This is a book I read by Naomi Wolf, which I'd recommend to any woman concerned about the place of her gender, her rights and real freedom. Although I can't say I agree to all the ideas highlighted, I would say that everything mentioned is a valid thought to muse over and an issue to be addressed.
With the feminist wave brought about that gave women the rights to pursue careers freely and the laws to protect those rights, there came a threat to our all-time male-dominated society of the dangers in allowing women to control the workings of this world alongside men. I don't know if I would attribute this to the creation of The Beauty Myth, but according to Wolf, it's the perfect political solution.
What is this preoccupation with beauty that has engulfed all of us these years? Who defines beauty anyway, and who gave it the weight of importance it has today?
At work, women are expected to look as glamorous as glossy front-page models alongside with perfecting her career and keeping up with housework. Beauty has slowly entered the requirements of professional posts- starting with modelling but slowly expanding to include anyone with any sort of interaction with others. Beauty can even be used as an excuse to hire or fire. In popular culture, books and films rarely portray the heroine as the ugly one. The author makes a resemblance of this whole move with a religion- the beauty tips in magazines become divine laws, being imperfect an original sin that must be annihilated through a painful cycle of purification- denying themselves the food they crave, the sunlight they yearn for- as if a punishment for being created a woman.
The amount of exposure of female sexuality in media is nothing compared to that of males- it is the females who have a constant "standard" to work towards. It is only in the female world where sex is linked to beauty- women's beauty are always "rated" in regards to how well they compare to the media's idea of her body; men are rarely judged by their sexual attraction. The beauty myth leaves a woman feeling unloved no matter what she does: if she conforms to society and achieves the "beauty" watermark, the love she receives she will always feel is due to her achievement in copying the ideal; if she doesn't, she is left feeling ugly compared to the rest of the millions of women in this beauty competition. The myth has gone as far as to let the hundreds of girls starving themselves to silence. A hungry girl cannot rebel or think of herself as competent or feel effective. Why is popular media filled with articles on weight loss? When can women start thinking of their own bodies as their own true property, rather than the property of society?
The media tells us aging is a disease- it must be combated- with anti-aging creams and electric shocks and handing ourselves to the knives of cosmetic surgeons. Yes, maybe this can kill, but it "hurts to be beautiful".
I say, the only way we can consider ourselves free is when we are accepted the way we are created. And that begins with accepting ourselves the way we are, the different forms we become as we experience life. Aging is beautiful- stretch marks tell the world of the children we gave to it, wrinkles speak of the different worries we took for others....
I don't need to paint my face to be beautiful, nor starve or fill myself up with the food others tell me to. The standard keeps changing anyway. No-one will reach it. Who wants perfection in appearance? If we are going to aim for perfection, let's aim for flawless characters and habits.