The Beauty Myth, by NAOMI WOLF

thebeautymythUnlike many other books, I find it difficult to review this one. I have mixed emotions about it and it’s somehow become very important to me. Obviously, I am a little late in reading it–it was first published in 1991, so almost two decades ago. I am sorry to say, however, that not many things have changed since that time and the book is still, (and horrifically in many ways) accurate and current.

I consider myself a feminist, maybe because I come from a culture where feminism does not have as many terrible connotations as in the U.S. Some negative aspects of it are represented in Romania, too, and I guess throughout the world, and it makes me wonder why, but I do not want to succumb to the conspiracy theory of Naomi Wolf. Because I find that is the weakest and most debatable part of this book: all the negative¬† actions and effects of the beauty myth are decoded as a devilish master plan to keep women out of politics, to make them weak and submissive and prevent them from ever attaining any sort of real power. Of course, this is her interpretation of the facts, and the facts are what matter, and they are very powerful in themselves. Many are not new (the women’s magazines fabrications and how they are more or less controlled by advertisers and by their need to make women feel bad about themselves so that buying products can save them, gift them happiness) but many are shocking (how studies show that for women a certain amount of weight is not such a big factor in decreasing health, but on the contrary, it is important for their health and may prolong their lives–how come we never hear about that? Apparently, the National Institutes of Health studies that linked obesity to heart disease were based on male subjects, and when women were finally included in the research, the results showed very little correlation in their case.) Even very simple ideas, like the fact that cellulite is just how a woman’s flesh tends to look like and is just natural, not the mark of ugliness, seem so outrageous for our indoctrinated minds.

I do emerge, after reading this book, with a more liberated sense of self, more entitled to be who I am and how I want to be, regardless of what society expects of me. I am nowhere completely free of my years of conditioning to be an “acceptable” woman of our world, but I did come a few steps closer, and that is invaluable. I think it is a book of great value that does help you pull down a few layers of the veils that obstruct the truth of a woman’s condition and conditioning in our society today. I will put this one of the pile of books that I save for my daughter, when she’s the right age.