Reviving Ophelia : Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls

ISBN: 0788705199
ISBN 13: 9780788705199
By: Mary Pipher

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Reader's Thoughts

Marcea

The superlatives I could list for this book would fill an entire page. It’s profound, insightful, moving, disturbing – I could go on and on. The subtitle of this book is ‘Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls’, but it could just as easily have been ‘Where We’ve Come From to Get Here’ or ‘Every Woman’s Glance Back’. Tt has raised many issues for me that would be better more fully developed in my journal. Pipher was not only very illuminating with the content but also inspiring with her phrasing and style. As I was reading I kept thinking of more people I thought should read it, my baby brother & sister-in-law who don’t yet have children or anyone has or who may raise daughters. In reading this I believe every woman would better understand their selves, & every man could gain insight into women they love and both use the wisdom to guide and protect their daughters and nieces.

Jessica

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.

alysa

I HATED this book. Is there NO hope for our girls? I found this book to be very negative about the future of girls trying to grow up in this world. Although the book is outdated I did not find a whole lot that related to the average American girl. The author generalizes about girls as a whole based upon her patients that are in therapy. This is not to say that girls are not going to have issues, but I don't think the majority of girls are going to have the depth of issues of the girls in this book. I found the book very repetitive and stated the problem over and over and offered no advice on to how to help girls in the turmoil of adolescents. Don't waste your time!

