Thursday, March 12, 2015

Critique of the Beauty Myth

The language people use to communicate every day is very simple and easy to understand. Even me, an international student can know what people are saying and know how to respond. However, some reading materials in the theory course can be consider as an official style, because it uses a great deal of terminologies, which is uncommon vocabulary for me, and subordinate clause. It can be understanding that why the author will chose to use official style to introduce the theory, because seldom people will question their authority; nevertheless, official style also obstruct public to accept this theory. In that way, I think it will be better if the author can find a balance between the official style and plain language.The quotations I excerpt for analysis is from a book called “The Beauty Myth” by Naomi Wolf, and it is also my Critical Theory class reading materials. The title of the book seem to explain theory of woman’s beauty mysteries—is about power instead of sex, the title demonstrated it by saying this beauty is a myth. This book first published in New York: Harper Perennial, 2002. It targeted those woman or people who are interest in the field of philosophy. It is also my reading martial from my course Critical Theory. This is a quotation I want to critique because it is hard for me to understand the meaning. “Women could probably be trained quite easily to see men first as sexual things. If girls never experienced sexual violence; if a girl's only window on male sexuality were a stream of easily available, well-lit, cheap images of boys slightly older than herself, in their late teens, smiling encouragingly and revealing cuddly erect penises the color of roses or mocha, she might well look at, masturbate to, and, as an adult, "need" beauty pornography based on the bodies of men. And if those initiating penises were represented to the girl as pneumatically erectible, swerving neither left nor right, tasting of cinnamon or forest berries, innocent of random hairs, and ever ready; if they were presented alongside their measurements, length, and circumference to the quarter inch; if they seemed to be available to her with no troublesome personality attached; if her sweet pleasure seemed to be the only reason for them to exist--then a real young man would probably approach the young woman's bed with, to say the least, a failing heart.”This is an absolutely official style sample. First of all, the sentence structure. In this quotation, the writer used many lengthy sentences and subordinate clauses. The third sentence, “if a girl's only window … ‘need’ beauty pornography based on the bodies of men”, is the major part in the whole paragraph. This sentence used the word “if” to start, which indicates subordination. Then it used prepositions to connect each sentence instead of a period. Second, the writer chooses many terminologies and uncommon vocabulary, such as “masturbate”, “pornography”, “pneumatically”, and “circumference”. I cannot even find the definition of the word “circumference” in my electronic dictionary. It will be hard for normal people who are not familiar with the philosophical theory to understand. During the process that the writer explained the terminology, Naomi uses rhetorical devices to interpret the phenomenon or behavior. When Naomi explained the “penises were represented to the girl as pneumatically erectible”, she uses a lot of adjectives, “random” for instance. What surprised me is that this paragraph’s Average Grade Level is 23.0, which is a high value. This means it is difficult to read, not to mention understand it. All of the evidence shows that the book’s target reader is those who have higher education or professionals in the philosophy field. This quotation is too sophisticated for the public to understand, so the author should find a balance between the official style and simple language.Then, let us look at another quotation also from “The Beauty Myth”. “For the first time in history, children are growing up whose earliest sexual imprinting derives not from a living human being, or fantasies of their own; since the 1960s pornographic upsurge, the sexuality of children has begun to be shaped in response to cues that are no longer human. Nothing comparable has ever happened in the history of our species; it dislodges Freud. Today's children and young men and women have sexual identities that spiral around paper and celluloid phantoms: from Playboy to music videos to the blank females torsos in women's magazines, features obscured and eyes extinguished, they are being imprinted with a sexuality that is mass-produced, deliberately dehumanizing and inhuman.”This sample is much easier compared to the first phrase. However, its Average Grade Level is 18.5, still higher than normal reading martial. Moreover, it also uses long sentence and uncommon words. For the whole sample, the first sentence “For the first time in history, children are growing up whose earliest sexual imprinting derives not from a living human being, or fantasies of their own” is considered as an easy sentence which I can better understand. The reason why this sentence is easier is because it used common words which I can understand. Otherwise, I have to try my best to guess what the writer want to express. This text is much easier to understand, so the author should integrate this style more often.In conclusion, what I quoted is a reading martial from an academic essay from a philosophy course, which means the purpose of the martial is to introduce the theory. Therefore, it is understandable why it has a higher Average Grade Level and is harder to understand. Using terminology and rhetorical devices indeed helped to improve the professionalism and authority of this book. Besides, because of its terminology and rhetorical devices, seldom readers will question the authority of this book. In my opinion, no matter what kind of theory it is, eventually the theory needs to be explained to people, or students who want to learn it. However, the official style restricts people to understand it, which is official style’s limitation. Some people might give up deeply reading this essay after they scan it because of its complicated sentence structures, uncommon and multiple word choices, and various rhetorical devices. When I read this book, I had to look up almost every word definition, and even when I understood each word definition, I still could not understand the whole sentence meaning. In addition, there are a lot of long sentences in this book, which make it more difficult to interpret. However, if I cannot understand the sentence meaning, how could I understand this theory and respond to this theory? In fact, it is a contradiction that if this book was written in simple language, readers may question this book’s professionalism. However if this book was written in a complex language and used uncommon words, it would be hard for readers to understand. I think this book would be better if the writer found a balance between the official style and simple language.

---Xiaoqian Zeng

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