I just started re-reading some books that I feel will be good references in these rapidly changing times.
The first one I thought of was The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women by Naomi Wolf . The first time I owned it was when I was 16 or 17 and I doubt that I fully grasped the nuance or even fully understood what I was consuming, but I loved the concept and was proud to have the title on my shelf.
I’m pretty sure I originally saw Naomi Wolf on TV, maybe a news show or David Letterman, and I was captivated by the fact that she was not only eloquent and pretty, but blatantly smart with no bullshit! She instantly went on my radar…
Brainwise, I felt the same measure of womanly respect for Wolf as I did for my Cultural Hero Camille Paglia. But Paglia didn’t hold the same allure. Just think about the irony of that when considering the Beauty Myth.
Even at 16 without having read the book, I realized that maybe this is why Naomi Wolf was able to speak about images of beauty with some sort of authority. Having been subjected to the type of scrutiny that most images of beauty endure in our culture.
The book The Beauty Myth has been said to be a tome of the Third Wave of Feminism and was heralded by some, discounted by others. For me, it was consoling. It gave a window to beauty that my Figuring-It-Out-BiRacial-Coming-of-Age-while-living-abroad-surrounded-by-Skippers-Self so desperately wanted to understand.
This book gives sobering analysis of what we consider a “flawless beauty,” and asks if there really is such a thing? If so, why do we strive for it?
Overall, The Beauty Myth gives attention to topics ranging from “Culture” and “Religion,” to “Work” and “Sex” which are universal, but we are also given meditations on the concepts of “Violence” and “Hunger.”
Notably, the section on Violence will give you a whole new lens through which to view plastic surgery and the notions of “Beauty” and “Pain.”
This section brought to mind that while I was in college I took a “Women’s Studies” course with an Italian professor named Dr. DiGorio. In the class we discussed the Hijra Culture and the propagation of other types of “Beauty Myths.” I remember doing a presentation on the Marketing concept of “Metro-Sexuals” to include the subjugation of men through marketing and societal pressure.
As I said I am only now re-reading The Beauty Myth and am looking forward to having the concepts re-illuminated for me. Especially, now. In a completely different world than when I first read it…