Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls
Adolescence in America has traditionally involved breaking away from parents, experimenting with the trappings of adult life, and searching for autonomy and independence. Today's teenagers face serious pressures at an earlier age than that at which teenagers in the past did. The innocent act of attending an unsupervised party can lead to acquaintance rape. Having a boyfriend means dealing with sexual pressures, and often leads to pregnancy and/or sexually transmitted diseases.
It's no wonder that girls' math scores plummet and depression levels rise when they reach junior high. As they encounter situations that are simply too complex for them to handle, their self-esteem crumbles.... We need to make that precious age of experimentation safe for adolescent girls.
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At adolescence, says Mary Pipher, "girls become 'female impersonators' who fit their whole selves into small, crowded spaces." Many lose spark, interest, and even IQ points as a "girl-poisoning" society forces a choice between being shunned for staying true to oneself and struggling to stay within a narrow definition of female. Pipher's alarming tales of a generation swamped by pain may be partly informed by her role as a therapist who sees troubled children and teens, but her sketch of a tougher, more menacing world for girls often hits the mark. She offers some prescriptions for changing society and helping girls resist.