Naomi Wolf

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The beauty myth is always actually prescribing behavior and not appearance.

Naomi Rebekah Wolf, (born November 12, 1962) in San Francisco, is an American author and journalist. Wolf first came to prominence in 1991 as the author of The Beauty Myth. Her career in journalism began in 1995; she has written for media outlets such as The Nation, The Guardian and The Huffington Post.



The Beauty Myth (1991)[edit]

The Beauty Myth : How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women (1991)
  • The beauty myth is always actually prescribing behavior and not appearance.
    • Chapter 1 : 'The Beauty Myth', p. 14
  • Beauty provokes harassment, the law says, but it looks through men's eyes when deciding what provokes it.
    • Chapter 2 : 'Work', p. 45
  • To live in a culture in which women are routinely naked where men aren't is to learn inequality in little ways all day long. So even if we agree that sexual imagery is in fact a language, it is clearly one that is already heavily edited to protect men’s sexual—and hence social—confidence while undermining that of women.
    • Chapter 5 : 'Sex', p. 139
  • The books and films they see survey from the young boy's point of view his first touch of a girl's thighs, his first glimpse of her breasts. The girls sit listening, absorbing, their familiar breasts estranged as if they were not part of their bodies, their thighs crossed self-consciously, learning how to leave their bodies and watch them from the outside. Since their bodies are seen from the point of view of strangeness and desire, it is no wonder that what should be familiar, felt to be whole, becomes estranged and divided into parts. What little girls learn is not the desire for the other, but the desire to be desired. Girls learn to watch their sex along with the boys; that takes up the space that should be devoted to finding out about what they are wanting, and reading and writing about it, seeking it and getting it.
    • Chapter 5 : 'Sex', p. 157
  • For the first time in history, children are growing up whose earliest sexual imprinting derives not from a living human being, or fantasies of their own; since the 1960s pornographic upsurge, the sexuality of children has begun to be shaped in response to cues that are no longer human. […] Today's children and young men and women have sexual identities that spiral around paper and celluloid phantoms: from Playboy to music videos to the blank female torsos in women’s magazines, features obscured and eyes extinguished, they are being imprinted with a sexuality that is mass-produced, deliberately dehumanizing and inhuman.
    • Chapter 5 : 'Sex', p. 162
  • Just as 'beauty' is not related to sex, neither is it related to love. Even having it does not bestow love on a woman, though the beauty myth claims that it must. It is because 'beauty' is so hostile to love that many beautiful women are so cynical about men. […] The beautiful woman is excluded forever from the rewards and responsibilities of particular human love, for she cannot trust that any man will love her 'for herself alone.' A hellish doubt inheres in the myth that makes impersonal 'beauty' a prerequisite for love: Where does love go when beauty vanishes? And, if a woman cannot be loved 'for herself alone,' for whom is she being loved?
    • Chapter 5 : 'Sex', p. 172
  • What becomes of a man who acquires a beautiful woman, with her 'beauty' his sole target? He sabotages himself. He has gained no friend, no ally, no mutual trust: She knows quite well why she has been chosen. He has succeeded in buying a mutually suspicious set of insecurities. He does gain something: the esteem of other men who find such an acquisition impressive.
    • Chapter 5 : 'Sex', p. 174
  • A culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, but an obsession about female obedience. Women's dieting has become what Yale psychologist Judith Rodin calls a 'normative obsession,' a never-ending passion play given international coverage out of all proportion to the health risks associated with obesity, and using emotive language that does not figure even in discussions of alcohol or tobacco abuse. […] Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women's history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one.
    • Chapter 6 : 'Hunger', p. 187
  • The Victorian woman became her ovaries, as today's woman has become her 'beauty.' Her reproductive value, as the 'aesthetic' value of her face and body today, 'came to be seen as a sacred trust, one that she must constantly guard in the interest of her race.'
    • Chapter 7 : 'Violence', p. 222
  • Health makes good propaganda. “'Proof' that women's activities outside the home are detrimental to the health and welfare of themselves, their families and the country as a whole” lent impetus, writes Ann Oakley, to the nineteenth-century cult of domesticity. The ovaries were seen as collective property rather than the woman's own business, as the face and body outline are seen today. Who can argue with health?
    • Chapter 7 : 'Violence', p. 227
  • Pain is real when you get other people to believe in it. If no one believes in it but you, your pain is madness or hysteria.
    • Chapter 7 : 'Violence', p. 254
  • You do not win by struggling to the top of a caste system, you win by refusing to be trapped within one at all.
    • Chapter 8 : 'Beyond the Beauty Myth', p. 290


