The core of Wolf's argument in The Beauty Myth is that women increasingly have socio-economic opportunities and social status, but also suffer from pressure to conform to unrealistic beauty ideals. These ideals, which have arisen and are maintained by the commercial mass media, lead to unhealthy behavior by women, preoccupation with appearance by both sexes and hinders the social acceptance of women.
Wolf states in her introduction to The Beauty Myth that in recent decades women have overcome many social, economic and legal hurdles, but at the same time suffer from a limiting, burdensome and cruel image of female beauty. While women were increasingly able to occupy positions of power, eating disorders increased dramatically and cosmetic surgery became the fastest growing medical specialty. Pornographybecame the leading category in the mass media and 33,000 American women said in a survey that they would rather lose a few pounds than achieve any other goal in their lives. More women than ever have more power and more money to spend and their rights are better safeguarded than ever, but in terms of self-esteem , about their own bodies, they may be worse off than their grandmothers in pre- feminism times .
Wolf also argues that the ideal of beauty created by the media is a kind of belief that perpetuates male dominance. Few women can naturally fulfill the ideal, the rest would be doomed to feel unhappy and at the same time groggy buy products that promise beauty.