The Beauty Myth and Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism Blog Post by Lily Money

Both Naomi Wolf and Natasha Walter, in The Beauty Myth and Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism, argue there is corruption within the media, fashion and beauty industry. They do this by having a negative influence over women’s opinions on their own bodies and how they treat other women.

In a 2009 interview, Wolf argued that women are not being judged on their own achievements, that they “should look however they want, the way men do, and be judged on their own merit.” Unfortunately, industries portray a fake image of a woman who has skinny thighs, a stomach so thin that her rib cage is becoming noticeable and wrinkle free skin. This is most common on the covers of glossy magazines, like Cosmopolitan, whose businesses thrive on the advertisement of a specific image of a woman. With other “laddish” magazines, like FHM, they are teaching young girls that in order to make it to the top in life, they must bare skin, instead of encouraging girls to thrive in a subject of interest.


“…the beauty backlash is spread and reinforced by the cycles of self hatred provoked in women by the advertisements, photo features, and beauty copies in the glossies.” The industry has created a vicious cycle for women, they are constantly mirroring themselves up against these fake versions of the female body. When opening up a magazine or reading an article online, all we see is the women’s weight gain/or loss, aging fast, or cellulite issues. With usually a sub line saying that the women must be going through a bad break up or a break down. However, the men, we see their political or career accomplishments and nothing about their weight, deepened wrinkles or greying hair/hair loss. How can women reach their goals, if all the media is doing is focusing on unimportant aspect of the female body.

14 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Bronagh on February 1, 2018 at 8:31 am

    Great post Lily! I think this text would be interestingly applied to a study of female leaders, such as the British Priminster Theresa May. Criticism of Theresa May’s appearance, including her ‘beauty’ and fashion sense, is a topic in many magazines and criticism appears on the front page of newspapers. This leads me to think, can a female leader ever be dettached from her appearance?


  2. Posted by Rachel Chandar on February 5, 2018 at 12:21 am

    Good blog post Lily! Your point is very true how women are comparing themselves to these fake, idolised images of the female body. And in Walter’s text ‘Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism’ we can see from the very start how these women are described as being forced and pressured into revealing more of their skin. There is certainly pressure to adhere to the doll-like features of perfection and beauty, not just in the competition Walter witnessed, but continually today in our society as little has changed.


  3. Posted by Georgia on February 5, 2018 at 5:09 pm

    Great post! Really loved dissecting this book and relating it to nowadays, it seems like we are told that the beauty myth is the norm and we are expected to achieve this simply unobtainable ideal. I wonder how this can relate to the texts we have been reading and the presentation of the feminine ideal, how does the presentation of these women feed into the Beauty Myth or reject it?


  4. Posted by Becky Gawn on February 6, 2018 at 12:09 pm

    Really enjoyed your post! I totally agree with how there is a lack of attention paid to male appearance. I recently saw a video showing celebrities walking the red carpet and interviewers were asking them who they were wearing while the camera went up and down their body yet men are asked questions surrounding the event. However I do also think that there are occasions where women don’t help themselves, for example a lot of female reporters will comment on what the Queen or Kate Middleton wear at certain events as if that is a crucial news within the story. Unfortunately I do not think this debate will ever come to an end and we will continuously be going round in circles.


  5. Posted by Fern Dalton on February 6, 2018 at 1:03 pm

    Great post! Would also just like to add how much I enjoyed last weeks session discussing these topics! I like how you have bought the issue of mens bodies to attention. Flipping the argument slightly, are men also not under a certain pressure from social media/magazines to look a certain way? You certainly don’t see somebody, looking like my dad for example, a 6ft 6 man with a bit of a belly on the front cover of a mens beauty magazine. Of course, I’m not saying we shouldn’t focus on the stereotype of an ideal woman, but it’d also be interesting to see what a man would say about the same issue.


  6. This is a really great post Lily! You’ve raised a great point about the difference between the information we are given about women in the media compared with men, especially the comments about their appearance being linked back to their relationships with men. I completely agree that this constant representation of women is negative and harmful to younger generations, especially if this is the only images and opinions of women they are exposed to!


  7. Posted by Hannah Mitchell on February 6, 2018 at 2:34 pm

    I completely agree with you with the fake images of women portrayed in the media and the expectations this creates. However, I do think that nowadays men are starting to struggle from the same false images portrayed.


  8. Posted by zoha on February 7, 2018 at 7:30 pm

    Great blog! I agree with you on the difference of information that is fed to men as opposed to women! The emphasis on physical appearance is having a detrimental effect on the internal and external dialogue of women and between each other but the media is more concerned with perpetuating the ‘ideal body image’ it fails to see the impact of such facade.


  9. Posted by Carmen on February 8, 2018 at 12:01 am

    I agree with your idea that men are not as often overtly criticised for their physical appearance in the media in the same manner in which their female counterparts, and even if their physical appearances are discussed it is usually quite positive e.g. their grey hair make them seem somewhat wiser or even more attractive yet women are criticised for showing any sign of ageing. However, I do now see that this beginning to change slightly as male celebrities are also criticised if their physics are not up to par with the desired male body. I believe that the media needs to stop pushing for these unrealistic body expectations towards society and instead focus on the fact that people come in varying shapes.


  10. I really enjoyed reading this blog. I too find it disappointing how the media focuses on the female body as representative of their entire identity. Although the pressure on women is much greater, males are subject to some pressure also – I’d love to see a world where the body is seen as the mere vehicle that it is.


  11. Posted by Sara on February 15, 2018 at 11:19 am

    I agree that media are setting up a societal idea that a woman’s identity is that of her body. Women are continued to be trapped within their own bodies which should adhere to the stereotypical idea that their bodies should be skinny and perfect. Magazines such as the Cosmopolitan highlights and dictates this to younger people as they create an image of what they should become. My question is that by adhering to these societal ideas of the female body ho much do women lose and gain in terms of their identity as we pursue to continually reconstruct ourselves based on this image?


  12. Great post, Lily! I agree with Bronagh’s point about Theresa May and the continued focus on her appearance/fashion choices. A key example of this was a front cover spread of May and Nicola Sturgeon entitled ‘Lovely legs!’ This focus on the appearance of these women as opposed to the important political discussions they had during that meeting represents the constant repression of female power and intelligence over beauty and aesthetics.


  13. Posted by Ruzina on February 21, 2018 at 6:42 pm

    I agree with you, Lily. I also agree with Rachel’s point – Natasha Walter emphasises the harsh nature of which young girls are conditioned to become ‘living dolls’. They are encouraged to dress a certain way and scrutinize their own appearances along this process with the hope of achieving ‘perfection’. This reflects Simone de Beauvoir’s writings since a woman’s dress is a visual representative of her femininity. Further to this, Walter realises dancing at a strip club is actually exploitative rather than ‘liberating’. Instead, these acts insist on the patriarchal view that women’s bodies are for public entertainment.


  14. Posted by Ella Bukbardis on February 27, 2018 at 10:57 am

    I strongly agree with this post, definitely one of the most disturbing images in the media is of women who have a completely unrealistic body shape. It is a highly depressing fact that the media primarily focuses on the beauty of young women, and that in turn women value beauty over many other attributes.


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