Essay PreviewMore ↓
Wolf utilizes the term "the beauty myth" to demonstrate that the interpretation of beauty is a creation of society, intended to keep women trapped inside their bodies. Wolf claims that the beauty myth "is not about women at all." She explains, "it is about men's institutions and institutional power" (5). In addition, she claims that women have recently obtained numerous rights, which now threaten "to destabilize the institutions on which a male-dominated culture has depended." She continues to explain that "a collective panic reaction […] has forced a demand for counter images" (8). Clearly, society as a whole does create pressure on women to act in a certain manner. However, Wolf's implication that it is an intentional, organized effort to keep women oppressed is one-sided and extreme.
While Wolf fails to conclusively prove that the beauty myth is an organized group effort, she is certainly correct in her explanation of the symptoms associated with the beauty myth:
There is a secret "underlife" poisoning our freedom; infused with notions of beauty, it is a dark vein of self-hatred, physical obsessions, terror of aging, and dread of lost control. (3)
According to Laura Shapiro, a notable researcher on eating disorders, the medical condition of anorexia consists of several elements. By definition, anorexia nervosa is a condition characterized by intense fear of gaining weight or becoming obese, as well as a distorted body image, and a feeling of loss of control (Shapiro 69).
How to Cite this Page
"Origins of The Beauty Myth." 123HelpMe.com. 21 May 2019
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- Million-dollar beauty and fashion industries both shape and depend on the cult-like worship of what physical attributes the public sees as beautiful. In result, most women feel the effects of those decisions (Dawson 1). Definitions of beauty in the 20th century, when referring to human physical beauty, are nearly always constructed in terms of outward appearance and sexual attractiveness (Wood 1). According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, Beauty is defined as “the quality of being physically attractive.” Standards of beauty today dictate expectations for women, men, children and ethnic minority groups across the board (Mainstream Standards 2).... [tags: Black people, African American, Human skin color]
1442 words (4.1 pages)
- Mythical History Green Tara has a rich mythical history. So rich, in fact, that there are two myths narrating the origins of the Bodhisattva Green Tara. In the first myth, she is depicted as a celestial being, coming forth from the tears of another Bodhisattva, Avalokiteshvara. In this myth, as Avalokiteshvara gazed upon all of the suffering in this world, he cried tears of compassion until a lake formed (Vessantara, 1994). A blue lotus emerged from the lake of tears and Avalokiteshvara cried into its center, turning it into a white full-moon disc (Vessantara, 1994).... [tags: Buddhism, Gautama Buddha, Four Noble Truths]
1989 words (5.7 pages)
- Analysis of The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf The Beauty Myth, published by Doubleday in New York City, hit the shelves in 1992. Naomi Wolf wrote this 348-page book. Wolf attended Yale University and New College, Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes Scholar. Her essays have been printed in many well-known magazines and newspapers, including Esquire and the New York Times. The Beauty Myth was Wolf’s first book. She has also written two other books, Fire With Fire and Promiscuities. Wolf is a recognized feminist.... [tags: The Beauty Myth Feminism Naomi Wolf Essays]
589 words (1.7 pages)
The Goddess of Love, Desire, and Beauty, Aphrodite, was Worshipped by Ancient Greece for Many More Reason
- ... The Greeks believed she could be useful in many situations. This is most likely why she typically has multiple shrines within one city. The themes are mostly sexual, but could also pertain to marriage and fertility. Her shrines in Korinthos were known centers for “sacred prostitution” where young priestesses would worship Aphrodite by offering their bodies to men, who pay by leaving sacrifices to the goddess. Sometimes these men would “pay” by leaving her more women. This act of “sacred prostitution” is said to have been a fertility rite for young girls There is a hymn written by Pindar telling the tale of an Olympic athlete who promised Aphrodite 100 girls in exchange for victory at the... [tags: olympian, sexual, power]
704 words (2 pages)
- This essay is for women who believe their thighs are too big, their breasts are too small, their hair is boring, their skin is flawed, their body is shaped funny, or their clothes are outdated. This month's column is for women who believe their life would improve if they could lose 15 pounds; if they could afford contact lenses, that new perfume or anti-cellulite concoction; if they got a nose job, a face lift, a tummy tuck, etc. This month's column is for women who feel shame or unhappiness when they ponder some part (or all) of their body.... [tags: Beauty and the Media]
1967 words (5.6 pages)
- In today’s society it seems as though women are forced into being something that they are not. Women see pictures in magazines and they believe to be accepted by everyone else they need to look like an air-brushed image. I believe that some of the feelings from “The Beauty Myth” are still true in today’s society, but on the other hand I believe that it should not have to be this way. I believe that women’s feeling that they have to look like something they are not are brought on by advertisements like this one and many other things.... [tags: Beauty and the Media]
