In her controversial bestseller Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf argues how culture's images of beauty found on television, magazines, advertisements and pornography are detrimental to women. She exposes the unrealistic and impossible standards of female beauty that create insecurity and self hatred that can be easily exploited by glossy magazine pictures, fashion world, Hollywood, diets and plastic surgery industries. Wolf demonstrates that the concept of "beauty" is a created weapon that is used to make women feel badly about themselves because realistically not everyone can live up to the ideal template. Wolf's argument is effective because through the use of persuasive and convincing language, she allows the reader to know the whole truth of how women are harmed in so many areas due to our culture selling women pointless products and pressuring them into striving for a certain narrow picture of beauty.
Naomi Wolf graduated from Yale University and did graduate work at Oxford University. She is an American author as well as a public speaker on social justice. Considering herself a liberal feminist, she has written a nation bestseller Beauty Myth, as well as other international bestselling books such as Promiscuities, Misconceptions and Fire with Fire. As well as being an author, she confounded the Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership with a mission of education young women on how to be conscience driven leaders.
Working with young women has driven Naomi Wolf to reach out to women everywhere in her book, The Beauty Myth in hopes that every woman in this world would stop letting the concept of the beauty myth distract them from realizing everything they are capable of. The intended audience of the book was women of all ages. As the book was published, Wolf "had the chance to hear thousand of stories in letters and in person, women confided in me the agonizingly personal struggles they had undergone" (Wolf 1). Her audience has responded to her book by being capable of relating the facts in the book to their own personal lives. "Women both young and old... slim women and heavy ones... black, brown, and white women," all reached out to Wolf which shows how broad her audience was (1). Not everyone took this book as an eye opener about the harsh reality of the beauty myth, Wolf received much heat for her arguments from female TV commentators, right- wing radio hosts, and interviewers.
The main purpose of this book, that either educated some while enraged others, was to expose the unrealistic and impossible standards of stereotypical female beauty. The concept of the "beauty myth" destroys a woman's psychological health and even imperils their health as women go to the extremes in order to fit in to the standard of a "mannequin female beauty." In the chapter, "Culture," Wolf focuses on the role of women's magazines shaping their lives and making women feel bad themselves. Not only does she exploit all the psychological wrongs that all the ads in magazines do to women, she clearly states that ad companies clearly do this in order to raise their personal income. If women feel terrible about themselves, they go out and spend millions on beauty products in order to fit into the airbrushed stereotype they see.
Although Wolf's main idea is extremely interesting and relevant to women all over, her logos is extremely over generalized and extremely dramatic. As well as portraying women as victims of men and fashion, she undermines the reader with the lack of support for the evidence of her opinion. "The magazines are not oracles speaking for men. Indeed as one study found, our data suggests women are misinformed and exaggerate the magnitude of thinness men desire"(73). She vaguely states a fact with no evidence to support her claim, by not informing the reader with answers such as which study, who was this study done by and when was this study done. "Somehow, somewhere someone must have figured out that they will buy more things," is another example of a fact without full evidence. "Somehow, somewhere, someone" are extremely vague words that make the reader wonder how truly factual is this book. Even though she lacks the full data of evidence to back up her evidence that may hurt her credibility as a writer, she is a strong author with a great use of pathos to persuade women to not fall into the beauty trap.
As Wolf set out on a quest in this book by educating her readers about the consequences of the beauty trap, her language is extremely persuasive and strong. At times it may even be too much and angry, "this obligatory beauty myth dosage the magazines provide elicits in their readers a raving, itching, parching product lust and an abiding fantasy." By using such strong words as itching, parching lust and abiding fantasy she evokes negative feelings in a reader which allows the reader to fully understand the damage that has been caused by the magazines. "A wry smile about calories, a complaint about one's hair, can evaporate the sullen examination of a rival in the fluorescent light of a ladies' room." This statement by Wolf provides a lot of insight about the nature of women due to the stigma placed upon them by culture. She states that sometimes women are being completely fake as they comment someone else about their hair and weight. This states the truth about behavior or women around one another. They are always competing among one another for better looks and a skinnier waist because it is believed that only the skinny and the pretty get far in life. Even though this idea is not backed up by statistics, the language allows the reader to believe this statement and any women reading this knows deep inside that women do compete with one another.
Even though Wolf uses extremely strong and straightforward language, she does so in order to wake up women and let them see the true light of how they have been put down by fashion industries, magazines, etc. The language used only strengthens her credibility as a writer because it is appropriate for her audience. She provides examples of magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Vogue, Glamour, Playboy, New York Woman that majority of woman have seen or read and are familiar with. Being a feminist herself, she tries to get women of all nationalities all over the world to stop being victims of the current culture that affects beauty and the actions taken to achieve it.
In my opinion, Wolf has made me realize how detrimental the whole concept of beauty is. While reading this book, I was amazed as to how I can also be considered a victim of this battle with culture and beauty. This chapter and the book overall were an enlightening look into our society's expectations of beauty and the ideals that are placed on women. Wolf covers the idealization of beauty at every chance in order to show how it objectifies women. Even though some of her opinions and conclusions are unsupported and there is no clear concise view on how to tackle this ever -lasting problem, many women can understand the desire to fit in and find her writing meaningful and inspirational. She has an uncanny ability to connect to others as she does state, "I was grateful to have had the good luck to write a book that connected my own experience to that of women everywhere" (1). By going through similar experiences she wrote a book that promotes an image of self acceptance that goes further than clichs that control beauty.
- The Huffington Post Beauty Myth