Skip Nav
DIY Beauty
1 Eyebrow, 3 Ways Transformed Completed Just Using Makeup
20 Tiny Tattoo Ideas For When You Want to Roll Up Your Sleeves
20 Halloween Vampire Makeup Ideas That Are Bloody Stunning

Bella Book: The Beauty Myth

I know many of us have already read The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf's 1991 screed against tyrannical ideals of beauty. But at this point, it's worth revisiting the bestseller — or reading it for the first time if you haven't already. Wolf turns a critical eye on advertisers, magazines, and our culture in general, pointing out the unrealistic standards that we women try to attain. Women, she argues, are kept busy trying to live up to a perfect standard of female beauty, and in the process, we miss out on creating more solid accomplishments.

When the book was published, Wolf took a lot of heat for her questionable statistics about eating disorders. (Fair enough, but whether 100 or 1000 women starve themselves to death every year, shouldn't we still try to improve body image?) And in 2008, some of Wolf's observations seem almost quaint in the age of size 00, Botox and extreme Photoshop. Still, any woman who's interested in beauty should read this book. Doing so doesn't mean you have to lose your lipstick or give up your highlights, but Wolf's ideas will make you question the way you define beauty.

Around The Web
Join The Conversation
Ali-s Ali-s 7 years
I read a few pages of the book for my writing class.. In the book she discusses the problems and hardships that face women in all the aspects of life including employment, sexuality, and consumerism, just to name a few. She also discusses how beauty affects women in their everyday lives and how they’re judged upon their beauty. And i have to agree especially in this day and age. Wolf indicates that women in western society have been pressurized by the concept of female beauty. She also states that understanding of beauty has changed over the years looking healthy to looking sick and America is obsessed with that. Women strive to look like the women they see on TV and take it sometimes to the extreme “before Kate Moss there was Twiggy, and before Twiggy, well, women weren’t expected to look so slim- not, at least, if we judge by Marilyn Monroe”. She states that beauty has devolved into anorexia bulimia. She says that beauty has been used in the disadvantage of women. “Every generation since about 1830 has had to fight its version of the beauty myth” (Wolf, 489). She also mentions that beauty is like the gold standard and like the economy and that it’s determined by politics. She speaks of how feminism has been women’s savior “feminism gave us laws against job discrimination based on gender” ” (Wolf, 487). The relationships between men and women are different depending on the environment. For example at home women are treated better than they are treated at work. They are looked down on at work and beautiful outside of it. Women have always faced problems in the work place and out of it. But there are always advantages and disadvantages in both situations. Women have to deal with the obsession of looking good, slim and acceptable in both scenarios. Women according to the Beauty Myth play a big role and contribute to consumption mentality. It’s a well known fact that women shop more than men. They spend hours in the mall buying clothes and accessories for the home. Economist John Kenneth Galbraith offers an economic explanation for “the persistence of the view of homecoming as a higher calling” (Wolf, 493). That women are also trapped in the Feminine Mystique He feels “has been forced on us by popular sociology, by magazines, and by fiction to disguise the fact that woman in her role of consumer has been essential to the development of our industrial society…. Behavior that is essential for economic reasons is transformed into social virtue” (Wolf, 493). Women follow what they see to be the right way when it comes to how they should look. If they see magazines and on TV with skinny women in it they think that they should look that way.
lizlee89 lizlee89 7 years
I'd like someone to write a book about how both men and women focus so much, too much about their careers, their success, and their looks. While I don't think they need to give up these things, there are certain things that are much more important, such as what kind of person you are, and what kind of impact you're making on the world...
LittleMascara LittleMascara 7 years
If this intrests anyone... may I suggest "Killing Us Softly"? It's a video I've seen countless times in college, regarding the use of women in advertising.
UrbanBohemian UrbanBohemian 7 years
Oh my! Naomi Wolf spoke at my college commencement in 2004. I have mixed opinions about her. As for this book, I haven't read it so I can't say anything good or bad about it.
Rouge-Noir Rouge-Noir 8 years
I loved it the first time around (I must have been 14 when I first read it) - thanks for reminding me, Bella. Maybe it's time for a re-read because her thoughts and observations are, unfortunately, still very relevant for women today.
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 8 years
I've heard about this book, but I'm not particularly interested in reading it. It doesn't apply to me, as I don't buy into society's notion of beauty. I wear no cosmetics, and the only beauty products I own is sunblock and lip balm. Collectively, those items cost me less than $10. My hair is completely natural. I don't even blow dry it. "In large parts of Asia for example, it's about light skin color and large eyes. Which is an even more cruel ideal sometimes imho, because facial features and skin color are more difficult to correct than your weight." This is true -- the Asian notion of beauty. I must confess I happen to have those features naturally. Someone once presumed I had eye surgery because my eyes were big. That's silly. I don't even wear cosmetics, much less elect to have cosmetic surgery. LOL
Francoisehardly Francoisehardly 8 years
Now that I think about I'm starting to think I might have taken this book out from the library, but I can't remember.
Francoisehardly Francoisehardly 8 years
What I probably hate the most is people being ridiculously critical about the smallest "imperfections", some of which can't be changed anyway. I don't even think really photoshop pictures are beautiful. I've seen befores I prefer, especially since they look like an actual person and not like their skin must be made of hard shiny plastic. I actually read a book recently about beauty methods females have used in the past century some of which were really scary like some of the methods of hair removal. I should mention though, I have no problem taking care of my skin to make sure I age pretty well anyway and I love lipstick and having nice looking hair, but imagine what some of a woman's time and money could be used for when she's not completely obsessing about her appearance.
austerity austerity 8 years
I've heard a lot about this book and would like to read it. I think it's natural to pay attention to your looks as a woman, but we are definitely judged way too much on that. Even if you are confident about yourself, society forces you to place extreme importance on looks (so even if you're confident, you're made to be overcritical). Such a waste of energy. And it's not just the craze for thinness and blondeness in the West; every society has its tyrannical ideals of female beauty. In large parts of Asia for example, it's about light skin color and large eyes. Which is an even more cruel ideal sometimes imho, because facial features and skin color are more difficult to correct than your weight.
Review of Do It Gorgeously by Sophie Uliano
Tips From Celebrity Makeup Artist Scott Barnes
Bella Book: You'd Be So Pretty If . . .
Bella Book: Style, Naturally
Review of The Beauty Diet by Lisa Drayer
Review of Bobbi Brown Makeup Manual
Bella Book: Vintage Hairstyling

POPSUGAR, the #1 independent media and technology company for women. Where more than 75 million women go for original, inspirational content that feeds their passions and interests.

From Our Partners
Latest Beauty