449 words (1.3 pages)
- Dewing and Foster has proposed that a unisexual beauty myth may result in sexual equality. Therefore the purpose of this assignment is to investigate the impact beauty has on men and women. Thus, I look at how and why gender stereotypes and the beauty myth exist. Furthermore, I am also going to investigate how traditional beliefs of masculinity have changed. In addition, I also discuss the consequences that arise for men and women, because of the beauty myth. Lastly I will discuss the interrelation between gender and age and how double standards apply for ageing men and women in society.... [tags: sexual equality, femininity, masculinity]
1059 words (3 pages)
- "Our culture is depicting sex as rape so that men and women will become interested in it." - Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth (1991) Feminists for decades have been battling against the media for depicting images of women that they consider to be demeaning and obscene for the sake of beauty. This quotation, taken from feminist best-seller, Naomi Wolf, puts into perspective the feminist views of the damage that media induces on its female consumers and the subliminal message it sends to both men and women.... [tags: feminist, rights, rape]
1268 words (3.6 pages)
- What is beauty. What are the qualities that are included in the definition of beauty. “Generally, beauty refers to the characteristic or characteristics of an object that entail human pleasure to one or more senses. Beauty cannot be negative or ugly.” (Beirnet)However, there are various concepts of beauty across the globe. “In Nigeria, big and heavy women are considered beautiful and admired. In Burmese traditional view, women with long neck are considered beautiful.” (Plotnick 603). So if there are different concepts of beauty around the globe, how can we hail the most beautiful girl in the world.... [tags: Beauty]
1321 words (3.8 pages)
- The Beauty Myth Rosa MacCauley began her phenomenal life on February 4, 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama. Her mother was a schoolteacher and taught Rosa at home until age 11. Her father, who was a carpenter and a builder, left the family because he wanted to travel, but his wife wanted a permanent home. (Guest History Month 1) As a little girl, Rosa McCauley was afraid to go to sleep at night. She has several memories of white people who rode horses burning crosses and scaring black people. These people that Rosa described in her memories were members of the group known as the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).... [tags: Papers]
832 words (2.4 pages)
While Wolf correctly establishes the symptoms of the beauty myth, her reasoning for the existence of these problems is flawed. Wolf claims that "the beauty myth" has not "always been this way." She states that there is no "historical justification" of the beauty myth, and that it is a new concept. Wolf continues by explaining that the beauty myth is nothing more than "the need of today's power structure, economy, and culture to mount a counteroffensive against women" (5). However, according to established historians, such as Kunzing, Mourao, Scarborough, Shapiro, Stunakard, and Yates, eating disorders, cosmetic self-beautification, and pornography existed prior to women's liberation. Therefore, it is impossible to claim that these problems are the result of the current "backlash."
Although the medical term "anorexia nervosa" wasn't coined until 1939, the word anorexia was first established as a term meaning "hunger" in 1598 ("Anorexia"). Stunkard states that "even though anorexia is thought of as a modern disease, it has been traced back to the Middle Ages" (264). Similarly, it is well documented that bulimia dates back to ancient times (345). Wolf states, "during the past decade, women breached the power structure; meanwhile, eating disorders rose exponentially" (2). However, eating disorders were as significant an issue in past centuries as they are now, but inadequate documentation has resulted in the false belief that the disease is new (Yates 813). Consequently, the logic that correlates the breaking of the "power structure," with a rise in eating disorders is flawed.
The second finding that Wolf correlates with the "backlash against feminism" is the use of cosmetic surgery. Considering that cosmetic surgery was first invented in the twentieth century (Stunkard 284), it is impossible to compare the use of cosmetic surgery before and after women's liberation. However, it is possible to examine the historical use of other artificial methods of beautification, such as makeup and perfume. Ancient Roman women liberally applied henna with the expressed purpose of self-beautification (Scarborough 37). In addition, the use of cosmetic powders dates all the way back to 120 BC (38). The ancient Egyptians used perfumes, powders, lipstick, and rouge (Kunzig 85). Kunzig analyzes the reasoning for women's use of these cosmetics:
The essential of human life cycle haven't changed in 4,000 years. The Egyptians were surely driven by some of the use of cosmetics: in youth, the desire to seduce; in later years, the desire to forestall age. (87)
It is obvious that the use of cosmetics flourished thousands of years before women obtained their political freedoms. In addition, women's feelings of inadequacy were evident 4,000 years ago, again prior to any feminine liberation. Therefore, Wolf is incorrect in stating that there is a "relationship between female liberation and female beauty" (2).
