Because increased scrutiny of the procedure has led to legal action, which closed down the expanding market for breast implants. There is no longer an ad budget driving magazine articles about breast-size anxiety, articles that once fed that anxiety and created even more demand for the product.
Now, the glass half-empty. I do not think so. In reality, however, these diseases were widely suffered by many ordinary young women from unremarkable backgrounds, women and girls who were simply trying to maintain an unnatural ideal body shape and weight.
I knew from looking around me in high school and at college that eating disorders were widespread among otherwise perfectly well balanced young women, and that the simple, basic social pressure to be thin was a major factor in the development of these diseases. The National Eating Disorders Association confirms National Institutes of Health statistics in pointing out that 1 to 2 percent of American women are anorexic—between 1.
NIH also notes that the death rate for anorexia,. Anorexia is the biggest killer of American teenage girls. I knew, from personal experience and from looking at women all around me, that eating disorders were a vicious cycle: Starving or vomiting became addictive behaviors once you started. I knew that the social expectation to be so thin as to be unlikely to menstruate was a sick ideal, and that you often had to become sick to conform to it.
Disordered eating, which was undertaken to fit a disordered ideal, was one of the causes of the disease, and not necessarily, as popular opinion of the day held, a manifestation of an underlying neurosis. This, now, is progress. Yet, on the down side, those very disorders are now so widespread—and, in fact, almost destigmatized by such intense publicity—that they have become virtually normal. Not only do whole sororities take for granted that bulimia is mainstream behavior, but models now openly talk to Glamour magazine about their starvation regimes.
And pro-an Web sites have appeared on the Internet, indicating a subculture of girls who are pro-anorexia, who find the anorexic look appealing and validate it.
This is definitely not progress. When the beauty myth was analyzed in the early nineties, the ideal was, as I have noted, quite rigid. Women of color were seldom shown as role models unless they had, like Beverly Johnson, virtually Caucasian features. Now, there is much more pluralism in the myth; it is now, one can almost say, many beauty myths.
A seventeen-year-old African American model, with African features and dark skin, is reported in the New York Times as being the face of the moment. In the same vein, Benetton ads feature models in a rainbow of skin hues and with a myriad of racial and ethnic features. Women of color feel freer to wear traditional ethnic hairstyles and clothing in professional settings, and the straightening comb is not the obligatory burden it was in the early nineties.
Even Barbie has been redesigned with a more realistic body type and now comes in many colors. Looking around, there is a bit more room today to be oneself. There is also more consumer protection against the worst assertions of the beauty industry than there was in the days when this book first appeared. Today, anti-aging creams, for example, can no longer make absurd claims for their products, as they did a decade ago.
Ten years ago, cosmetics companies regularly declared that their youth creams erased signs of age, restructured skin on a cellular level, and renewed tissue from within —all of which are physically impossible, since their ingredients were not able to penetrate the epidermis. This misrepresentation went so far that the Food and Drug Administration finally took action.
On another front, the Federal Trade Commission cracked down on the diet-program hype of the nineties. They alerted diet programs that they must not misleadingly promise permanent weight loss results without sufficient studies to back up those results.
Consumer advocacy even took a weight-loss pill called Fen-Phen off the market for causing heart-related fatalities. Consumer and FDA action saved women money, but it also sparked a new, more stress-free era for women worried about their age. Because of the aging of our role models, women of any age seem somewhat less paralyzed about the dreaded approach of their fortieth or even fiftieth birthdays, and it is no coincidence that women today by no means equate aging with the immediate erasure of their identities as vibrant, sensual women, worthy of love and high style.
The influence and prevalence of plus-size models in the fashion and cosmetic industry is growing rapidly. Women of color are some of the most admired of fashion icons. So has beauty-myth pluralism taken the day? Not by a long shot. Nor does the beauty-myth mutation stop with women, although with men, it is driven less by cultural backlash and more by simple market opportunity. As I predicted it would, a male beauty myth has established itself in the last decade, moving from inside the gay male subculture to the newsstands of the nation, and hitting suburban dads with a brand-new anxiety about their previously comfortable midsections.
Inevitably, a vast market for Viagra opened up. Male fashion, health, and grooming magazines have taken off. Male cosmetic-surgery use has hit record highs. Men are now a third of the market for surgical procedures, and 10 percent of college students suffering from eating disorders are men. Men of all ages, economic backgrounds, and sexual orientations are more worried—some a bit, others more substantially—than they were just ten years ago. Is it progress when both genders can be commodified and evaluated as objects?
