The Beauty Myth

1038 Words5 Pages
For Naomi Wolf, the beauty business isn't just a ploy by Madison Avenue to make a buck. What truly powers the $33-billion-a-year diet industry, the $20-billion cosmetics industry, the $300-million cosmetic-surgery industry, and the $7-billion pornography industry, she argues, is a far more insidious and destructive agenda. It is a political tool to keep women down: "The beauty myth is not about women at all. It is about men's institutions and institutional power." According to Miss Wolf, the myth has a number of uses. It pits women against one another, thereby diluting their political influence; as she puts it, What women look like is considered important because what we say is not." It stokes the consumerist engine of our economy, where women shoppers play a pivotal role; and it enables employers to get away with paying women less than men. Indeed, Miss Wolf charges that the success of Western economies is linked to the chronic underpayment of women. The author notes the historical roots of this problem. The modem beauty myth can be traced to the social upheaval following industrialization , around 1830, when a new class of literate, idle women was suddenly in a position to challenge male dominance. The upshot, she concludes, is that Women are mere beauties' in men's culture so that culture can be kept male." The beauty myth-in Miss Wolf's view-transforms women into self-destructive, fearful, even paranoid creatures who have a love-hate addiction to food, a negative body image, poor self-esteem, and tenuous relationships with the men in their lives. They frequently become anorexic or undergo dangerous cosmetic surgery to achieve the perfect body. They pursue this fruitless quest with the zealotry of religious fanatics, and yet they are doomed to fail because they are pursuing a chimera. The author cites a raft of
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