The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women (Anglais) Broché – 24 septembre 2002
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Description du produit
Revue de presse
"Powerful... No other work has...so honestly depicted the confusion of accomplished women who feel emotionally and physically tortured by the need to look like movie stars" (New York Times)
"The most important feminist publication since The Female Eunuch" (Germaine Greer)
"A brilliant, bracing book...The world has changed - a bit - over the past decade and a half, but not enough: this remains essential reading" (Guardian)
"Essential reading" (Fay Weldon) --Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.
Présentation de l'éditeur
In today's world, women have more power, legal recognition, and professional success than ever before. Alongside the evident progress of the women's movement, however, writer and journalist Naomi Wolf is troubled by a different kind of social control, which, she argues, may prove just as restrictive as the traditional image of homemaker and wife. It's the beauty myth, an obsession with physical perfection that traps the modern woman in an endless spiral of hope, self-consciousness, and self-hatred as she tries to fulfill society's impossible definition of "the flawless beauty."
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Another “flake” that underscored what I felt was wrong about this book came from one conversation with an NGO “activist,” in Hanoi of all places, who was on a campaign to have landmines banned. Again, I was a “receptive audience.” Landmines were a scourge of some countries, notably Angola, Cambodia, and to a lesser extent, Vietnam, in which landmines were just one subset of the perils of unexploded ordinance, all of which were just one subset of the damage done to the country, which included the use of chemical weapons, such as Agent Orange. The NGO activist was trying to impress me with her many hard quantitative facts that fit so neatly into a spreadsheet… but as I pressed her on the methodology… the “how could you possibly know have many landmines were originally buried… how many remain… how many injuries were caused in time of war, and latter… I could tell she was largely just making it up. Good intentions, no doubt, and a shield of quantitative analysis, but isn’t that how McNamara operated?
With Naomi Wolf, the dubious stats starts early, and I noted another reviewer was disconcerted by the blunt, conclusory statement made on page 22: “Women work hard – twice as hard as men.” The worst chapter that contained a staccato machine-gun fire of dubious factoids is the one entitled “Hunger.” Consider: “One fifth of women who exercise to shape their bodies have menstrual irregularities and diminished fertility” (p192). At Treblinka, 900 calories was scientifically determined to be the minimum necessary to sustain human functioning” (p195). Scientifically?? “For women to stay at the official extreme of the weight spectrum requires 95 percent of us to infantilize or rigidify to some degree our mental lives” (p199). “Nothing justifies comparison with the Holocaust; but when confronted with a vast number of emaciated bodies starved not by nature but by men, one must notice a certain resemblance” (p207). Men?? Other chapters contain similar dubious factoids, like the percentage of rapes, and the extraordinary high percentage of rapes that occur between individuals who know each other, including spouses. Or, in the chapter on “Work”: “In the United States, partners of employed women give them LESS help than do partners of housewives” (p23).
‘Tis a pity, all of the above. Because there is so much to like about this book, and Wolf’s critical thinking about why “things are the way they are.” For example, I felt that her chapter entitled “Religion,” in which she describes how “the Beauty Myth” came to replace and utilize many of the techniques of organized religion, particularly in regards to the control of women. Likewise, the chapter on “Work” was strong, and I thought her discussion on the legal arguments, and abuse of the legal system in the promotion of something called the “Professional Beauty Qualification” most beneficial. In essence, can you fire a “Playboy bunny” which she gets to old, fat, or ugly… and how that concept might spread to any job held by a female. The chapter on “Violence” mainly describes not rape, as one might assume, but the assault by the underbelly of the medical profession (and some other assorted hucksters) who essentially convince women that they are not “real women” without some surgery… and how some women actually become “surgery addicts.”
Who are “the who”? Wolf never discusses who actually creates and enforces “the Beauty Myth.” Are they the proverbial five guys, in the backroom, with the cigars and brandy, who decide how they will control the rest of us? Or, is it something much deeper, about the human condition, relating to fundamental competition for a sexual or economic “prize”?