Only of the most double-edged kind. If one can draw one firm conclusion, it is that ten years later, women have a bit more breathing space to do what I urged them to do at the end of The Beauty Myth to make the beauty myth their own. Today, many women have a sense of a measure of freedom to dress up or down, put on lipstick or take it off, flaunt themselves or wear sweats—even—even, sometimes to gain or lose weight—without fearing that their value as a woman or their seriousness as a person is at stake.
Not too long ago, we did not make these choices without a bit more trepidation. If women no longer think this way—or, if they at least know that there is something terribly wrong if they are forced to think this way—it is testimony to the power of an idea in the minds of a lot of women at once; proof of their ability to create lasting change and even a bit more freedom.
You have the power to take that freedom further still. I hope that you use this book in a whole new way—one that no one but you has thought of yet. At last, after a long silence, women took to the streets. In the two decades of radical action that followed the rebirth of feminism in the early s, Western women gained legal and reproductive rights, pursued higher education, entered the trades and the professions, and overturned ancient and revered beliefs about their social role. A generation on, do women feel free?
The affluent, educated, liberated women of the First World, who can enjoy freedoms unavailable to any women ever before, do not feel as free as they want to. And they can no longer restrict to the subconscious their sense that this lack of freedom has something to do with—with apparently frivolous issues, things that really should not matter. Many are ashamed to admit that such trivial concerns—to do with physical appearance, bodies, faces, hair, clothes—matter so much.
The more legal and material hindrances women have broken through, the more strictly and heavily and cruelly images of female beauty have come to weigh upon us.
After years of much struggle and little recognition, many older women feel burned out; after years of taking its light for granted, many younger women show little interest in touching new fire to the torch. During the past decade, women breached the power structure; meanwhile, eating disorders rose exponentially and cosmetic surgery became the fastest-growing medical specialty. During the past five years, consumer spending doubled, pornography became the main media category, ahead of legitimate films and records combined, and thirty-three thousand American women told researchers that they would rather lose ten to fifteen pounds than achieve any other goal.
More women have more money and power and scope and legal recognition than we have ever had before; but in terms of how we feel about ourselves physically, we may actually be worse off than our unliberated grandmothers. It is no accident that so many potentially powerful women feel this way.
It is the modern version of a social reflex that has been in force since the Industrial Revolution. As women released themselves from the feminine mystique of domesticity, the beauty myth took over its lost ground, expanding as it waned to carry on its work of social control.
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 psychologically and covertly all the good things that feminism did for women materially and overtly. This counterforce is operating to checkmate the inheritance of feminism on every level in the lives of Western women. Patriarchal religion declined; new religious dogma, using some of the mind-altering techniques of older cults and sects, arose around age and weight to functionally supplant traditional ritual.
Women start hating each other and hating themselves. They learn to compete with each other. In the documentary Dark Girls, one can see how women of color internalized both sexism and racism to the extent that they hate themselves because of their color.
One of the young African American women confesses trying to wash her face with bleach thinking that it would be lighter. It is clear that they internalized this myth to the point that one colored mother once said she was thankful that her baby did not come out dark-skinned. Some of them think that being black means being dirty. Even though they know that this notion about black being dirty started with slavery, they are aware that in a way they unfortunately kept this vicious cycle going.
On the other hand, if they are not dehumanized for being dark, they are usually hyper-sexualized or exoticized. The darker you are, it becomes more of a sexual approach. Just like the other examples, this study shows how colored people internalized racism and ended up hating themselves, thinking that they are inferior, uglier, and worthless.
Chernik tell a true story about anorexia disorder. She talks about how she starved her body and how it took three months of hospitalization and two years of psychotherapy for her to recover. Borrow Listen. The beauty myth: how images of beauty are used against women , Anchor Books. The beauty myth: how images of beauty are used against women , W. The beauty myth: how images of beauty are used against women , Vintage. Paperback in English - 1st ed.
The beauty myth , Vintage Canada. When The Beauty Myth was first published, more than ten years ago, I had the chance to hear what must have been thousands of stories. Edition Notes Includes bibliographical references p. Classifications Dewey Decimal Class W65 Create Alert. Launch Research Feed. Share This Paper. Citations Publications citing this paper.