editing mistakes then one would expect, however they don’t significantly detract from the reading experience.

Nibble: “She doesn’t think about his eyes, like she likes to tell herself; or about his lips, like she’d tell her friends if they knew about him [...] She thinks about his hands.”

I would recommend this for heterosexual people who want a gentle introduction to erotica.

My Rating: 6 out of 10 little shiny red apples

I borrowed a paper copy from the CSPH library; click here to read the extended version.

Carol Queen’s Site

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