Friday, May 23, 2008

Reviving Ophelia

OK, so I'm like 14 years behind.

I knew I'd have to read this book when my daughters got older. I just didn't feel rushed. But now that my 8 (8!) year old is showing signs of super, dooper advanced physical development, I figured I better take a look at Reviving Ophelia.

First of all, this book was published in '94, so a lot of things have changed. There are WAY more women in power and authority in the world than there were even 14 years ago. The portrayal of women and girls on TV and in movies has improved, though it still has a ways to go IMHO. Seems to me women are struggling now more with the HowDoIBeAMomandHaveACareer? syndrome, more than wondering how they will have a career.

That said, the troubles girls have in adolescence are intensely staggering and shocking to read about. The idea is this, as their bodies and minds are changing, they are not ready to face the messages junk culture (her words, not mine) sends them. They just can't process how to be sexy but not slutty, sophisticated but nice, smart but not stand out, strong but people pleasing.....and it goes on.

The thing that MAKES ME WANT TO PULL MY HAIR OUT is this:

Every single story of devastating influences on girls in this book happen at school.

Every. Single. One.

Boys grabbing their breast and bottoms in school halls. Girls ostracizing them if they don't have the right hair, clothes, makeup. Peer pressure to drink, take drugs, have sex. Pressure to not care about school, grades or parents. They all happen in a school setting.

How do girls cope with these pressures? Many are simply not psychologically or emotionally prepared to handle them, so they internalize and cut or burn themselves. Some starve themselves, so there is at least one thing in their life they can control. Others binge and purge.

In treating the effects girls suffer from all this, arent' we treating the symptoms and not the root problem? Yes, some girls have difficult, even abusive homes - and that is a different story. But most girls' problems (in this book and many other child development books I've read) happen because they are not protected in school. It's flippin' Lord of the Flies in the high school halls, but with girls included.

I know this position gets me into all kinds of trouble, since homeschooling is not for everyone.
"I could never do THAT"
"I'm not patient enough."
"We can't afford it."
But you can afford for your kids to get totally messed-up? Hmm.......I always figured I'd live in a cheap apartment in Tennessee before I'd let my kids be exposed to this garbage.

Honestly, I don't know what the solution is. I wish more people would start thinking outside the box, start calling a spade a spade and dealing with the real problems: crazy, sexist, unrealistic notions of what a girl/woman should be, and the onslaught of these messages, pressures and abuses to girls at school.

2 comments:

Tim said...
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Tim said...
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