Lastly, Wolf claims that the use of pornography flourished as a direct effort to keep women trapped in the beauty myth. She observes that pornography has grown into a $7 billion-a year industry (8). However, the use of pornography is documented throughout history, and it is clear that this industry flourished for hundreds of years. However, the "lack of critical attention" to the history of pornography has resulted in the misconception that it did not exist (Mourao 573). During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, pornography was a prospering discipline. Furthermore, during this time, the depiction of women was even more degrading than the time period addressed by Wolf. "[…] but, more so than many of the twentieth century examples of pornography… these early texts valorized female sexual activity" (Mourao 574). The ancient Greeks were familiar with pornography, as evidenced in the derivation of the word; pornography is classical Greek for "writings about harlots." The Roman emperor, Tiberius, allegedly compiled a personal library of the most explicit pornography of the day (Mourao 584). After examining the various historical examples of pornography, it is clear that the objectification of women's bodies is not a new phenomenon. While Wolf may be correct in stating its clear prevalence during her time, she fails to realize that pornography has been in existence for centuries. Therefore, pornography cannot be linked to women's acquisition of rights.
Wolf correctly recognizes that society pressures women to look a certain way, resulting in eating disorders, the use of cosmetics, and pornography. However, she fails to establish a clear connection between these issues and the timeline of the women's right movement. She argues "since the women's movement had successfully taken apart most other necessary fictions of femininity," the problems associated with eating disorders, cosmetic beautification, and pornography became prominent (Wolf 7). In addition, she claims that "the more legal and material hindrances women have broken through, the more strictly and heavily and cruelly images of female beauty have come to weigh on women" (2). However, after analyzing various historical sources, it has become clear that each of these issues has existed for many years. While Wolf should be commended for documenting the importance of destroying the "beauty myth," she is clearly incorrect in her reasoning regarding its timing and etiology. As Wolf stated, this “door” of the beauty myth where “women are trapped today” needs to be slammed (10). However, it important to acknowledge that this is not a new “door;” it is one that has remained open for centuries.
List of Works Cited
"Anorexia." Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1999.
Kunzig, Robert. "Style of the Nile." Discover. 20 (Sept., 1999): 80.
Mourao, Manuela. "The Representation of Female Desire in Early Modern Pornographic Texts, 1600-1745." Signs 24 (Spring 1999): 573.
Scarborough, John. "Drugs and Medicines in the Roman World." Expedition. 38 (Summer, 1996): 38.
Shapiro, Laura. "The Secret Language of Eating Disorders." Newsweek. 130 (Sept 22, 1997): 69.
Stunkard, Albert. "A Description of Eating Disorders in 1932." American Journal of Psychiatry. (March, 1990): 263.
Wolf, Naomi. "The Beauty Myth." Signs of Life in the U.S.A.: Readings on Popular Culture for Writers. Ed. Maasik and Solomon. Boston: Bedford, 1994.
Yates, Alayne. "History, Psychological and Biological Aspects." Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. (Nov, 1989): 813.
Bray, Abigail, and Colebrook, Claire. "The Haunted Flesh: Corporeal Feminism and the Politics of (Dis)Embodiment." Signs 24 (Autumn, 1998): 35.
Chernin, Kim. The Hungry Self: Women, Eating and Identity. New York: Times Books, 1985.
Hartmann, Susan M. "A History of Cosmetic Surgery (Review)." Journal of Women's History v10 (Autumn, 1998): 222.
Heinberg, Leslie J., and Thompson, J. Kevin, and Stormer, Susan. "Development and Validation of the Sociocultural Attitudes Towards Appearance Questionnaire." International Journal of Eating Disorders. 17 (Jan, 1995): 81.
"Society and Eating Disoreders." The International Journal of Eating Disorders. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1981.
Walter, P. "Making Make-Up in Ancient Egypt." Nature. (Feb.11, 1999): 483.
Ziolko, Horst-Ulfert. "Bulimia: A Historical Outline." International Journal of Eating Disorders. New York: Van Nostrnand Reinhold, 1996.