Beauty Sick: How the Cultural Obsession with Appearance Hurts Girls and Women by Renee Engeln PhD

Published April 2017

Available in the Richland Library in print and eBook. 

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. ~ From the Publisher

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