Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Five notable books on the gender trap

Peggy Orenstein's books include the New York Times best-selling memoir, Waiting for Daisy; Flux: Women on Sex, Work, Kids, Love and Life in a Half-Changed World; and the best-selling SchoolGirls: Young Women, Self-Esteem and the Confidence Gap. Her latest book is Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture.

At The Browser, Orenstein and Eve Gerber discuss how, "from an early age, girls learn to be pretty in pink while boys are marketed a prepackaged masculinity." And Orenstein suggests five books that may help parents "give their children a broader, more imaginative outlook," including:
Odd Girl Out
by Rachel Simmons

Let’s get to Odd Girl Out. Rhodes scholar Rachael Simmons’s book about adolescent girls is based on her observations at 30 schools and interviews with more than 300 girls. What is this book about?

Odd Girl Out looks at relational aggression with girls, which is bullying, basically. It breaks down how adolescent girls relate to one another and why it matters – the mean girl stuff that gets dismissed. Simmons takes seriously the issues that girls have with one another. She doesn’t just expose the problem. Simmons helps parents, educators and kids see how to build respective, supportive communities. The new edition includes a whole lot on how to navigate social media. It’s a great resource.

Simmons faults the cultural taboo against girls overtly expressing aggression. How do you see gender norms influencing the emotional lives of adolescents?

There are few cultural outlets for girls to be overtly aggressive so they tend to talk behind backs and that sort of thing instead. Simmons talks about why that happens and what to do about it both in and out of school. There can be difficult dynamics in relationships among girls. If you have a daughter who’s older than three you’ve probably run into these issues. I don’t know a parent who doesn’t need help with how to advise their child.

How can parents help?

What we can do is help girls identify feelings. A lot of times girls don’t identify their feelings. They believe they’re supposed to be nice, polite and pleasant so they end up angry, anxious or unhappy. Just allowing a girl to express the normal range of human emotions helps. Allowing a girl to not be so nice can help release the frustration that leads to relational aggression or depression. Girls need help navigating through anger and disappointment and they need to know that their parents can help.
Read about the other books Orenstein discusses at The Browser.

See--Writers Read: Rachel Simmons (February 2010).

Visit Peggy Orenstein's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Waiting for Daisy.

The Page 99 Test: Cinderella Ate My Daughter.

--Marshal Zeringue