Welcome to "Wear Your Invisible Crown"'s BOOK REVIEW Column. We will periodically feature a book or novel and will include our personal reflections based upon our reading. We will include books from various genres (spanning the range of fiction, memoirs, Jewish-themed books, psychology, dating, and classics). Read on for this month's BOOK REVIEW. We hope it's up your alley.
Pause for a moment and envision the following: You are a competing in a National Beauty Pageant and you (along with the other Beauty Pageant contestants) are flying to a tropical destination where the Pageant will be staged and filmed. Yet, there is one itsy-bitsy glitch in this glamorous agenda: The plane you are flying on crashes and you and the other survivors are pitifully abandoned on a cobra-infested, volcano-exploding jungle. You and your fellow surviving Beauty Queens have little to subsist on—unless you can count “four hot roller sets, straightening irons, three waterlogged beauty magazines, and laxatives” as survival provisions. You and the other young women have it far worse than the contenders on Survivor, because in addition to your minor “do or die” predicament, you must also continue to rigorously train for the Beauty Pageant, because when rescue does arrive you cannot afford to be mortified in front of the national television screen with smudged eyeliner and a sloppy runway walk.
The scene I just depicted is a synopsis of a book entitled Beauty Queens by Libba Bray (the author of the N.Y. Times Bestselling “Gemma Doyle” Series). I just completed this book and must say that it is one of the few books I ever read that compelled me to contemplate not only society’s slick marketing ploys but also its merciless demand of female perfection. Beauty Queens is a surrealist satire of Western culture and it specifically focuses on the young woman’s “duty” as an affiliate of the culture. The much acclaimed American Dream extends to the young female and she is subtly pressurized to accomplish it all: Educational achievements, professional triumphs, and societal glory while “not letting her lipstick go cakey once.”
Author Libba Bray
Bray mocks Western culture and its feminine themes through her protagonists. Many of the Beauty Pageant competitors are the stereotypical, copper-toned, golden haired females who make comments like “Ohmigosh. No food at all on this island—I am going to be so superskinny by Pageant time!” or utilize “a silvery metal from the plane’s wing to reflect the sun and work on their tans.” Although these protagonists appear ridiculous, they evoke empathy from the reader. This is because the female reader (all too easily) comprehends that the character’s mindset is merely a product of the superficially-crazed values she was molded with, and not necessarily a genuine reflection of her personality. Another aspect that I love about Bray's Beauty Queens? It's hilarious. Bray has these "Commercial Breaks" in between chapters. One of the products that is endorsed in her "Commercial Breaks" is called "Lady 'Stache Off." Can you guess what that does?
I chose to feature Beauty Queens because it re-opened my eyes to the societal conventions that insidiously insists a woman become “x, y, and z.” I am not a feminist. I am, however, a young woman who recognizes the significance of being conscious of one’s daily surroundings and comprehending how those surroundings can influence one's view of the self. It is so, so easy to become fully devoured by the various ads, promotions, commercials, and TV shows that share a similar thread. They can seductively whisper or confidently proclaim that you need to be tinier here, larger there, chiseled like this, and soft like that. Need proof that sweet-talk marketing works so effectively? Think of Eve+ the sinister serpent. It entrapped us since day one. Literally Day One.
It’s obvious that I am neither the first nor the last to blather about this subject. In fact, as many of you know, this particular feminine issue has been to driven to the ground, beaten to the pulp, and then boomeranged itself back to earth. Yet, in spite of all this chit-chat, society and the media have not changed their course for the better.
I firmly believe that change starts within each of us. We can no longer rely on a Cinderella-like fairy godmother to chirp “Bibbity Bobbity Boo” and wave away the dilemmas that have such emotionally harmful effects on girls and women. Women have been silently coerced to reflect a specific image for centuries. In the 1950s “Marilyn Monroe curves” were exulted, in the 1920s a waif-like figure was coveted, and in the 19th century corsets were the clichéd bane of a woman’s existence. The litany goes on and on…Focusing on expressing oneself (kindly and without apology), sincerely complimenting others, and snubbing the nettlesome voice which insists that we are flawed can help end the epidemic that calls for female perfection.
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