Think women are finally equal? Think feminism is passe? Think again. In The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf puts forward startling and controversial arguments to suggest that women are still, even now, obstructed and held back by society in a systematic and organised way. The key idea in this book is that as women fought for freedom and equality, and broke down so many barriers in the mid twentieth century, society responded by creating the Beauty Myth: an increasing obsession with beauty and appearance which consistenly hampers women from fulfilling their potential. The Beauty Myth, suggests Wolf, is the one single lasting inequality that holds back women today. This obsession with beauty arose massively in the last half of the century as a direct reaction and back-lash to the emancipation that women were finally achieving in other areas of their lives. In a enlightening and sometimes shocking read, Wolf answers questions like: why do women wear make-up? Why are so many women obsessed with their weight and constantly dieting? Why are there no greying, older women in respectable positions in the media? Why are women so afraid of ageing? Why, above all, are these preoccupations seen to be normal and correct, even obligatory to have the 'proper' experience of womanhood? The Beauty Myth diverts women's time, money, energy and intelligence into something that does not challenge the status quo. $20 billion a year is wasted on trying to achieve the impossible goal of 'beauty'. Women living in western society have an extra burden imposed on them that men do not have: they must be beautiful to succeed in work, love, sex, and life. The myth affects all aspects of a woman's life. It affects the way women are treated in work, it affects the way female sexuality is viewed, it affects young girls psychologically, it infuses our culture totally. Striving after the myth, a woman shows all the signs of being taken in by a cult religion. Under the myth, femaleness is inherantly wrong and flawed and must be continually corrected. The female body is seen as an ugly mistake. Alone, it is just not good enough and needs artificial methods to make it acceptable. The amazing thing is that this fact has not been realised by women in modern society who in every other way consider themselves free individuals. Reading this book may at last open our eyes. 'Men' in general are not to blame here, the myth debilitates them too. It surely must be true that if women, more than half of the population, are not free, then men are not really free also. They are shut out from having relationships with women as they really are. Wolf also points out that the myth may be starting to attach itself to men. It is in their interests to demolish it. This book was published in 1990, and perhaps some things have changed a decade on (however I doubt it - the ludicrous furore about Julian Roberts' armpits(?!), herion chic, the recent ad for eyeshadow "shout without opening your mouth"). I also think that Wolf does not always succeed in convincing the reader of her more controversial ideas; I could not always relate to some of the more extreme claims. However, I guarantee that if you are a woman there are parts in this book that are so blindingly true you will be almost shouting out agreement as you read. The book opens our eyes, it is a wake up call, reading it takes us out of our own culture to see its craziness from the outside. After reading this book I promise you will see western culture differently and hopefully you will be inspired to change things, even in your own life. I recommend this book to everyone, male or female. If you are a man, reading this book may shock you and make you see women differently. If you are a woman, this book will probably change your life.