Ok, so this is The First Feminist Post on my blog. I’ve really just been writng about crafts and food – which are absolutely part of my identity and things I really enjoy – but I have, up till now, kept a huge part of my intellectual and social life off of my blog…
So right now I’m reading The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf and I’m not quite halfway done. So far, it’s great, and here are some of my thoughts.
This book was originally published in 1991, so I was expecting it to sound pretty dated, and yeah, there are some places, especially where Wolf cites statistics, that her argument sounds out-of-date. But for the most part, the feelings and experiences Wolf describes are depressingly familiar to me. Have woman gained so little ground against the beauty myth in my lifetime?
Wolf argues that although beauty has been used as a weapon against women for millenia, the ‘beauty myth’ that prevails today is a result of and a reaction to second wave feminism. She writes:
“The contemporary backlash is so violent because the ideology of beauty is the last one remaining of the old feminine ideologies that still has the power to control those women whom second wave feminism would have otherwise made relatively uncontrollable: It has grown stronger to take over the work of social coercion that myths about motherhood, domesticity, chastity, and passivity, no longer can manage. It is seeking right now to undo pyschologically and covertly all the good things that feminism did for women materially and overtly.”
Think of the handful of women you admire most. Think of how awesome and strong and capable they are. What’s the one thing that those women, every woman, can never be allowed to feel 100% confident about? Her body. We are being controlled, manipulated, and made to feel less than, for two reasons:
1). To sell beauty products, and
2). To keep women underconfident, underpaid, and underprivileged by pitting us against other women and against our own bodies; i.e., to serve the patriarchy.
Need I add that this fucking sucks?
Anyway, suffice to say that this book, combined with my growing interest in the Fat Acceptance movement* is really making me think about my relationship to beauty, fasion and my body. Oh, and I think I will do another post just on the ‘Culture’ chapter of The Beauty Myth because I was thinking about Pam the whole time I was reading about Wolf’s analysis of women’s magazines. She has some cool ideas about the role of magazines in creating a ‘women’s space’ in media.
So this is a crappy start to Some of Sarah’s Ideas About Feminism. I think I need to just keep writing about my views and hopefully it will all come together in some sort of coherent body of writing someday.
*new to Fat Acceptance? there have been some truly awesome open threads over at Shakesville** recently on fat shaming. Give them a read and see if you aren’t able to identify.
**Shakesville is my feminist bread and butter. Seriously. I would be a much worse person today if I had never found Shakesville.