Body image and women's oppression

Essay by redlauren April 2004

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"What if she doesn't worry about her body and eats enough for all the growing she has to do? She might rip her stockings and slam dance on a forged ID to the Pogues, and walk home barefoot, holding her shoes, alone at dawn; she might baby-sit in a battered-women's shelter one night a month ... or fall in love with her best friend and do something about it, or lose herself for hours gazing into test tubes with her hair a mess, or take lovers without telling her last name. She might revel in all the freedoms that seem so trivial to those who take them for granted; she might dream seriously the dreams that seem so obvious to those who grew up with them really available ..."

This inspiring paragraph is from Naomi Wolf's book, The Beauty Myth. It gives a picture of what society would be like if women had real choices, free of all restrictions.

Why do women have restrictions placed on them? And who sets these boundaries?

Capitalist society forces women into roles that are usually unachievable and oppressive. In a sexist society, women are prevented from doing things they would otherwise do, or are made to feel bad or as if they are an outcast when they try.

The beauty industry has been a major profiteer from the oppression of women. This is a multi-billion dollar industry that creates and preys on women's insecurities.

The beauty myth creates a largely unattainable ideal of the "perfect" woman. Women feel forced to invest copious amounts of time and money in the impossible attempt to achieve the "perfect" body, which advertisers and the beauty industry promise will boost their self-esteem and improve their lives.

A major part of the beauty industry is the weight-loss industry. The...