The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf explores the issue of the ideal of a perfect beauty to which women are subjected and which women strive to achieve. Culture and society push certain images at women which makes women feel they have to look a certain way. Wolf argues that our culture’s images of beauty (found on television and in advertisements, women’s magazines, and pornography) are detrimental to women, as well as to the men who love them. She demonstrates that the concept of “beauty” is a weapon used to make women feel badly about themselves; after all, no one can live up to the ideal. Wolf agrees that beauty plays a legitimate role in our lives and in our attractions to one another. The problem, she says, is when beauty is defined as thinness, pertness, and youthfulness taken to extremes, extremes that are literally unattainable for healthy women. And I agree. Wolf exposes the unrealistic and impossible standards of mannequin female beauty as a destructive form of social control. She chronicles the history of the beauty myth and the ways it affects every woman’s home, health, and work. Many women suffer from eating disorders because they feel that they do not have a choice in meeting the culturally-programmed obsession with mannequin-like beauty. Women have finally reached economic and sexual emancipation, only to be locked into a new prison; that of the standard of beauty, which is changeable to suit political and power purposes and has been perpetrated on us by the advertising industry and this society. And it has not happened only to younger women, but to all women. Many women are unhappy with their own bodies, can’t enjoy their sexuality because of that self consciousness with their bodies, and are always waiting ‘until I’m thin’ to feel connected with their own lives.
“But where women are trapped today, there is no door to slam. The contemporary ravages of the beauty backlash are destroying women physically and depleting us psychologically. If we are to free ourselves from the dead weight that has once again been made out of femaleness, it is not ballots or lobbyists or placards that women will need first; it is a new way to see.”
Until women wake up and take begin loving themselves as we are, we will never be really free. Women today have been locked into that cage of being everything to everybody, perfect wives, perfect mothers, perfect housewives, perfect worker bees who struggle only to hit the glass ceiling, perfect beauties, and sexual dynamos. And it’s never enough, because no real live woman can compete with the illusion that pornographic magazines and film present: air brushed, and prettified, enlarged here and made smaller there by computer and placed on a lifeless page or on celluloid where there is no personality or humanity to deal with, no wants and no needs and is no trouble to male fantasy.