The Beauty Myth

Olga Wolstenholme's picture

When “Feminist” Became a Bad Word

Back in September I wrote a post called When Did Being Called a Feminist Become an Insult? I didn’t really have an answer at the time, I mostly wrote about my personal musings on the questions, but after reading the first Chapter of Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth I have or rather she has an answer to the question. It might be pretty obvious to some, but she wrote about it so well, that I’m here to share it with you all:

The caricature of the Ugly Feminist was resurrected to dog the steps of the women’s movement. The caricature is unoriginal; it was coined to ridicule the feminists of the nineteenth century. Lucy Stone herself, who supporters saw as “a prototype of womanly grace… fresh and fair as the morning,” was derided by detractors with “the usual report” about Victorian feminists: “a big masculine woman, wearing boots, smoking a cigar, swearing like a trooper.” As Betty Friedan put it presciently in 1960, even before the savage revamping of that old caricature: “The unpleasant image of feminists today resembles less the feminists themselves than the image fostered by the interests who so bitterly opposed the vote for women in state after state.” Thirty years on, her conclusion is more true than ever: That resurrected caricature, which sought to punish women for their public acts by going after their private sense of self, became a paradigm for new limits placed on aspiring women everywhere. After the women’s movement’s second wave, the beauty myth was perfected to checkmate power at every level in individual women’s lives.

This book is AWESOME. I’ve only read chapter one and it has pretty much blown me away. You should all get your hands on a copy from somewhere. I borrowed mine from my neighbor. Seek it out! Spread the word!

Crossposted from Cuntlove.

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