Face Value (book review) Autumn Whitefield-Madrano

The Hidden Ways Beauty Shapes Women's Lives


230618: this is an excellent work on the getting, living, giving, of beauty. primarily by women. i did not feel lost in jargon or missing allusions to other works, mostly to Naomi Wolf's 'beauty myth', so this was a quick, engaging, intro to thought of beauty. this is not polemical, not judging, not all the fault of impossibly thin fashion models, or a society still in the grip of patriarchy few men will admit, and most women will suffer...


i have no idea why i put this on hold. i was immediately won over by her reasonable, calm voice, as she deconstructed things like the 'neg' insult-compliment that male pickup artists deploy on women who are not entirely confident so willing to listen after the insult... some chapters on common insecurity of women, of trying to quantifying beauty, of cliques rejecting women, of the usual misconception of cattiness, jealousy, envy, (high school kind of thing), of bonding, competition, and what does a woman want from another woman (both straight) or how wanting is different from men (lesbian)...


there is some corrective about 'the media' as having a role in low self-esteem, but only a small role, then social media, social networks, how men are now getting pulled into the whirlpool of their own beauty, how it is similar and how it is not, a great part about the 'therapeutic beauty narrative', its flexibility, its use in fashion industry advertisement... but it is really best in the last chapter where she says, hey, you know, beauty is not all that... accept it is real but do not chase after it, concentrate on what is important in life, career, friendship, family...


this book reminds me of living with C, seeing all her fashion/celebrity magazines, trying to read, discovering that women seem to have other things they want to think about than most men. beauty of girlfriends was important but usually not central, most guys just liked or loved her with little reference to how beautiful she was, little interested in the manipulations laid out to start or revive passionate love affairs. C had perhaps sort of utilitarian attitude to these magazines (she modeled) but i sincerely doubt she was ever as confident, ever as real, as when she did well at u (geology). we were possibly too young (21-23) to have mature sense of worth in exactly what i suggest above...


seeing those mags, knowing some of fascination with beauty, knowing some never ending esteem issues... but by now i can only agree that there is beauty and it is always going to add or subtract from our wanting to see it again... it is a part of being human...

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