Big Rowan Ackison (greensh) wrote,
Big Rowan Ackison
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The Beauty Myth and Other Strident Arguments

Today I picked up the book “The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women” by Naomi Wolf. At first I was intrigued. I then became disturbed as I read the book over my dinner of Chinese buffet goodness.

Here are some quotes from chapter one:
“The beauty myth is not about women at all. It is about men’s institutions and institutional power”.

“The beauty myth is always about prescribing behavior and not appearance”.

“It is summoned out of political fear on the part of male-dominated institutions threatened by women’s freedom, and it exploits female guilt and apprehension about our liberation – latent fears that we might be going to far.
The book was published in 1991. I had just gotten out of college and was a fresh newbie in the work-a-day world. As a guy I did not get the memo that there was this vast conspiracy mounted against women via the beauty myth. But seriously, I found the ideas presented in the book to be strident and disturbing. The first chapter presented a counter-feminist movement that was only a few decades old. In Wolf’s story the patriarch seems to have realized that power was slipping and moved to detour women from power and crush the triumphant feminist movement. What has happened since 1991? I guess I’ll base on my opinions on what I see in the present day.

There are industries that embrace beauty as a driver. Some food serving establishments purposely look for the beautiful people. Typically young, the servers seem to be chosen for their look with their presence being part of the decoration as much as the interior decoration. These restaurants are not the norm though and there is not a lot of money here. It could be postulated that the youthfulness of the servers is based on their willingness to take small(er) money for their efforts. Other industries that purposely hire the beautiful person are in the business of selling things and services to other beautiful people. Hmmm, this could be a trait of those restaurants too!

Is the beauty myth alive and constricting where I work? I don’t see it. I’m sorry Naomi. In the world of larger $$$ the idea that men are maintaining the glass ceiling by using beauty does not seem to be a reality. While I’m out of most office rumor mills, I’m not aware of a secret society of men seeking to kill women’s gains in society. It is this nonconforming reality that informs my opinion.

Are there some seriously evil things afoot for women? Yes of course. Power does drive the patriarchal system to pull out the “gender card”. Hillary Clinton’s run in the United States presidential race will bear this out and probably in some very ugly ways. Before I start my own critique allow me reemphasize that I don’t believe Naomi is wrong in a larger sense. Bad stuff happens. So, I’ll admit that there are some real gender issues out there, but I still find Naomi’s book wrong in a very pointed way.

Consider the following statements:
They hate us, because we're free. (Remarks by the President at Connecticut Republican Committee Luncheon)

Meat is Murder (on the Environment) (NewScientist Environment)

Potter books open a doorway that put untold millions of kids into hell. (Wikipedia article on this with link to associated Chick Publications pamphlet)
In my mind the common link between these is that they make an incredibly polarized statement in support of a cause. Is there some truth to these statements? Yes. Are the statements completely true? No. Yet, the statements are made as a starting point or a main supporting foundation to a earnest argument. There are no prisoners taken. There are no honorable opponents. It disturbs me when people go this martial route in their extreme support of their causes.

Naomi is an earnest supporter of her beliefs. She also leaves the reader either full of righteous anger, humiliated angst, or bemused disconnection as she pursues what could be categorized as a political agenda instead of a generally embraced sociological reality. I will continue to read the book even though I suspect my bemused disconnection will continue.

For those who wish to learn more about the message and possible interpretations, a very insightful evaluation of Naomi's potentially slanted book can be found here.

Does anybody else have an opinion on either the book, the author, or this style of discourse?
Tags: debate
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