Naomi Wolf Quotes (displaying: 1 - 30 of 88 quotes)
We do not have to spend money and go hungry and struggle and study to become sensual; we always were. We need not believe we must somehow earn good erotic care; we always deserved it. Femaleness and its sexuality are beautiful. Women have long secretly suspected as much. In that sexuality, women are physically beautiful already; superb; breathtaking. Many, many men see this way too. A man who wants to define himself as a real lover of women admires what shows of her past on a woman's face, before she ever saw him, and the adventures and stresses that her body has undergone, the scars of trauma, the changes of childbirth, her distinguishing characteristics, the light is her expression. The number of men who already see in this way is far greater than the arbiters of mass culture would lead us to believe, since the story they need to tell ends with the opposite moral.
The proof that the One Stone Solution is political lies in what women feel when they eat 'too much': guilt. Why should guilt be the operative emotion, and female fat be a moral issue articulated with words like good and bad? If our culture's fixation on female fatness of thinness were about sex, it would be a private issue between a woman and her lover; if it were about health, between a woman and herself. Public debate would be far more hysterically focused on male fat than on female, since more men [40 percent] are medically overweight than women [32 percent] and too much fat is far more dangerous for men than for women......But female fat is the subject of public passion, and women feel guilty about female fat, because we implicitly recognize that under the myth, women's bodies are not our own but society's, and that thinness is not a private aesthetic, but hunger a social concession exacted by the community.
Their [girls] sexual energy, their evaluation of adolescent boys and other girls goes thwarted, deflected back upon the girls, unspoken, and their searching hungry gazed returned to their own bodies. The questions, Whom do I desire? Why? What will I do about it? are turned around: Would I desire myself? Why?...Why not? What can I do about it?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, become 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. Sex is held hostage by beauty and its ransom terms are engraved in girls' minds early and deeply with instruments more beautiful that those which advertisers or pornographers know how to use: literature, poetry, painting, and film.This outside-in perspective on their own sexuality leads to the confusion that is at the heart of the myth. Women come to confuse sexual looking with being looked at sexually ("Clairol...it's the look you want"); many confuse sexually feeling with being sexually felt ("Gillete razors...the way a woman wants to feel"); many confuse desiring with being desirable. "My first sexual memory," a woman tells me, "was when I first shaved my legs, and when I ran my hand down the smooth skin I felt how it would feel to someone else's hand." Women say that when they lost weight they "feel sexier" but the nerve endings in the clitoris and nipples don't multiply with weight loss. Women tell me they're jealous of the men who get so much pleasure out of the female body that they imagine being inside the male body that is inside their own so that they can vicariously experience desire. Could it be then that women's famous slowness of arousal to men's, complex fantasy life, the lack of pleasure many experience in intercourse, is related to this cultural negation of sexual imagery that affirms the female point of view, the culture prohibition against seeing men's bodies as instruments of pleasure? Could it be related to the taboo against representing intercourse as an opportunity for a straight woman actively to pursue, grasp, savor, and consume the male body for her satisfaction, as much as she is pursued, grasped, savored, and consumed for his?
In a sexual double standard as to who receives consumer protection, it seems that if what you do is done to women in the name of beauty, you may do what you like. It is illegal to claim that something grows hair, or makes you taller, or restores virility, if it does not. It is difficult to imagine that the baldness remedy Minoxidil would be on the market if it had killed nine French and at least eleven American men. In contrast, the long-term effects of Retin-A are still unknown--Dr. Stuart Yusps of the National Cancer Institute refers to its prescription as "a human experiment"--and the Food and Drug Administration has not approved it yet dermatologists are prescribing it to women at a revenue of over $150 million a year.
We should be telling girls what they already know but rarely see affirmed: that the lives they lead inside their own self-contained bodies; the skills they attain through their own concentration and rigor, and the unique phase in their lives during which they may explore boys and eroticism at their own pace - these are magical. And they constitute the entrance point to a life cycle of a sexuality that should be held sacred.
