The Beauty Myth Book Summary - The Beauty Myth Book explained in key points
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The Beauty Myth summary

Naomi Wolf

How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women

4.3 (64 ratings)
10 mins

Brief summary

The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf examines how the pressure of unattainable beauty standards affects women. It explores how the beauty industry profits from women's insecurities and encourages us to focus on appearance instead of our own potential.

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    The Beauty Myth
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    Current standards of beauty are a political means of controlling women and maintaining the patriarchy.

    The women’s rights movement has made significant progress in the past few decades. But even though women have gained legal and reproductive rights, as well as more freedom to pursue higher education and enter previously male-dominated professions, there has also been some backlash.

    As women have made legal and economic strides over the past 50 years, we’ve also seen an increase in detrimental portrayals of female beauty. These images are being used with growing efficiency to work against the progress women have made, creating what is known as a beauty myth.

    The beauty myth claims that there is an elusive quality called “beauty” – a quality that women should do everything in their power to pursue, achieve and maintain.

    The myth enforces certain views. For instance, that beauty is an inherently good and beneficial quality and that, without it, women are worthless and invisible.

    Consider women who are at the top of their professions. Even with all their achievements and success, the pressure to look good doesn’t cease. If anything, women with more power and status are scrutinized more and the pressure to look beautiful only gets worse.

    The beauty myth is the final mechanism of cultural ideology with the power to control women, women who have otherwise been liberated to freely pursue their desires.

    Before the Industrial Revolution, the social value of women was measured largely by their work within the domestic sphere. Their lives took shape around attributes like work aptitude, physical strength and fertility – not beauty.

    With industrialization came increasing freedom for women. To maintain the patriarchy, a new, subtler and more deceptive method for undermining women’s freedom and power was needed.

    This is what the beauty myth does: it keeps women trapped, self-destructively competing with themselves and each other. And since images and standards of beauty change, the identity of women is constantly vulnerable and in need of external validation.

    In the next blink, we’ll see how this myth plays out in the workplace.

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    What is The Beauty Myth about?

    The Beauty Myth (1991) will help you understand the anxiety that surrounds women, and the cult of beauty that dominates our society today. It identifies the patriarchal and economic forces that shape the unfair expectations and norms that women face. Learn how we can be better equipped to build a less biased future.

    The Beauty Myth Review

    The Beauty Myth (1990) by Naomi Wolf is a thought-provoking expose on how society's obsession with beauty affects women's lives. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With well-researched evidence and compelling arguments, it sheds light on the unrealistic beauty standards imposed on women.
    • It challenges the notion that beauty is empowering and shows how it can be a tool of oppression, offering a fresh perspective on the feminist movement.
    • The book's insightful analysis of various industries such as fashion, media, and advertising reveals the hidden effects of the beauty myth on women's self-esteem and mental well-being.

    Best quote from The Beauty Myth

    All women are Bunnies. - Gloria Steinem, American feminist, journalist and activist

    —Naomi Wolf
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    Who should read The Beauty Myth?

    • Anyone struggling with a negative body image
    • Women who feel pressured into looking a certain way
    • Feminists concerned about modern standards of beauty

    About the Author

    Naomi Wolf graduated from Yale University and continued her studies as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University. Her other books include Promiscuities, Fire with Fire and Misconceptions, all of which were international best sellers.

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    The Beauty Myth FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Beauty Myth?

    The main message of The Beauty Myth is that societal standards of beauty oppress women, impacting their lives and limiting their potential.

    How long does it take to read The Beauty Myth?

    The reading time for The Beauty Myth varies, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Beauty Myth a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Beauty Myth is a thought-provoking book that sheds light on the harmful beauty standards women face. It is worth reading for its insights and impact.

    Who is the author of The Beauty Myth?

    The author of The Beauty Myth is Naomi Wolf.

    What to read after The Beauty Myth?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Beauty Myth, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • Languishing by Corey Keyes
    • Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis
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    • How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
    • Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis