William & Mary Journal of Race, Gender, and Social Justice


Kerith Cohen


In her recent book, The Beauty Myth,' Naomi Wolf discusses the phenomenon in which a woman links her identity to her physical appearance. Wolf presents the beauty myth as a sequel to the feminine mystique2 "discovered" by Betty Friedan.3 The feminine mystique depicts happy womanhood as a "modern" suburban housewife.4 The beauty myth, on the other hand, depicts the modern happy woman as physically perfect. 5 "The beauty myth tells a story: the quality called 'beauty' objectively and universally exists. Women must want to embody it and men must want to possess women who embody it."'

This Note explores how the beauty myth affects a female plaintiffs recovery in a products liability action against manufacturers of products targeted toward women. Part I examines male bias in the area of products liability and explains the beauty myth, outlining the theoretical bases for the problem that impedes women plaintiffs. Part II recounts the breast implant story, including the marketing and testing of the devices, demonstrating how male bias and the beauty myth fueled the implant industry and contributed to the subsequent injuries and litigation. Part III illustrates how the beauty myth disadvantages breast implant plaintiffs on several levels. Part IV recommends a doctrinal method to compensate for the effects of the beauty myth on female plaintiffs who bring product liability actions, and identifies various policy reasons for doing so. More specifically, Part IV argues that courts should not apply the learned intermediary doctrine in "failure to warn" claims against breast implant manufacturers.

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