An award-winning Northwestern University psychology professor reveals how the cultural obsession with women's appearance is an epidemic that harms women's ability to get ahead and to live happy, meaningful lives, in this powerful, eye-opening work in the vein of Naomi Wolf, Peggy Orenstein, and Sheryl Sandberg.
Today’s young women face a bewildering set of contradictions when it comes to beauty. They don’t want to be Barbie dolls but, like generations of women before them, are told they must look like them. They’re angry about the media’s treatment of women but hungrily consume the very outlets that belittle them. They mock modern culture’s absurd beauty ideal and make videos exposing Photoshopping tricks, but feel pressured to emulate the same images they criticize by posing with a "skinny arm." They understand that what they see isn’t real but still download apps to airbrush their selfies. Yet these same young women are fierce fighters for the issues they care about. They are ready to fight back against their beauty-sick culture and create a different world for themselves, but they need a way forward.
In Beauty Sick, Dr. Renee Engeln, whose TEDx talk on beauty sickness has received more than 250,000 views, reveals the shocking consequences of our obsession with girls’ appearance on their emotional and physical health and their wallets and ambitions, including depression, eating disorders, disruptions in cognitive processing, and lost money and time. Combining scientific studies with the voices of real women of all ages, she makes clear that to truly fulfill their potential, we must break free from cultural forces that feed destructive desires, attitudes, and words—from fat-shaming to denigrating commentary about other women. She provides inspiration and workable solutions to help girls and women overcome negative attitudes and embrace their whole selves, to transform their lives, claim the futures they deserve, and, ultimately, change their world.
About the Author
Renee Engeln, PhD, is an award-winning professor of psychology at Northwestern University. Her work has appeared in numerous academic journals and at academic conferences, and she speaks to groups across the country. She is regularly interviewed by the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, Today.com, the Huffington Post, Think Progress, and other national media, as well as local outlets and college student publications. Her TEDx talk at the University of Connecticut has more than 450,000 views on YouTube. She lives in Evanston, Illinois.
“Girls learn that how they look is more important than who they are—the essential symptom of beauty sickness.’ But Engeln doesn’t stop at diagnosis: she offers the possibility of a cure.”
— Peggy Orenstein, New York Times bestselling author of Girls & Sex
“Her solid ideas...will help women think positively about themselves regardless of body shape. Thorough research and helpful personal stories effectively relay the dilemma that nearly all women face on a daily basis.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“[Beauty Sick] will blow the top off the body image movement…provocative and necessary.”
— Rebellious Magazine
“Renee Engeln...argues that our obsession with women’s looks amounts to a society-wide psychological illness...The book indicts social and news media in helping to create beauty sickness by drawing on research and interviews with real-world girls and women.”
— Pacific Standard
“[P]rofessor Engeln’s sharp examination of beauty sickness reveals its disturbing impact on women of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds...Engeln’s writing is engaging and conversational...Engeln’s book is thought provoking and will be fascinating for all readers, especially those interested in psychology, cultural studies, media, or gender studies.”
— Booklist (starred review)
— -- PureWow
“Beauty Sick is the title of Engeln’s new book, which has more than 350 pages of exhaustive research, interviews, and analysis into the set of contradictions that inform the reality of millions of women’s lives.”
— The Times (London)