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

Get the book on Amazon