The more legal and material hindrances women have broken through, the more strictly and heavily and cruelly images of female beauty have come to weigh upon us...During the past decade, women breached the power structure; meanwhile, eating disorders rose exponentially and cosmetic surgery became the fastest-growing specialty...pornography became the main media category, ahead of legitimate films and records combined, and thirty-three thousand American women told researchers that they would rather lose ten to fifteen pounds than achieve any other goal...More women have more money and power and scope and legal recognition than we have ever had before; but in terms of how we feel about ourselves physically, we may actually be worse off than our unliberated grandmothers.
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 something: the esteem of other men who find such an acquisition impressive.
The beauty myth of the present is more insidious than any mystique of femininity yet: A century ago, Nora slammed the door of the doll's house; a generation ago, women turned their backs on the consumer heaven of the isolated multiapplianced home; but where women are trapped today, there is no door to slam. The contemporary ravages of the beauty backlash are destroying women physically and depleting us psychologically. If we are to free ourselves from the dead weight that has once again been made out of femaleness, it is not ballots or lobbyists or placards that women will need first; it is a new way to see.
Sadly, the signals that allow men and women to find the partners who most please them are scrambled by the sexual insecurity initiated by beauty thinking. A woman who is self-conscious can't relax to let her sensuality come into play. If she is hungry she will be tense. If she is "done up" she will be on the alert for her reflection in his eyes. If she is ashamed of her body, its movement will be stilled. If she does not feel entitled to claim attention, she will not demand that airspace to shine in. If his field of vision has been boxed in by "beauty"--a box continually shrinking--he simply will not see her, his real love, standing right before him.
Self-denial can lock women into a smug and critical condescension to other, less devout women. According to Appel, cult members develop..."an attitude of moral superiority, a contempt for secular laws, rigidity of thought, and the diminution of regard for the individual." A premium is placed on conformity to the cult group; deviation is penalized. "Beauty" is derivative; conforming to the Iron Maiden [an intrinsically unattainable standard of beauty that is then used to punish women physically and psychologically for failure to achieve and conform to it] is "beautiful." The aim of beauty thinking, about weight or age, is rigid female thought. Cult members are urged to sever all ties with the past: "I destroyed all my fat photographs!"; "It's a new me!
Why should her lover, just because he is male, be in a position to judge her against other women? Why must she need to know her position and hate needing to, and hate knowing? Why should his reply have such exaggerated power? And it does. He does not know that what he says will affect the way she feels when they next make love. She is angry for a number of good reasons that may have nothing to do with this particular man's intentions. The exchange reminds her that, in spite of a whole fabric of carefully woven equalities, they are not equal in this way that is so crucial that its snagged thread unravels the rest.
The surgeons are playing on the myth's double standard for the function of the body. A man's thigh is for walking, but a woman's is for walking and looking "beautiful." If women can walk but believe our limbs look wrong, we feel that our bodies cannot do what they are meant to do; we feel as genuinely deformed and disabled as the unwilling Victorian hypochondriac felt ill.
Cosmetic surgery is not "cosmetic," and human flesh is not "plastic." Even the names trivialize what it is. It's not like ironing wrinkles in fabric, or tuning up a car, or altering outmoded clothes, the current metaphors. Trivialization and infantilization pervade the surgeons' language when they speak to women: "a nip," a "tummy tuck."...Surgery changes one forever, the mind as well as the body. If we don't start to speak of it as serious, the millennium of the man-made woman will be upon us, and we will have had no choice.
Women are mere "beauties" in men's culture so that culture can be kept male. When women in culture show character, they are not desirable, as opposed to the desirable. A beautiful heroine is a contradiction in terms, since heroism is about individuality, interesting and ever changing, while "beauty" is generic, boring, and inert. While culture works out moral dilemmas, "beauty" is amoral: If a woman is born resembling an art object, it is an accident of nature, a fickle consensus of mass perception, a peculiar coincidence--but it is not a moral act. From the "beauties" in male culture, women learn a bitter amoral lesson--that the moral lessons of their culture exclude them.