Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girlsby Published 01 Sep 2005
|Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls.pdf|
#1 New York Times Bestseller
The groundbreaking work that poses one of the most provocative questions of a generation: what is happening to the selves of adolescent girls?
As a therapist, Mary Pipher was becoming frustrated with the growing problems among adolescent girls. Why were so many of them turning to therapy in the first place? Why had these lovely and promising human beings fallen prey to depression, eating disorders, suicide attempts, and crushingly low self-esteem? The answer hit a nerve with Pipher, with parents, and with the girls themselves. Crashing and burning in a “developmental Bermuda Triangle,” they were coming of age in a media-saturated culture preoccupied with unrealistic ideals of beauty and images of dehumanized sex, a culture rife with addictions and sexually transmitted diseases. They were losing their resiliency and optimism in a “girl-poisoning” culture that propagated values at odds with those necessary to survive.
Told in the brave, fearless, and honest voices of the girls themselves who are emerging from the chaos of adolescence, Reviving Ophelia is a call to arms, offering important tactics, empathy, and strength, and urging a change where young hearts can flourish again, and rediscover and reengage their sense of self.
Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls Reviews
While this book had a whole bunch of interesting anecdotes, there were nothing more than anecdotes. The fact that a bunch of her patients manifested particular characteristics doesn't lead to the ability to generalize about adolescent trends in general, as Pipher does here. On the contrary, it's just as reasonable to believe that her patients, many of whom presumably came to her through referrals from other patients, were a self-selecting group, each of whom referred people to Pipher because she had proven talented in dealing with particular adolescent issues.
If Pipher had written a book about the traits of her individual patients, most of whom were adolescent girls, that would have been one thing, and probably would have been a pretty good book. But when you're trying to make broad pronouncements about social trends, as Pipher is, anecdotes about your group of patients won't cut it. At all.
It's been a while since I read this and was reminded about it via a thread on this very website about how women feel about barbie dolls and the like. The author is a psychologist who works with adolescent girls and suggests that there is a window (somewhere between 9 and 13 if I remember correctly) where young girls will either choose academic, athletic, or artistic endeavors--or boys. Girls learn to like boys early on (way before they learn to like girls) and an unfortunate consequence of this is that they will often do whatever it takes to get the young boys attention. So little girls who had no problem playing in the mud, or climbing trees, or whatever--become more self-conscious about their appearance and will start to wear make-up, "sexy" clothes(i know that sounds gross in this context but), and alter their daily activities so that they become someone a boy would notice more. As they get older, maybe they put out, or smoke pot...whatever they feel might attract a particular boy to them. The key here is to keep young girls occupied with other activities like sports and music so that you delay that window and the girl has time to build her self-esteem/identity before she becomes interested in boys. Girls who have their own interest are less likely to alter their life to conform to something a teenage boy may be interested in.
This is a biased and thoughtless review, based on vague memories of a cranky adolescent's insensitive snap judgment, so you shouldn't pay any attention to it. It's definitely more of a statement about me than it is about the book, which I don't really remember anyway.
I read this in the mid-nineties when it came out, and I remember feeling, as a teenage girl, annoyed and offended. I felt at the time that it was making too much of girls' helplessness and sort of encouraging us to feel sorry for ourselves and to wallow in a sense of victimization, blaming our parents and "the media" for everything. Honestly, though, I'm sure this is a gross mischaracterization of everything in this book, which I honestly don't remember one bit. Raising girls -- raising anyone! -- not to be all screwed-up around here -- around anywhere! -- is hard work, and parents deserve all the help they can get. At the same time, I do have some basic belief that adolescence is supposed to be kind of miserable: that's called "growing up," and it hurts. I mean, obviously girls shouldn't be cutting themselves or trying to commite suicide, but adolescents feeling bad a lot of the time seems normal to me. I engaged in a lot of behavior as a teenager that on paper sounds pretty pathological or at least disturbing, and I'm not saying that's ideal or that I want my kids doing all of it, but I did make it out the other end, you know? As did a lot of other girls I know who had much more extreme problems. Now we're grownups, and we've got the stories.
Again, I don't remember what this book said, but I do remember my basic reaction. I felt like someone was characterizing me as being way more screwed-up than I felt I was, and I was annoyed by some of the case examples, especially where they reminded me of troubled friends of mine who, I felt, were not well-served by a therapeutic culture that I saw at the time as potentially iatrogenic (though I hadn't learned that fancy word yet!).
It might be interesting to revisit Ophelia now, since I always have infinitely more sympathy for groups of which I am not a member. If this book enlightened parents about issues relevant to raising girls in a materialistic and misogynistic culture, then the more sensitive, kinder adult me is all for it. I do not envy the parents today, as I think popular culture has gotten exponentially more threatening to girls' developing a healthy sense of self.
Of course, if I were fifteen today I'd probably say that was crap. I would sneer at any suggestion that Paris Hilton or reality plastic surgery shows had any effect whatsoever on my development, and then I'd run off to drink beer in a bush with my similarly indignant peers.
me:single handedly tries to fight the mass media while protecting every young girl in america
I thought this book was really really interesting. It is about the negative effects our culture has on teenage girls (too much emphasis on beauty, too much encouragement to be passive in order to please others, etc.). One of my favorite points she made is that our society spends tons of time and money educating women on self-defense, but wouldn't it make much more sense to educate young men on how to be respectful and non-violent towards women?
I do have some reservations about the book, though:
1) The author is a bit of a man-hater. Sometimes I think she blames all the world's problems on men.
2) She uses case studies to make her points. In her case studies, the women who stay at home with their kids and take on traditional female roles are all weak/don't have a clue who they are/depressed. The women who completely abandon the traditional roles, however, are her strong examples of women who have overcome our poisonous society and saved their "selves." I think she is pretty biased in her writing on these points.
Those things aside, I enjoyed this book and think it had some pretty good/valid points.