The Beauty Myth: Naomi Wolf

Wolf argues that beauty is the “last, best belief system that keeps male dominance intact” Women have to look a certain way: thin, youthful, smooth-skinned, small-nosed, silky-haired, etc. It thus follows that your average woman feels ugly her entire life, and old for most of it. 

The world has moved since this book was written, but is part way valid still today. Are women that shallow ? Are they are not equal partners in the myth of beauty?

Makeup and the mask of makeup are integral in creating that myth of beauty. Perfection is always an unobtainable destination. The mask is an attempt to move a step closer to that unobtainable ideal.

It’s the beauty myth, an obsession with physical perfection that traps the modern woman in an endless spiral of hope, self-consciousness, and self-hatred as she tries to fulfill society’s impossible definition of “the flawless beauty.”

It then follows that if a woman wears makeup then she is filled with self hatred…

Hyperbole me thinks. However with the rise in cosmetic surgery, Essex girl, Ink… the book in many respects is as valid now as it was then.

“Sadly, the signals that allow men and women to find the partners who most please them are scrambled by the sexual insecurity initiated by beauty thinking. A woman who is self-conscious can’t relax to let her sensuality come into play. If she is hungry she will be tense. If she is “done up” she will be on the alert for her reflection in his eyes. If she is ashamed of her body, its movement will be stilled. If she does not feel entitled to claim attention, she will not demand that airspace to shine in. If his field of vision has been boxed in by “beauty”–a box continually shrinking–he simply will not see her, his real love, standing right before him.”

“Men are visually aroused by women’s bodies and less sensitive to their arousal by women’s personalities because they are trained early into that response, while women are less visually aroused and more emotionally aroused because that is their training. This asymmetry in sexual education maintains men’s power in the myth: They look at women’s bodies, evaluate, move on; their own bodies are not looked at, evaluated, and taken or passed over. But there is no “rock called gender” responsible for that; it can change so that real mutuality–an equal gaze, equal vulnerability, equal desire–brings heterosexual men and women together.”

“She wins who calls herself beautiful and challenges the world to change to truly see her.”
Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women