'The Beauty Myth' is the last true polemic of modern feminism. These days the movement has petered out so much, is lacking so many stand alone landmarks like 'The Beauty Myth' and has been appropriated by reactionary female journalists in the right-wing media that one can feel very jaded to call it a 'movement' at all, much less join its cause.
Wolf is an exemplary voice for the movement, because, as her book demonstrates, she is devstatingly adept at fusing the statistical and factual destruction wrought against women worldwide with a believable sense of personal, human rage at these injustices. She's skillful towards her main point: the book starts with opening chapters on innocuously strraight-forward subjects such as 'Work' and 'Culture', but it eventually becomes clear that Wolf is going beyond mere statistics by examining the nature of the words 'Violence', 'Hunger' and 'Sex' and how every context, metaphorical, literal, cultural etc is covered by the evil of the beauty myth. One can easily feel overwhelmed at the escalation of atrocities recounted, and the comparisons Wolf makes that at first seem grandiose, but her strength comes from the constant grounding of her whole thesis in facts that are backed up by figures, quotes and testimonies from a range of identities within the myth, and this is what makes every realisation feel like a sledgehammer blow, because one remembers that this is all real, it's not a hypothesis or an opinion or speculation, Wolf is retelling real life and it makes for some ghastly truths to be confronted.
Ignore the review below, because that reader obviously read the book without any interest in Wolf's thesis or feminism in general. There are no 'self-contradictions', no 'weaknesses'; Wolf is pointing out how damaging the patriarchal societies are in their cultural, financial and social misogyny and psychological control and programming of women. The reader below implies Wolf is countering misogyny with her own misandry; this is extremely untrue, in fact she never assigns blame to anyone for the beauty myth, except the forces of market capitalism, which everyone at this time in history can agree is intensely destructive wherever it infects. The fact that those in power are men is both a coincidence and an inevitability, and Wolf speculates how different and better a more feminised world would be, and, frankly, it's difficult to disagree with her. Wolf includes men just as much as women in her thesis, it's just that women are the primary target and are way more affected by the beauty myth than men are (even today, 21 years later).
At the end of the day 'The Beauty Myth' is about how women are mercilessly attacked, physically, socially and mentally, by an aggressively money-obsessed system that exploits the beauty myth to every extreme with the dual goals of making an obscene amount of wealth over so much suffering and death, and to keep one half of the human race away from the mechanisms of political, economic and social power beneath the jackboot of enormous perceived physical inadequecy. You don't need to go by Naomi Wolf's painful, angry book alone to see those forces still going strong and still making hundreds of millions of women's lives a misery, but the book helps to get underneath that deeply troubled psychology, on both sides of the struggle.