The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women (Anglais) Broché – 24 septembre 2002
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Descriptions 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 l'édition Broché .
Présentation de l'éditeur
The bestselling classic that redefined our view od the relationship between beauty and female identity.
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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Wolf's book explores 6 areas of life in which problems result from the beauty myth. Each has its own chapter that can be read on its own and still make perfect sense. I suggest starting with whichever interests you the most. They are as follows:
* WORK. Here, the author details the way the concept of "beauty" can be used to discriminate against women in the workforce. If women are too pretty, we're not taken seriously; if women aren't pretty enough, we can legally be fired for their perceived "homeliness." Then again, if we're too pretty, it's our own fault when they're sexually harassed; if we're not pretty enough, people doubt men would have actually harassed them. The author offers a dizzying list of legal cases lost by women which demonstrate the extent of this catch-22 -- compelling stuff.
* CULTURE. This focuses on the role of women's magazines (the sole arbiter of women's culture) in shaping our lives, by selling us on the need for beauty products by making us feel bad about themselves. It also notes that advertisers pressure the magazines into this, because only if women feel terrible about themselves will high-income women spend a quarter (yes, a quarter) of their each paycheck on beauty products.
* RELIGION. Convincingly argues that the quest for thinness has replaced the quest for moral virtue and heavenly salvation, and shows how this quest has the same effects that religion once did -- of keeping women submissive and preoccupied.
* SEX. Demonstrates that the beauty myth actually supresses female sexuality by making many women too self-conscious to engage in sex freely and comfortably, and moreover, that excessive dieting leads to a diminished sex drive. It also argues that the beauty myth hurts men by making them unaware of what real women look like, and by giving them the role of "appraiser of beauty" instead of the role of "partner" -- further impacting sexual relations.
* HUNGER. The beauty myth convinces women to "willingly" go hungry, to eat fewer calories per day than famine victims in third-world countries, which results in ironic weight gain and/or in eating disorders (compulsive eating, anorexia, and bulemia). Includes a compelling account of the author's own battle with anorexia.
* VIOLENCE. This is not about domestic violence, but rather the self-inflicted violence of cosmetic surgery, which is so painful and damaging to the body. Interesting comparisons with Victorian sexual surgery and with potentially deadly experimental medical research (which is unethical). The author questions why so many women are willing to risk diminished erotic responses and even death in order to be made thin or small-nosed or large-breasted or whatever. Her conclusion is that culture implies that women are better off dead than old or ugly-looking, making it a reasonable risk.
In conclusion, this is a very strong, compelling book. At times, some of what Wolf says is a bit hard to swallow -- but read as a whole, it presents a solid argument about the sickness of our society today. Men, read it for your wives; parents, read it for your daughters; and ladies, read it for yourself.
Whatever I may think of the author and her philosophy, as a rule I like a book that makes me see things in ways I hadn't before. This was one of those books. I don't agree with everything the author writes, but after borrowing it from the library, I had to buy it for myself so I could write in the margins about all the "a-ha!" moments it prompted. Sadly for those who like black and white, beauty, like most things, is on a continuum. People cite Etcoff's "Survival of the Prettiest" in opposition to this book, but if the premises of "Prettiest" were completely true, then after thousands upon thousands of years of evolution, why aren't we all collectively lovely? Why aren't the women who have the most offspring (ie, the fittest) also the Cindy Crawford clones? One of my former evolution professors, David Wilson, just published a study showing that people who shared common goals and interests rated each other as more attractive than they rated strangers.
I'm short, overweight, and past my prime in years, but I'm evolutionarily fitter than average (3 children), and have a strong husband who is a good provider (the biologically desired currency for males), and he even loves me!--from where I stand, it looks like most women can safely drop a lot of their beauty obsession, and I think Wolf says a lot that would encourage us to.
Whatever the numbers, the fact remains that young women are slowly killing and disfiguring themselves in the name of that ever-unattainable, ever-subjective idea, "beauty." Is it really significant is five women a year die of bulimia or anorexia or if it's closer to five hundred? The fact remains that something is seriously wrong with these girls to make them think that they have no other way of being socially accepted. Does it matter how much the cosmetic surgery industry really grosses annually? After all, ten years or so after this book is written, we have shows on prime-time television like "Extreme Makeover," in which someone contacts the show and tells them how horrible they feel about themselves because of a physical flaw--a nose that is too big, eyes that are too wide-spaced--and the show promptly signs them up to be hacked away at, made into a modern-day Galatea, for the viewing pleasure of America. If you have watched this show, you also know exactly what Wolf is trying to convey in her chapter on Violence. She states that women are always told that they can look better in some way...and sure enough, once they get into the doctor's office, suddenly the nose is not the only problem anymore. Liposuction, [body part] job...sign me up. In watching another special on cosmetic surgery on MTV not long ago, two women were portrayed whose highest goal was to be--of all things for young women today to desire--[Magazine] bunnies. They went in for things like a nose job and a [body part]job, and suddenly you saw the doctor pointing out all the other things "wrong" with them. The two relatively thin (and when I say "relatively," I mean they were probably underweight, but not as skinny as anorexic-looking models) girls were told that they should do something about invisible "saddlebags" and also maybe should consider doing something about the excess fat on their thighs--again, barely visible to the naked eye.
Wolf claims all this is political--a move to keep women down. And I'm not sure if I completely buy into the fact that it is all a political move to do just that, but I certainly realize that there is a definite cause for concern. If even one girl binges and purges, it's too many...and the fact remains that models are, in fact, horribly underweight, and then they have their photos retouched and airbrushed to make them look even skinnier. Women cannot compete with that which does not exist.
This book is definitely a good buy--it's easy reading and thought-provoking. I would recommend it to anyone interested in women's studies...and I would also recommend it to any woman, especially one who plans on having children, because it is so important to break this cycle of unattainable expectations.
It is ironic that some of the criticism this book has received in these reviews ('Let her be ugly, or even average before she writes a book' , 'the way she throws her beautiful hair around') only goes to prove much of what Ms Wolf says - that her views as an author and a human being must be so inseperable from her looks, and that there is some quality of 'ugliness' that is absolute and which women should constantly strive to get out of.
Feeling attractive is certainly every woman's right, but it is a feeling, not an absolute state. Anyone who has travelled out of America, and experienced diverse cultures, will testify to this.