Are We Consuming Beauty, or Is Beauty Consuming Us? Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth Blog Post by Bronagh Mccollum

In the UK alone in 2016 beauty industry sales topped the £4-billion mark-revealing that we are a nation obsessed with all things beauty! From makeup, to diets, fashion, fitness and even plastic surgery, we just can’t get enough. However, Naomi Wolf in her The Beauty Myth uncovers the detrimental effect that the obsession is having upon women of all ages.

Wolf within her work reveals that anorexia and cosmetic surgery procedures are at an all-time high.

However, Wolf argues that ‘the real issue has nothing to do with whether women wear makeup or don’t, gain weight or lose it, have surgery or shun it, dress up or down, make our clothing and faces and bodies into works of art or ignore adornment altogether. The real problem is our lack of choice’.

She suggests that the cult of beauty has therefore replaced the cults of chastity, domesticity, passivity and motherhood that were previously used to control and consume the lives of women. According to Wolf the cult of beauty therefore reigns as the “last, best belief system…keep[ing] male dominance intact’.

With magazines, adverts and social media outlets constantly bombarding women with images of perfection and promoting ‘miracle’ products, the cult of beauty seems inescapable.

However, author Zadie Smith has provided us with a solution to this problem, the 15-minute rule, forged and implemented to combat her teenage daughter’s beauty addiction.

“I explained it to her in these terms: you are wasting time, your brother is not going to waste any time doing this. Every day of his life he will put a shirt on, he’s out the door, whilst you waste an hour and a half doing your make-up. So I decided to spontaneously decide on a principle: that if it takes longer than 15 minutes don’t do it.’

Both Wolf and Smith therefore wish for women to open their eyes and ironically ‘smell the perfume’ of the damage that the cult of beauty is having upon them, urging them to free themselves from the mirror and get out into the world!







14 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Rachel Chandar on February 26, 2018 at 11:23 pm

    I really enjoyed your blog post Bronagh! I agree how the cult of beauty is so inescapable, as the media controls what is and isn’t deemed as beauty. Obsession with beauty appears to have risen with the increase in popularity of social media which, as you mentioned, leaves us feeling completely overwhelmed with these images of perfection. And this is what Wolf argues, how women are being controlled by the media. These ‘standards’ are up to us to be changed, so that images of beauty do not leave women feeling alienated from each other, but supported.


  2. Posted by Ella Bukbardis on February 27, 2018 at 11:16 am

    Thanks for your creative blog post! It was an interesting read, especially the part about Zadie Smith. The 15 minute rule could easily be seen as purely a quirky idea, yet it is also representative of how much time girls/women spend torturing themselves over their appearance.


  3. Posted by Georgia on February 27, 2018 at 1:22 pm

    I think Zadie Smith’s rule is really interesting, and it seems like it links to the video we watched a couple of weeks ago where ‘beauty sickness’ begins to distract from what is really important. The conclusion from both of these ideas is that women should stop wasting time thinking about appearance and start focusing on things that really matter


  4. Posted by ambermillar1995 on February 27, 2018 at 1:29 pm

    Interesting post, Bronagh. The 15 minute rule is an interesting one to implement. I do wonder, though, about the negative connotations of spending time on appearance. I think a large number of contemporary women wear makeup as an act of empowerment and this isn’t often considered in discussions about beauty and its hold over modern women.


  5. Posted by zoha on February 27, 2018 at 1:30 pm

    great post! I agree that writers like Wolf and Smith are arduously trying for women to open their eyes and see the fallacy that lies behind such ‘beauty myths.’ They perpetuate the facade of perfection all the while destroying the person within. I think the dramatic irony is this that these standards of perfection and beauty that women are forced to live up to end up ruining the person they once were. While the outside appearance is flawless the person within is not.


  6. Great post Bronagh. I like how you linked Smith into it. I agree that beauty is very much depicted through the media and we are metaphorically told what is deemed beautiful. This can be damaging to many women psychologically and can lead to mental health conditions and, like Zoha said, being different inside and out. I think it’s important to continuously show different women in the media from different races, walks of life, age and size. This will only help women feel like they can relate to at least one person and boost their confidence.


  7. I really enjoyed reading your post, and your quotes were well chosen to sum up the overall attitudes of both writers. I massively agree with Woolf, women should be free to make the choice to ‘dress up’ or ‘down’. Unfortunately, the media portrays a notion that women have to dress up, be a certain size and shape which causes issues over what is deemed beautiful, and this is perpetuating patriarchy. However, what did you think of Smiths 15 minute rule. Surely one could argue that’s exchanging one set of shackles for another?


  8. This is a really interesting read. Regarding the 15 minute principle suggested by Zadie Smith, do you believe this is restrictive? Make up is widely regarded as an art form – is shunning her daughter’s use of it just as destructive?


  9. Posted by Lily on February 27, 2018 at 8:25 pm

    I really liked this post! It is shocking how much time women spend on our physical looks and obsesses about it, when we could be spending time thinking and doing other things. But I think it is so hard not to think about our looks and let it take over us because of the media influences over our minds. I like what Zadie Smith says to her daughter, it got me thinking; men don’t spend all this time getting ready so why do we need to?


  10. Posted by Sara on February 27, 2018 at 10:31 pm

    Great post! Women’s need to obtain the ideal beauty that the beauty industry has placed on our society traps them within our male-dominated system. This obsession of achieving this ideal leads to women to be entrapped in a cycle of reconstruction thus leading the woman to lose herself.


  11. Posted by Ruzina on February 27, 2018 at 11:26 pm

    Loved reading your blog post, Bronagh. Is beauty consuming us? Yes. Wolf offers a controversial yet memorable comparison of a university campus resembling “the Holocaust…[which] bodies are starved not by nature but by men.” Wolf shifts the responsibility to men for the pressure on women to look thin, young and beautiful so they can establish male power. Wolf sees this as a response by men -whose power is threatened by feminist gains.


  12. Posted by Fern Dalton on February 28, 2018 at 12:56 pm

    Loved this post! Smith’s fifteen minute rule proves really intriguing to me, living with two brothers who are often complaining to my mum and I about how long we take to get ready, especially if it is a special occasion. Having said this, my mum rarely looks in the mirror because she constantly judges herself from the beauty ‘standards’ that are implemented in society, which really upsets me, which is why she feels that she needs to spend longer doing her make up, so that at least one part of her looks ‘okay’.


  13. Posted by Carmen on February 28, 2018 at 11:08 pm

    Very interesting post Bronagh. Beauty standards have become so embedded into our minds that we unconsciously follow various beauty regimes which are currently trending as it provides a sense of inclusiveness instead of rebelling against the system and possibly be judged for doing so. I agree with you idea that the importance placed on the concept of beauty is another mode for male dominance as it leaves a woman with no chance other than to follow beauty standards if she wants to be deemed attractive and desired.


  14. Posted by Hannah Mitchell on March 1, 2018 at 3:33 pm

    I do think the power that these industries have is immense, especially in todays society, where it is evident for men and women. However, I think to place restrictions like Zadie Smith does can be just as corrupting with regards to the outlook on make up, as I believe that women and men who choose to wear it, should have the option to without being criticised


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