This book was originally published in 1991, thus, it was, for all practically purposes, pre-internet. Wolfe includes a new introduction written in 2002, in which she discusses the progress… and the steps back… which occurred in the intervening decade. And now, a decade and a half later, another update would be most appropriate. In particular, yesterday I was treated to the very battered-face of Ronda Rousey, as the lead article on the CNN website. She was the Ultimate Fighting Conference loser, in 47 seconds, to her Brazilian opponent. ANY discussion about “pornography” should commence with that battered face, the “fans” who spend so much to see it, and a mainstream news source that would published that face – without criticism – while shielding its tender readers from the pictures of the dead and wounded from the many wars we fight.
Wolf’s account carries numerous footnotes, but these are not directly tied to her quotes, a sampling of which were provided above. She references the works of several other leading feminists, for example, Betty Frieden, Susan Faludi, Catherine McKinnon and Andre Dworkin. The latter, and her influence, in particular, has concerned me. I gave Dworkin’s Intercourse a 3-star review. On the other hand, I was most impressed with Faludi’s Backlash: The Undeclared War Against Women which I gave 5-stars to. As indicated, I was disappointed with this work, which, in addition to the above, contained serious redundancies and other editing problems. Overall, 3-stars.
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My main criticism of the book is just that there are often times when it's insufficiently clear on whether she's speaking literally or metaphorically. Like, in the chapter titled "religion" I think an uncharitable person might interpret it as saying that beauty is literally a new religion whereas I'm pretty sure that's not actually what she means. For this reason I would prefer if anti-feminists didn't read this book because it would be easy for them to misinterpret it and take things out of context in ways that would make feminists seem crazy.
Anyway, to answer to some of the negative reviews- whether or not the author herself uses makeup and/or looks pretty in her promotion of the book is irrelevant. As she says in the book, people will dismiss women's arguments for her being "too pretty" or "too ugly" and there's no in between. If she completely neglected her appearance people would say that she just wrote the book because she's an ugly woman who's jealous of beautiful women. There's no way for her to look that would give her credibility in everyone's eyes, and judging arguments based on features of the author is an ad hominem anyway.
And no, it isn't so outdated as people are saying. I mean, some statistics and such are out of date, but the main points still stand. Just because modern feminists aren't talking about these things so much anymore doesn't mean the problem has been solved, it just means that they're distracted and/or the patriarchy is winning this battle. Those who think "everyone already knows all this already" are either naive or out of touch with today's teens and twenty-somethings. I'm a twenty-something and just about every day on facebook I'll see at least one of my friends saying something or other that promotes beauty culture. I'm not even in an especially image-conscious area. Internet feminists are all about "eyeliner sharp enough to kill a man" and if you dare to criticize the industry they say you're the one being misogynistic for judging things that some women like.
The Beauty Myth expands on the statement that “beauty” is a way to keep women as inferiors. Women fought for their rights and earned them, so society had to find a new way to suppress them. This book portrays a unique inequality beyond one of monetary value that women face between them and men; women are bound by impossible standards of appearance alongside working day in and day out to achieve status, while men simply must work hard to be successful. "What women look like is considered important because what we say is not,” Wolf tells us, illustrating this profound point in a such a simple way, showing readers that the facts would all be this simple if they were not purposefully hidden from us.
This book serves to expose the unfairness of the images of beauty. This seems so simple, but Wolf manages to separate her arguments into six main chapters, each filled with anecdotes and authorization through supported research. Reading through her novel as a woman, I felt that she was speaking to me personally. With each statistic, any woman reading this is faced with a simple fact that she is part of these numbers. While the book may emotionally appeal to women, I feel it would also be a great read for men. Men are often oblivious to the fact that the images of women around them are designed to put normal women’s appearances to shame, and could use this book to learn to not fall prey to ignoring a woman’s intelligence because of the way she looks.
The only weakness I see in Wolf’s writing is her absence of a counter-argument. There are parts of the novel where skeptical readers may be left with their doubts since she never addresses the opposing side of the argument.
The Beauty Myth promises to leave both male and female readers haunted by Naomi Wolf’s passionate fury towards the feminism movement.
It has to be said, though, that even a broken clock is right twice a day, and there are few clocks more broken than Naomi Wolf. She generally backs her theories with research that is dubious at best, and it's gotten her into hot water more than a few times over the last decade. As far as factual research goes, this book is unfortunately no exception. HOWEVER. In spite of the dodgy research, her analysis of the deep underpinnings of our society's obsession with beauty and the damage it does to women (and men) is spot-on. Take the numbers with a grain of salt, but take the ideas to heart.