I am wondering which preposition would best fit this usage of the word divest. In this case, the word is being used in the third subsense of the first sense found in Merriam-Webster:

  1. a : to deprive or dispossess especially of property, authority, or title
    b : to undress or strip especially of clothing, ornament, or equipment
    c : rid, free

Here's the word in its context:

My experience of not feeling like I was feminine enough was validated by those who had experienced the same, and I began feeling like I could divest myself [from] the feminine beauty ideal.

I can find examples that use divest of and divest from, but I also see divest being used without any preposition. Merriam-Webster has an entry for divest of, where it seems to apply specifically to money or physical possessions. And the majority of examples I see for divest from seem to be specifically about fossil fuel divestment.

Which preposition is appropriate when using divest in a more figurative way?

Perhaps divest isn't even the right word though... Is the word disinvest more appropriate?


2 Answers 2


If you mean that you had previously invested in or bought into the feminine beauty ideal and now wish to divest, you may use "from" to express that nuance (see def. 1 - fourth example), literal or figurative not having any bearing on usage as all things literal may be used figuratively, there being nothing literal that is barred from figurative use.

If you don't mean to suggest you had previously invested in or bought into the feminine beauty ideal but simply wish to rid yourself of it, or shed it, like instead of your having previously invested in or bought into the feminine beauty ideal, the feminine beauty ideal had been imposed on you, it being something that you never wanted, that you never asked for, and that's been foisted upon you, then using "of" instead of "from" may convey that suggestion.

Basically, I would use "of" unless I wanted to suggest that I myself have at any point invested in the feminine beauty ideal, if I myself have bought into it ever, even if I'd been conned into it, in which case I would use "from" to suggest my prior investment, that I am not merely ridding myself of something I somehow have but am ridding myself of something I have from, at least in part, investing in it myself.


The more common preposition is OF also in a figurative usage: (see sense 2 from OLD)


  1. divest yourself of something to get rid of something
  • The company is divesting itself of some of its assets.
  1. divest somebody/something of something to take something away from someone or something
  • After her illness she was divested of much of her responsibility.
  1. divest somebody/yourself of something to remove clothes
  • He divested himself of his jacket.

M-W defines divest of as a phrasal verb and show both literal and figurative usage examples (formal):

  1. to take (something) away from (someone or something else) : to cause (someone or something) to lose or give up (something)
  • The document does not divest her of her right to use the property. —often used as (be) divested of He was divested of his title/power/dignity.
  1. divest (oneself) of (something) : to sell or give away (possessions, money, etc.)
  • She divested herself of most of her possessions. —old-fashioned when used of clothing He divested himself of his coat.

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