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The Anti-Beauty Myth

December 08, 2010

Feminists have been wringing their hands for forty years over the ageless human quest to enhance and beautify. But femininity and feminism are not mutually exclusive and good looks can coexist comfortably with equality.
New Atlantic Magazine senior editor Christine Rosen has written a review of The Beauty Bias, a new book by the “latest self-styled beauty muckraker,” (Rosen's words) Stanford University professor Deborah Rhode. Rosen attacks a topic that has been the elephant in the room with feminists since Bella Abzug started wearing hats.

"Ever since Naomi Wolf published The Beauty Myth nearly 20 years ago, feminist writers have been trying to come to grips with the enduring female interest in beauty. After decades of academic theorizing, endless denunciations of the diet and cosmetics industries, and annual attacks on the “heteronormativity” of the typical beauty pageant, they have yet to wrest ladies’ lipsticks from their manicured hands."

The Anti-Beauty Myth by Christine Rosen, Commentary Magazine (www.commentarymagazine.com), November 2010. (Alas, the full text is available by subscription only.) Decrying the advantage given to those who win life’s genetic lottery, Rhode would in essence like to make the advantages of attractiveness --- or lack thereof, depending on how you interpret it --- a crime of “appearance based discrimination.” Imagine being the plaintiff in a suit in which you must argue convincingly that you were denied a bonus because you were too homely. Imagine winning that suit. Talk about self-esteem issues. Rhode may want us all free of makeup and wearing sensible shoes, but she forgets that one of the most treasured aspects of feminism was freeing women from the shackles of circumscribed expectations. One must presume that includes being free to choose not only to break a glass ceiling, but the right to wear eye shadow while you are doing it.

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