The First Amendment was designed to allow for disruption of business as usual. It is not a quiet and subdued amendment or right.
  • Here's what we're not taught [about the Declaration and Constitution]: Those words at the time they were written were blazingly, electrifyingly subversive. If you understand them truly now, they still are. […] You are not taught—and it is a disgrace that you aren't—that these men and women were radicals for liberty; that they had a vision of equality that was a slap in the face of what the rest of their world understood to be the unchanging, God-given order of nations; and that they were willing to die to make that desperate vision into a reality for people like us, whom they would never live to see.
  • The First Amendment was designed to allow for disruption of business as usual. It is not a quiet and subdued amendment or right.
    • The First Amendment and the Obligation to Peacefully Disrupt in a Free Society (22 October 2011), Blog Post at


  • So what can be done? Well, first of all, I can't believe that I'm saying this - a lifelong former Democrat and the child of hippies - but thank God for the Second Amendment. Because one reason the United States is not, you know, entirely enslaved like Australia or Shanghai or Canada, in many ways – we're relatively freer compared to those countries – is that we have, you know, millions of owners of guns. And I'm a peaceful person, this should not be taken out of context, but it is harder to subjugate an armed population.
    And this is why our Founders gave us the Second Amendment, for exactly times like these. They knew that it was harder to subjugate an armed population. But, you know, may that be the worst case scenario. I really hope that it doesn't devolve into civil war, which is really what the next thing is in history when you have an occupying force, which is what the WHO will be, you know, by next week.

About Wolf[edit]

In alphabetical order by author or source.
  • She is furthermore a serial espouser of mad conspiracy theories, insisting on their plausibility in the face of overwhelming evidence. In 2014 alone she managed to suggest that the Isis beheading victims were really actors, that the Scottish referendum had been rigged and that US personnel sent to Africa to help contain the ebola outbreak were really there as part of a plot to militarise the continent. Last year she joined the "chemtrail" conspiracists who believe that aircraft condensation trails in the sky are evidence of a secret government attempt at "geoengineering".
  • Wolf’s 1991 Fire with Fire – her call for a realpolitik in which ‘sisterhood and capital’ might be allies – misfired in Britain, partly because British feminism does retain a visceral if complex connection to political radicalism, to system-changing not tinkering.
  • To see Naomi Wolf, that histrionic proponent of the third wave, pop up to demand that the women accusing Julian Assange of sexual assault and rape be named (surely they have already been shamed) is a logical conclusion of this deal. It is a dead end. Much of Wolf's work is privileged narcissism dressed up as struggle. The Beauty Myth did not have an original thought in it, but never mind, it remains the only feminist text read by many. Wolf and many of her contemporaries muddled the personal with the political to such a degree it is embarrassing. Wolf was snapped up by the media as she was beautiful – as though feminists couldn't be. Greer and Steinem were lookers, weren't they? Wolf's argument now about the anonymity of accusers in rape trials arrives on these shores a little after the Lib Dems dropped this peculiar proposal, which was never in their manifesto anyway.
  • Wolf actually compared him to Oscar Wilde. The similarity is that they were both in solitary confinement. Practically the same person then?
    Of course, Wolf has every right to think what she likes about Assange's accusers – and to change her mind as she did about abortion – but what kind of feminism is she now espousing? I find it very difficult to know.

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