2013 02 Real Couples Jessica Shanes Downtown

The constant comparison, in which one woman’s worth fluctuates through the presence of another, divides and conquers. It forces women to be acutely critical of the “choices” other women make about how they look. But that economy that pits women against one another is not inevitable. To get past this divisiveness, women will have to break a lot of taboos against talking about it, including the one that prohibits women from narrating the dark side of being treated as a beautiful object.


From the dozens of women to whom I have listened, it is clear that the amount of pain a given woman experiences through the beauty myth bears no relationship at all to what she looks like relative to a cultural ideal. (In the words of a top fashion model, “When I was on the cover of the Italian Vogue, everyone told me how great I looked”).


I just thought, ‘I can’t believe you can’t see all those lines.’”) Women who impersonate the Iron Maiden may be no less victimized by the myth than the women subjected to their images. The myth asks women to be at once blindly hostile to and blindly envious of “beauty” in other women. Both the hostility and the envy serve the myth and hurt all women.