The Bad Side of Looking Good

A young American author causes a storm by arguing that women have become victims of a punishing cult of beauty

Beauty is a conspiracy of pain forced upon women. Anorexia, induced by the pursuit of attractiveness, turns girls into something resembling skeletons. In the boardroom and in the bedroom, women are entrapped by a cult that is the equivalent of the iron maiden, a medieval torture instrument that impaled its captives on iron spikes.

These are only some of the assertions of The Beauty Myth (Morrow; $21.95), a provocative work by San Francisco-born Naomi Wolf, 28, that is being published in the U.S. this spring. Already, and as might be expected, reaction is divided. Fans of the work call it daring...

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