The Beauty Myth

In 1991 Naomi Wolf suggested that images of beauty were being used against women in order to control their social and political status.

She makes several intriguing points in her book, ‘The Beauty Myth.’

“The more legal and material hindrances women have broken through, the more strictly and heavily and cruelly images of female beauty have come to weigh upon us… [D]uring the past decade, women breached the power structure; meanwhile, eating disorders rose exponentially and cosmetic surgery became the fastest-growing specialty… [P]ornography became the main media category, ahead of legitimate films and records combined, and thirty-three thousand American women told researchers that they would rather lose ten to fifteen pounds than achieve any other goal…More women have more money and power and scope and legal recognition than we have ever had before; but in terms of how we feel about ourselves physically, we may actually be worse off than our unliberated grandmothers”

I’d like to suggest another layer to this. Not only has the beauty myth engulfed our lives, and especially the lives of our young women, but the beauty industry is feeding off the self-loathing it creates through these ‘impossible to achieve images.’

The images being portrayed as beautiful are getting so difficult to achieve that even models and gorgeous women in the music and movie industries can’t do it. Photos and screen shots are modified to match the slimmer look. Women are starving themselves to ‘look the part.’ Why wouldn’t our young girls follow suit? Many of these women are their idols and role models. It’s become so important to look good, other more important goals fall by the wayside. It’s a sick and twisted reality.

Then there are the stars fighting the trends, including Beyonce Knowles, who has been upset several times over magazines ‘trimming’ her body, including the most recent H&M Summer Collection shoot.


She’s a role model portraying a beauty image that goes against the trends and she was right when she said, ‘I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly.’

The problem of being too thin is certainly a worrisome trend in the western world, but the thing that is most worrisome here is that the beauty industry follows trends AT ALL. It’s such a dangerous thing to assume that one look is the look. Women are not represented appropriately in this industry in our vast shapes and sizes, and it’s tearing us apart.

Monroe           Twiggy

Beauty Icons: ‘Monroe’ and ‘Twiggy’ changed the beauty trends in their time. In the 50s Monroe helped to sell products to put weight on — skinny bikini bodies weren’t trendy. In fact being called skinny was a negative thing. When Twiggy came along in the 60s, the trend swung the opposite way and products to lose weight flew off shelves.  

The less likely we are to achieve these beauty goals, the more likely we are to spend time and money on the effort. Weight loss, make-up, clothing, cosmetic surgery – the beauty industry is a multi-billion dollar business and the more we are displeased with the way we look, the better.

So, is it fair to say the beauty industry depends on our self-loathing in order to make money? I say yes it does. And we need to start seeing it for the joke it really is.


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6 thoughts on “The Beauty Myth

  1. Needless to say (or maybe not needless), I agree with you. I am not into skinny, skin-and-bones women. And I tend to not be attracted to conventionally (read conventional as whatever is being put out there as beauty-normative) attractive women.

  2. That’s wonderful, Andrew. And I suppose the point I’m trying to make is that it’s sad we have a ‘standard’ for beauty at all. I happen to think freckles are cute, real boobs should be nice and squishy, and that red heads are hot. Too much information? lol

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