American writer Naomi Wolf explains the thinking behind her latest book 'The Beauty Myth'.

Naomi Wolf joins Pat Kenny on 'Kenny Live' to discuss what exactly ‘The Beauty Myth’ means.

An ideal that ranks women vertically according to a culturally agreed upon physical standard.

She says that ‘The Beauty Myth’ is a way of seeing women that undermines them politically. Ranking women only serves to cut apart a woman's individuality and is perpetrated at an institutional level. The beauty myth is used as a way to undermine women’s achievements.

Naomi Wolf suggests that women like Margaret Thatcher and Benazir Bhutto are consistently used as examples of women in power. However she says that these women are not representative as is evident in the gender pay gap.

The professional world forces women to believe that their image is part of the package as opposed to the merit of their work. Naomi Wolf uses the example of women in television who she believes are judged differently to a man in television.

This is a microcosm for how the beauty myth works.

She argues that the law in America allows for women to be fired from their jobs if they do not look feminine enough.  

It is in fact legal to discriminate against women based on their appearance.

Both Pat Kenny and the audience are sceptical at this assertion and do not believe it would apply in Ireland.

Pat Kenny questions why women who hold positions of power do not change the system, referring specifically to the women’s magazine market which are largely edited by women but continue to present idealistic stereotypes of women. Naomi Wolf refutes the claim that women are in positions of power to the extent that they should be and are thereby prevented from changing the system. She references the feminine mystique of the 1950s, based on the notion of the perfect woman was based on domesticity.

Women knocked themselves out trying to get the whitest white laundry.

The women’s movement then took apart this myth. Naomi Wolf believes women are now controlled through representations of the perfect body in women’s magazines where notions of success are now defined by weight loss.

This episode of Kenny Live was broadcast on 15 December 1990. The presenter is Pat Kenny.