Beauty Theory

The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women

The Beauty Myth: How Images
of Beauty Are Used
Against Women
Naomi WolfChatto & Windus1990

From Wikipedia: The basic premise of The Beauty Myth is that as the social power and prominence of women have increased, the pressure they feel to adhere to unrealistic social standards of physical beauty has also grown stronger because of commercial influences on the mass media. This pressure leads to unhealthy behaviours by women and a preoccupation with appearance in both sexes, and it compromises the ability of women to be effective in and accepted by society.

In Who Stole Feminism? (1994) Christina Hoff Sommers criticized Wolf for publishing the claim that 150,000 women were dying every year from anorexia in the United States, writing that the actual figure was more likely to be somewhere between 100 and 400 per year.

Similarly, a 2004 paper compared Wolf’s eating disorder statistics to statistics from peer-reviewed epidemiological studies and concluded that ‘on average, an anorexia statistic in any edition of The Beauty Myth should be divided by eight to get near the real statistic.’ Schoemaker calculated that there are about 525 annual deaths from anorexia, 286 times less than Wolf’s statistic.

A culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, but an obsession about female obedience. Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one.

Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: The beauty myth
Chapter 2: Work
Chapter 3: Culture
Chapter 4: Religion
Chapter 5: Sex
Chapter 6: Hunger
Chapter 7: Violence
Chapter 8: Beyond the beauty myth