Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Curse of the Good Girl - Rachel Simmons

Title: The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence
Author: Rachel Simmons
Publisher: The Penguin Press, 2009 (Hardcover)
Length: 262 pages
Genre: Adult; Nonfiction, Parenting
Started: February 20, 2013
Finished: February 23, 2013

From the inside cover:

In The Curse of the Good Girl, Rachel Simmons, bestselling author of Odd Girl Out, argues that in idealizing the Good Girl we are teaching girls to embrace a version of selfhood that sharply curtails their power and potential. Unerringly nice, polite, modest, and selfless, the Good Girl is an identity so narrowly defined that it's unachievable. When girls fail to live up to these empty expectations - experiencing conflicts with peers or making mistakes in the classroom or on the playing field - they become paralyzed by self-criticism that stunts the growth of their vital skills and habits. Simmons traces the poisonous impact of Good Girl pressure on girls' development and provides a strategy to reverse the tide. At once illuminating and prescriptive, The Curse of the Good Girl is an essential guide to contemporary girl culture and a call to arms from a new front in female empowerment.

Using the stories shared by women and girls who have attended workshops, Simmons shows pressure from parents, teachers, coaches, media, and peers erects a psychological glass ceiling that begins to enforce its confines in girlhood and extends across the female life span. The curse of the Good Girl erodes girls' abilities to know, express, and manage a complete range of feelings. It expects girls to be selfless, limiting their expressions of their needs. It requires modesty, depriving them of the permission to articulate their strengths and goals. It diminishes assertive body language, quiets voices, and weakens handshakes. It touches all areas of girls' lives and follows many into adulthood, limiting their personal and professional potential.

We have long lamented the loss of self-esteem in adolescent girls, recognizing that while the doors of opportunity are open to twenty-first century American girls, many lack the confidence to walk through them. In The Curse of the Good Girl, Simmons provides the first comprehensive action plan to silence the curse of the Good Girl and bolster the self, making clear her radical assertion that the most critical freedom we can win for our daughters is the liberty to recognize their authentic voice and act on it.

As a teacher and a parent to a daughter, these kinds of books always interest me. This book was beneficial in many ways but fell short in others.

The Curse of the Good Girl begins not by explaining what the curse of the Good Girl is exactly or how it forms or presents itself in our culture, but by stating the idea as fact (which I have no qualm about, I know it exists, I just like research to back up anecdotal claims) and how it plays out in interactions between teenaged girls and others. In part two, the author presents ideas of how to undo the damage the Good Girl image inflicts, mainly about how to communicate in ways that are emotionally authentic and not about furthering drama.

The issue I have with this approach is that trying to fix the Good Girl persona seems all well and good, but if a single girl or even a group of girls change their behaviours, they're still going to eventually face the larger world outside of their school where there are still people who think poorly of strong women who advocate for their needs and don't tow the line. Then that girl or group of girls is stuck, because unless we can facilitate a societal shift, which will only come from addressing these misogynistic ideals on a larger level for all girls when they're young, these girls might achieve success amongst their friends or their school, but will eventually be confronted with them at a higher level.

What I would have liked to see is an analysis of how this image of the Good Girl has developed in our culture: how it emerges in parenting practices, how it's furthered by the media, how it's enforced in school and everyday life, and how to curb it while our girls are still young rather than try to undo the damage when they're teenagers.

An insightful read about the Good Girl image society expects of women and the damage it does, and how to go about rewiring our girls to counter the Good Girl persona.

Thoughts on the cover:
Cute image for the front, definitely embodies the typical teenage girl.

No comments:

Post a Comment