3.5 Star Books · Book Reviews · feminism · non fiction · religion · Uncategorized

Book Review: The Beauty Suit: How My Year of Religious Modesty Made Me a Better Feminist by Lauren Shields 

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The Beauty Suit: How My Year of Religious Modesty Made Me a Better Feminist by Lauren Shields 

Published by Beacon Press on May 15, 2018

Pages: 192

Genres: non fiction, religion, feminism

Rating: 3.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: social and personal experiments, feminist reads, learning about religion with modern interpretations

Read with food: whatever you want and your body needs, because it’s important that you do what’s best for you

 

Synopsis:

A young feminist finds herself questioning why “hotness” has become necessary for female empowerment–and looks for alternatives.

Looking good feels good. But in a society where looking good is posited as being strong, while negotiating for better pay is statistically proven to damage our careers, is it fair to say that wicked eyeliner, weekly blowouts, and a polished Instagram feed are the keys to our liberation? If so–if “hot” really is a good enough synonym for “empowered”–why do so many of us feel, deep in our bones, that the sexy-as-strong model is a distraction? Is “pretty” still the closest to power women can get? Why is looking fierce an acceptable substitute for living in a world where women are safe?

Inspired in seminary by American Muslimahs who wear the hijab for feminist reasons, Lauren Shields took off what she calls the Beauty Suit–the “done” hair, the tasteful and carefully applied makeup, the tight clothes and foot-binding shoes–for nine months. She’d really only wanted to do an experiment. Instead, her life–especially her views on what constitutes “liberation”–changed forever.

Rooted in feminist theory and religious history, and guided by a snappy personal narrative, The Beauty Suit unpacks modern American womanhood: a landscape where the female body is still so often the battleground for male ideals, and where we struggle with our rights as human beings to define and exercise our freedom.

Review:

I received this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways. As always, an honest review.

Lauren Shields’ year of religious modesty, for herself, prompted her to write this book to share her thoughts about the journey. Overall the book reads as a bit disjointed, but that’s fairly in keeping with such a complex multi dimensional experiment. Throughout she’s figuring out for herself how to define her religion, other religions, modesty, feminism, the modern culture, and more. The author has a background in religious studies, so she’s very well versed in these topics. The book reads as an educational text combined with a memoir.

I enjoyed all the new information that I gained, especially the alternate interpretations of modest dress within a religious context. I also enjoyed the in depth discussions about feminism, both relating to religion and culture in general. 

However, there were some topics in which I disagreed with the author including women’s empowerment versus self objectification. Also it came across to me that Lauren believes being spiritual is less than being religious. I’m not sure this was what she was trying to convey, or maybe it’s what’s true for her personally. But that aspect bothered me. Also, I wish there were more written bout the actual modesty experiment. Much of the book was a lesson about religion, modesty, feminism, and cultural norms. 

In general, I enjoyed The Beauty Suit and learned more about religion, especially in a modern cultural context. I think this would be a good book for young women who are religious but struggle to connect feminism, choice and strength with some traditional religious teachings. 

 

How many of you want to take off the “beauty suit” defined by our culture? 

Bookish Posts

Seriously Underrated Books – less than 500 Ratings

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Even more underrated book recommendations for you all!

 

This time it’s books that only have 100-500 ratings on Goodreads.

 

Why did I use Goodreads and these arbitrary numbers? See my original post here

 

Now onto my recommendations . . . 

 

The Heart Healers: The Misfits, Mavericks, and Rebels Who Created the Greatest Medical Breakthrough of Our Lives by James S. Forrester

Fascinating, amazing, and great for all you medical nerds out there. Essentially a book about cardiovascular surgery, it’s history, and innovations in medicine. Complex and smart, but well explained for people not well versed in medicine. 

 

The Intimate Bond: How Animals Shaped Human History by Brian M. Fagan

A new way of looking at how animals affect human history beyond their adorableness as household pets. A fascinating combination of world history, animal science and anthropology. 

 

The Stress Proof Brain: Master Your Emotional Response to Stress Using Mindfulness and Neuroplasticity by Melanie Greenberg

An incredibly fascinating and informative look at how and why our brain automatically reacts to certain situations with stress and anxiety. Filled with great checklists to help us take charge of our stress and anxieties.

 

A Warrior of the People: How Susan La Flesche Overcame Racial and Gender Inequality to Become America’s First Indian Doctor by Joe Starita

Exactly what the title describes and so much more! An intelligent, inspiring true life story of a hardworking woman determined to take care of her tribe, despite ethnic, racial, and gender prejudices. 

 

Pretend We Are Lovely by Noley Reid

 A family’s struggle to cope with the tragic death of their son and brother. Grief, secrets, and eating disorders consume the family as they each struggle in their own way.

 

Books by Candace Calvert including By Your Side, Step by Step,  Maybe It’s You, and Life Support

Each book tell the heartwarming tale of medical professionals, usually nurses, struggling in their personal and romantic lives. A perfect blend of an authentic behind the scenes medical setting and uplifting romance. 

 

It’s Not About Perfect: Competing for My Country by Shannon Miller

A memoir about a member of the Magnificent 7, the gold medal winning gymnastics team at the 1996 Summer Olympics. Stories from her childhood, years in the sport of gymnastics, and cancer diagnosis make up this intriguing, brave and inspiring book.

 

The True Tails of Baker and Taylor: the Library Cats Who Left Their Pawprints on a Small Town … and the World by Jan Louch

A purrrrfect book for cat and book lovers! An entire book all about adorable cats and their shenanigans in a library setting. What’s not to love!

 

This Is How I Find Her by Sara Polsky

The story of a teenage girl who cares for her mother suffering from bipolar disorder. Sophie hasn’t been able to live a “normal” teenage life ever. Then things change and with the help of others Sophie can start living her life for herself. A great book about children caring for their parents.

 

They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the Civil War by DeAnne Blanton

Did you know that women served in the military in the Civil War? Nope? Neither did I before reading this book. It’s fascinating to learn about the aspects of history that are rarely written about in the history books. 

 

Believe Me: My Battle with the Invisible Disability of Lyme Disease by Yolanda Hadid

How does this memoir not have more reviews? A heartbreaking, inspiring, educational look at what it’s like to live with a chronic illness, specially chronic lyme disease. I cannot stop talking about this amazing book!

 

I highly recommend that you give some of these underrated books a read. Click the titles to be redirected to Goodreads for a full summary. Enjoy!

 

I want to know . . . 

which books are you adding to your TBR list?

 

Also, look out for the last post in the series . . . next up: Underrated

Books with than 1,000 ratings