Review: The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf

An exploration of how the classic book The Beauty Myth reveals the truth behind beauty, and how these ideas still hold water today.


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Beauty provokes harassment, the law says, but it looks through men's eyes when deciding what provokes it.

Quote from The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf.

Feminist literature is a spectacular area of literature. Books of this genre question the dominance of male writers and the struggles faced by women.

Some of the best-known feminist works include Virginia Woolf’s A Room Of One’s Own (1929), Kate Millet's Sexual Politics (1970), Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar's The Madwoman in the Attic (1979), and many more. My personal favourite is Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth (1990), which set out to talk primarily about women and the desire for physical beauty.


Women and beauty seemed to exist as two sides of the same coin. Ever since the dawn of mankind, the desire to maintain one’s physical appearance has been imminent, but this developed into a problem as the the notion of beauty became more about “taming” women and keeping them within the domain of patriarchy.

This exact notion is discussed by Wolf in her text. It has been three decades since the book was published. In these thirty years, the social and political strata of several governments and countries have transformed immensely. Yet, Wolf’s ideas of beauty and feminism are still closely bound to current society.


It is thought that lighter skin is better, that thinner is better, and that conventionally feminine clothing is better. There is pressure put on women to look physically beautiful at all times and to never be satisfied with how they look. For Wolf, beauty is the only barrier to the struggle for equality. What’s more, the writer believes that beauty is used as a weapon against women who are prominent figures in society, business, politics, and other domains.


If there’s one thing that shapes and contributes to the morals and opinions held by people, then it is social media. Why does social media have such a huge impact on people? Through trends, social media decides how one is supposed to look or not look.

Beauty still sells today, be it on the magazine, influencer’s page, or on a billboard. A popular celebrity markets his/her own line of cosmetics and it creates hype within minutes. Today, we do have brands that cater to all skin tones, but is this enough? Some companies try to capitalise on their products by simply giving attention to all skin tones and body sizes as a marketing ploy rather than to actually make an impact. Body positivity tends to become a seasonal concept at times.

As 2021 unfolds, not much has changed in terms of beauty standards and the high expectations of women. Change is not an overnight thing. Yes, compared to the previous decades, Gen-Z is becoming more and more inclusive and understanding, but we do have a long way to go.