Power of Beautyby Nancy Friday
We live in a culture, says Friday, that trades in the/i>/i>/i>/i>
Nancy Friday introduced readers to such watershed issues as the mother-daughter bond and female sexual fantasies. Now the author of My Mother/My Self, My Secret Garden and Jealousy explores an even more provocative subject: how looks affect our lives, and life affects our looks.
We live in a culture, says Friday, that trades in the currency of seeing and being seen. In the patriarchal days of the Old Deal, when men provided for women, male power and female beauty were bartered. Women's absolute control of the beauty purse-strings continued until it was outlawed by feminism in the '70s. While the importance of looks went underground for a time, the power of beauty has reemerged with a vengeance. If the '80s were the decade of greed, the '90s are a decade of lust -- for the beauty that will draw all eyes to us.
The Power of Beauty traces the importance of looks in our lives from our first hours in the nursery through childhood, adolescence, the years as adults and parents and into old age. It examines developmentally the author's own experiences: The stages of life itself, the feminist revolution that for the past 30 years has rocked relationships between men and women and contemporary culture from high art to pop. In addition, it draws on a decade of research Friday has conducted on the psychology of physical appearance, including focus groups, symposia and a national survey conducted with DVG Inc.
Part personal odyssey, part cultural memoir, The Power of Beauty sweeps through the decades, blending an alluring array of controversial ideas with astute, outspoken reportage. Only Friday could write so lyrically and seamlessly about fashion, male bashing, women's fear of competition, the shoe as a sexual icon, psychoanalytic theory, the pain of adolescence, envy, the double standard of aging, erotic adventures, fairy tales, feminism and love.
Friday's defense of men against the tyranny of feminism may cause some controversy, but the interest in this disorganized ramble is the clutter of anecdotes, gossip, sex education, and digression, like toiletries piled on the vanity table of a woman who has spent several decades dressing up to face the world. How "we women" feel about ourselves and our beauty, Friday theorizes, begins in the nursery with the "Giantess" (a.k.a. mother). "Woman born of woman is not a good teacher, especially in that area where she has been taught to deodorize, to treat as an offensive necessity." Since most women spend a lifetime hating the way they look, Friday advocates bringing fathers into the child- rearing process. It would be especially good, says Friday, if fathers were in charge of toilet training, because men do not hate their genitals the way "antisex" mothers do. Unlike Matriarchal Feminists and Victim Feminists, who blame their problems on "Bad Men" and disparage the attainment of power through beauty, Friday encourages women to compete with all the ammunition at their command, as Gloria Steinum supposedly has. Men, from John Kenneth Galbraith to Mort Zuckerman, "as well as women would . . . assist Steinem for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was and is that she is lovely to look at." Writing of her girlhood in the Charleston of the 1940s and '50s, Friday's mother and sister, she remembers, drank gin to get them through the pains of menstruation. So, on the first day of her first period, Friday imitated her role models and broke through a neighbor's window to get to the gin bottle.
Friday keeps hammering home her message, but peeking through the psychobabble and harangue is a tantalizing memoir.
- HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.48(w) x 9.58(h) x 1.52(d)
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