The Beauty Myth

The Beauty Myth

A book that shines a light on the difficulties faced by women and girls is The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf. While I don’t agree with a lot of her rhetoric, as well as her solutions to the discussed problems, I think her book offers a glimpse at many of the issues women deal with every day.

One of the most valid critiques of feminism – other than the fact that it often promotes feminine chivalry – is that it typically tries to explain phenomena in the world with one causal factor alone.

This was the same criticism for Marxists in the past; Marxists stated that the primary agent for historical change was economics, which is obviously not the whole story.

There can be a lot of factors for why things go down the way they go down. It can be due to psychological aspects, actions at the individual level, ideologies, history, economics, culture, and the list goes on.

Sometimes, it can even be a single person such as Hitler who acted on a deep-seeded resentment in the German people after being shit on in the First World War.

One of my biggest gripes with The Beauty Myth is she seems to believe that corporate advertising is a scheme developed by a ‘White-Supremacist-Patriarchy’ designed for the sole purpose of making women feel insecure, so they’re forever insubordinate to men in society.

This sounds incredibly paranoid to me.

And while it could be the case at times, the bitter truth is that women don’t have to abide by social conventions (due to advertising) like using 50 different make-up’s and creams every day to get ahead in life, contrary to what they may tell themselves and each other.

A woman doesn’t need to wear high heels and spend an hour on her hair every day if she is to get a job working as a pharmacist. She merely has to take care of her appearance at the same level as a man.

Anybody who doesn’t spend an inordinate amount of time in academia-land – or the proverbial “ivory towers” – knows that some of these ideas spoke of by political activists are greatly exaggerated.

A woman’s weight is a relevant factor just like that of a man. If a man were to show up to work as a news anchor 70 pounds overweight one day, he would not be able to keep his job.

Both men and women are subjected to similar standards to keep their job, unlike what some activists have to say, with some obvious exceptions of course, like models, actresses, television news anchors, or positions where being “attractive” is practically a prerequisite to getting hired.

However, in jobs where being attractive is a prerequisite, men are subjected to the same standards; they have to look good.

Out of all the jobs I’ve ever had (I’ve had ten now), I could say that women were not held to a different standard. In fact, often, there were clear benefits to being a girl, particularly in the service industry, for example, 3x as many tips.

As a side note, while speaking of women in the service industry, I’m aware that women can be followed and harassed by guys they don’t know after work.

However, there are always two sides to every story, and women in these positions often lead men on and then exaggerate how much they were “followed.”

A guy might say to her, “I’ll meet you for a cigarette when you get off,” and she responds, “Sure! That sounds great.”

When in reality, she’s incredibly creeped out and will later tell everyone he is “stalking” or “following” her.

Women play the victim at times because they know there’s utility in doing so.

They play into the old sexist stereotype of girls being the more vulnerable and meek sex, for the sake of getting other people to back them up against someone whom with they’re currently fighting.

However, when it comes to the way they deal with men, there are many kinds of girls who are very good at dealing with male aggression and can enforce personal boundaries.

Girls like that, typically have a thick-skin and are the real “empowered” ones.

Women, in general, need to work on being more assertive and honest with their intentions and feelings, rather than continue hiding them to “not hurt people’s feelings” – which is merely a guise for not having the courage to stand up for themselves.

Back to the idea of the dress code; none of the guys who work as bartenders in a popular establishment are allowed to show up disobeying dress code or with some nasty ass unkempt beard.

They’re subjected to the same standards as women, albeit, admittedly, women have to put on makeup and do their hair which is a social convention that is outside of the businesses control.

However, I’m willing to concede that women, in some places such as Moxies, have to wear high heels, which I think is unfair. Women should not have to wear those shoes for 6-12 hours a day.

That’s a social convention that women have to defy collectively every day in their lives. But let’s be honest here, girls love those shoes. They WILLINGLY wear them, contrary to what people like Naomi Wolf have to say.

It’s up to women to make the changes necessary for them to get ahead, it is not up to men, men can’t make these changes for you.

When boiling it down, I’m saying is this: If a non-disabled, sane, woman willingly participates in a cultural convention that does herself harm, it is not the convention and society that is the problem, it is her.

Naomi Wolf, in her book, states the exact opposite. The argument she makes is infuriating. She says whether or not people engage in that behavior willingly is irrelevant. It’s insane.

It’s like repeatedly putting your hands – and burning them – on a hot stove and then turning around and blaming the stove. If it’s burning you, maybe you should stop putting your hand on it?

Naomi Wolf claims women are judged unless they conform to these beauty standards, which to me, is a pathetic thing to say.

The criticisms that you face, as a person, come as the package deal of asserting yourself as an individual in society. Nobody who defies norms, conventions, beliefs, ideologies and social structures get away scot-free.

There IS ALWAYS a price to pay for going against the grain. If it were easy to forge an identity in this world, one that makes you an individual among a group, then the value of being an individual would be lost entirely.

The value of “being yourself,” and learning how to be an individual, is valuable, purely because it’s incredibly hard to do so.

Additionally, I want to speak to the idea that girls often feel ignored by people.

In some circumstances, women feel like they’re not getting the respect they deserve, and typically it’s not because of their gender. It’s because of their actions, vocal tonality, and how they present themselves.

Take a girl who works as a waitress for example, who walks into the bar and says “hi” to the other male staff members who are at the bar together in the middle of a conversation where everyone is attentively listening.

When she enters, she’s expecting us all to stop everything we’re doing and acknowledge and give her attention. However, it doesn’t work that way.

The same rule applies to men. If you walk up to a group of guys you work with who are currently talking to a customer, they might ignore you for a moment because you came at a bad time, they’re busy.

You’re better off to wait, put your bags inside, and come back out when they’re not as consumed by the conversation. If people don’t acknowledge you right away, don’t take it so damn personally. Relax, and take everything in stride.

The point that I’m getting to is this: the woman in the example listed above thinks that she’s not getting respect because she’s a woman when in reality, she just doesn’t understand the social conventions at play.

Similarly, women don’t understand that vocal tonality and volume is crucial to get men to listen to you. If you speak quietly, no one wants to hear what you have to say. It’s communicating that you don’t believe in what you’re saying, so why should they?

The counterargument to this is that men will label you a “bitch” or a “cunt” for trying to speak as loudly as men. And while that may or not be true, what activists don’t understand, is that it doesn’t matter.

The labels people have for you are entirely irrelevant. Society may label a single man in his thirties who is an attractive, successful, business owner; who dates young women, as a “fuckboy,” “douchebag,” or whatever ad hominem attack you can conjure up.

But these terms don’t matter. People will always try and shame you for who you are; it doesn’t matter what type of person you are, your gender, race, ethnicity, or what have you.

Society will ALWAYS judge you, and it’s your responsibility as a person to defy that judgment and do you. Just do your thing, and don’t worry about what people have to say.

A famous quote attributed to Aristotle and sometimes Elbert Hubbard goes, “If you don’t want to face criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”

37 thoughts on “The Beauty Myth

  1. I agree with this whole heartedly. I have often remarked that women who ask for social “power” from men do not understand that the very act of asking for recognition places the power firmly in the man’s hands. Social “power” is available only to those who grab it, by defying conventions, or for asking for that money, or refusing to wear heels etc. It is so counter-productive for women to whine that men don’t respect them enough. Who cares! This article rings very true to me on a number of points.

    1. I’m really glad to hear that.

      And yeah, I feel like to truly be “empowered” is to fight back against conventions that aren’t helpful to your or reflective of how you want to live your life. Empowerment is making your own decisions and understanding that they play a crucial role in the way that the rest of your life turns out.

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