#bookaday Challenge, Day 1: The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf

This year, I’m participating in Nerdy Book Club’s Sixth Annual Book-a-Day Challenge. Says Donalyn,

Book-a-Day is not a competition. It’s an opportunity to enjoy marvelous reading experiences and rededicate to daily reading. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what we read, or how much, or when. What matters is that we have fun and indulge in our favorite leisure activity—reading a lot of books!
I look forward to my summer adventures, both inside and outside of books.

So, there you have it. Today is the first “real” day of summer vacation (i.e., the first day when I would otherwise have been at work – weekends don’t count!), and to celebrate, I finished reading Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth.

The Beauty Myth Don’t let the cover art fool you; I read it in English. I borrowed this edition from the high school library. One of my favorite things about books is the cover designs, and I think this is the most visually interesting of them. It also reveals a failing of the text itself: racialized ideals of beauty are given only a passing mention, and the way rich women’s beauty is maintained at the expense of poor women is mentioned but I think it could have been a bigger subject of analysis. Likewise, I would have liked to see more about queer and trans women’s experiences of the beauty myth, but like I said in my review on Goodreads:

This text is a modern feminist classic and it’s easy to see why. Some of it was outdated (e.g., her shock at photoshopping) and I would have liked to see more analysis of queer and trans women’s experiences of the beauty myth, but for something written when I was two years old? It’s powerful, and it made me think about beautification in an entirely new way; conceptualizing the beauty myth as political and economic, not as sexual, was a huge revelation and has changed the way I think about images of oppressive beauty and the desire to live up to those expectations.

I said something similar in undergrad during my film class, about how as women’s characters on screen became more interesting and took up more and more narrative “space,” the women actors portraying those characters became thinner and took up less and less physical space.
I was also not expecting the “Violence” chapter to be about diets, disordered eating, and cosmetic surgery, but those are forms of violence; maybe highly sublimated forms of self-harm, but still violence. Like she says in the book, a starving body doesn’t know who is denying it nourishment, or why; the physical and psychological effects are the same.
I’m glad I picked this up and frankly, I’m surprised it took me so long.


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