Naomi Wolf's Beauty Myth and Self-Loathing

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The poison that is undermining the gains of feminism, the battle for equal rights and progressive advances in women’s rights to which Naomi Wolf alludes in “The Beauty Myth” is the secret desire within women underlying the face of that struggle to be taken seriously on equal terms with male competitors to achieve that mythical concept of attaining an objectively qualified status of beautiful. The subjugation of women by those men at the top of the power spectrum is, in part, driven by the illusion of objectivity in what it means to be beautiful which paradoxically translates into a lifelong, never-ending quest comprising entirely subjective means of attaining that objective ideal. An objective ideal that is, of course, constantly manipulated and reapportioned by men.

Such control of the image of the ideal directly impacts the means by which women attempt to attain, thus creating within the labor marketplace a space for exploiting this secret desire to the point of female subjugation. Time that could be spent addressing the requirements necessary for professional and social advancement resulting in equal status with the hierarchical power elite in a world where female beauty was on par with male beauty is instead devoted to a repetitious series applications of makeup, visits to hair and nail salons, short-lived obsessive devotion to the latest exercise craze and appointments for cosmetic surgical procedures.

The underlying ideological thrust of everything connected to pursuing “the Beauty Myth” is driven not by its success in making women feel beautiful, but its success in creating self-loathing among women who buy into its existence. This self-loathing is the foundation for the connection between feminism’s ability to make women feel good about themselves and the Beauty Myth’s capacity ripping those hard-fought feelings of self-esteem right out of them. In concert with that ripping of self-esteem has been the transformation of external esteem from the value of domesticity as the ultimate feminine achievement to the attainment of beauty as bestowal of ultimate esteem. The mass exodus of woman outside their captive environs inside the home in the role as domestic partner created the impetus for women to find esteem in work outside the home, thus positioning themselves as equitable competitors to the male workforce. The transition of beauty as the defining mark of femininity rather than the capacity to excel as CEO of the household is a direct example of the power struggle taking place as it plays on the fear of working women being characterized as the woman who must become a feminist because she is not attractive enough not to be. As for whether men could possibly become future victims of a concerted effort to transform the ideological exploitation of “the Beauty Myth” one need only look at the popularity of products like spray-on abs!