K

Hmmmm....very mixed feelings about this one.Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls covers a lot of the same ground as Unprotected: A Campus Psychiatrist Reveals How Political Correctness in Her Profession Endangers Every Student. We read about adolescent girls struggling with depression, eating disorders, self-mutilation, premature sexual involvement, etc. Both Mary Pipher and Miriam Grossman are mental health practitioners who treat these girls and view their difficulties less as individual issues than as an indictment of the high-pressure, overly sexualized, hedonistic, materialistic, narcissistic society in which they live. For all their overlap, I couldn't decide why Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls irritated me so much more than Unprotected: A Campus Psychiatrist Reveals How Political Correctness in Her Profession Endangers Every Student did.I hate to think that my own biases played a role here, though I have to admit they probably did. Miriam Grossman is, I believe, an Orthodox Jew like myself who shares a lot of my beliefs about traditional values and the benefits of a religious lifestyle which may be why I felt more open to her perspective. Mary Pipher, in contrast, appears to be a staunch feminist who attributes the problems she sees to a misogynistic society with unrealistic ideals for women. While I'm sure she's not entirely wrong, I found her views at times overstated and alarmist.“Girls have four general ways in which they can react to the cultural pressures to abandon the self," says Pipher on page 43, "They can conform, withdraw, be depressed, or get angry.” Um, how about simply resisting the pressure in a positive way? Doesn't anyone do that any more? Is the world really so awful? What about all the people who come out “normal,” whatever that means? Surely some girls make it through adolescence without needing therapy for an eating disorder or self-mutilation, don’t they? Is that just my background talking (sheltered, religious, single sex schools, little contact with the opposite sex before college)? In fact, I'm aware that girls from my background can also struggle with serious issues like the ones Pipher describes but I meet a lot more girls who don't.In a similarly monolithic statement, Mary says on page 150: “If we picture depression on a continuum, at one extreme would be severe depression with some biochemical basis and disturbed family functioning. AT the other end of the continuum would be ordinary adolescent misery [how about happiness, Mary? Why wouldn’t that be the other end of the continuum?]…Most girls suffer depression somewhere between these two extremes.”Really? Most? Well, probably most girls in therapy which is where her information comes from. But actually, I believe there are some reasonably happy, or at least relatively contented, adolescent girls out there.Mary also claims on page 158 that “Girls are under more stress in the 1990s.” Actually, this is debatable. In “Spin Sisters,” the author posits that women’s magazines sell the impression that women are more stressed out today when in fact, women have never had it so good. Does that apply to girls? I’m not sure, but I certainly think that a blanket statement like “Girls are under more stress in the 1990s” without research to support it should not be made in this unqualified way. Can we examine this a little? Why are girls under more stress now than when they had to help out on the farm and couldn’t go to school? I agree that there are new, unprecedented stresses today on girls that didn’t use to exist. But is there more stress? I’m not sure. Mary herself acknowledges in a later chapter that, while many things have become more difficult for adolescent girls than they once were, other things about the world they live in are actually more flexible and positive.Here's where the feminist agenda irritated to me and felt like a misattribution. On page 175 Mary asserts that, “They [anorexic girls] epitomize our cultural definitions of feminine: thin, passive, weak, and easy to please.” Um, isn’t this a little outdated? Is this still our cultural definition of feminine? I mean, yeah, this ideal certainly isn't dead but I wouldn’t go so far as to make the blanket statement that it, and only it, is our cultural definition of feminine. Although Piper complains, legitimately, about many movies’ sexist portrayal of women, I can also point to popular films where women are strong and tough and get for what they want by working for it, not by looking pretty. Which brings me to another point. My husband has a great-aunt who, obviously, comes from an older generation with more old-fashioned ideals for women. So she never particularly progressed in a career; she raised four children, did a lot of volunteer work, and may have had some pink-collar job or another at some point. This woman, now in her late 80s, is lovely. She’s charming and sociable, always put together – a real lady in the true sense of the word. She’s also a happy person who doesn’t appear to feel particularly deprived or disappointed that she never became a fast-track career woman; she enjoys many satisfying memories of family and positive experiences.I think feminism gave us many things, and like anything else, it’s not all-bad or all-good. But here is one of my problems with feminism. I think it rejected the idea of being like my husband's great-aunt. Being a lady is no longer something to aspire to; it’s considered outdated at best and repressive at worst. Maybe we need to take a look at this. Was every woman who stayed home unhappy? Was every woman who expressed her femininity by looking good and having a social persona that put everyone around her at ease depriving herself and inevitably disappointed in her life? Why aren’t there more women like my husband's great-aunt today? Is there something wrong with aspiring to be a lady like her? Can a woman admit it if she feels this is something she would like to be? If not, isn’t feminism in its own way just as repressive as the alleged misogyny of earlier days was? Okay, so my husband's great-aunt was pretty and spent time putting herself together in the morning. So her idea of enjoying herself included taking care of her kids, mah jongg and swimming with the girls, volunteer work, etc. So sue her. I wouldn’t describe her as thin, passive, weak, and easy to please. Easy to get along with, yes. But passive isn’t the word I would use, and neither is weak. These are pejorative, loaded terms when something more positive (diplomatic, tactful, socially adept, engaging) can be substituted. Thin enough, certainly not anorexic. Mary Pipher appears to be echoing feminist rhetoric when she claims that anorexia is an attempt to conform to feminine ideals. In fact, the ideals she describes date back to the days before anorexia. Anorexia actually became more of an issue once these ideals of femininity were challenged and, to some extent, rejected by many.And yet, for all my gripes, I found myself agreeing with many things Pipher said. For example, her views of divorce (pp. 133-4):“In the late 1970s I believed that children were better off with happy single parents rather than unhappy married parents. I thought divorce was a better option than struggling with a bad marriage. Now I realize that, in many families, children may not notice if their parents are unhappy or happy. On the other hand, divorce shatters many children…Of course, some marriages are unworkable. Especially if there is abuse or addiction involved, sometimes the best way out of an impossible situation is the door. Adults have rights, and sometimes they must take care of themselves, even when it hurts their children…But divorce often doesn’t make parents happier. Certainly it overwhelms mothers and fathers, and it cuts many parents off from relationships with their children. Many times marriages don’t work because people lack relationship skills. Partners need lessons in negotiating, communicating, expressing affection, and doing their share. With these lessons many marriages can be saved…So in the 1990s I try harder than I did in the 1970s to keep couples together and to teach them what they need to know to live a lifetime with another human being.”I've seen friends and relatives struggle with difficult marriages, and I readily acknowledge that sometimes divorce is the only answer. I respect Pipher, though, for viewing it as a last resort. In fact, most of the struggling teens she describes have divorced parents, a fact which is mentioned peripherally and then discarded in favor of further diatribes about society's misogyny and impossible feminine ideals.Pipher also echoed my ambivalence about the Haim Ginott school of parenting (p. 242): “…parents tolerate…open anger much more readily than earlier generations would have. I’m confused about whether I was more repressed as a child or just happier. Sometimes I think all this expression of emotion is good, and sometimes, particularly when I see beleaguered mothers, I wonder if we have made progress.”She agreed with my feelings about psychology's overemphasis on family dysfunction (p. 251): “While Miranda [a bulimic teen] was in this program [a treatment center for eating disorders], her parents secured a second mortgage on their home to pay for her treatment. They called her daily and drove to the faraway center every weekend for family therapy…“My first question to Miranda was, ‘What did you learn in your stay at the hospital?’“She answered proudly, ‘That I come from a dysfunctional family.’“I thought of her parents…They weren’t alcoholics or abusive. They took family vacations every summer and put money into a college fund. They played board games, read Miranda bedtime stories…And now, with Miranda in trouble, they had incurred enormous debts to pay for her treatment. For all their efforts and money, they had been labeled pathological.“…Psychology has much to answer for in its treatment of families. We have offered parents conflicting and ever-changing advice. We have issued dire warnings of the harm they will do if they make mistakes in parenting, and we have assured them that they are inadequate to the task. Our tendency to blame parents, especially mothers, for their children’s problems has paralyzed many parents. They are so afraid of traumatizing their children that they cannot set clear and firm limits. They are so afraid of being dysfunctional that they stop functioning.”And I loved some of the things she had to say about therapy and the way she works with people.So where does that leave me? Did I hate this? Did I like it? I think if I ever had the opportunity to meet Mary Pipher, we would have a long talk and many heated arguments. But we would also agree about a lot of things. And the book was certainly readable, and though not based on empirical research, offered a large quantity of case studies to support its points and was clearly more than speculative.So I guess I'm giving this a conflicted three stars -- one of those times when my feelings weren't neutral but rather, all over the map.

Carrie

There were some good things I took away from this book. Oddly enough the most important things I learned is to keep my daughters room filled with journals and writing tools. :) Wow, I wish I would have used (or would use now) writing as a tool to stay mentally healthy. The other is to keep her busy in things that make her strong in, body, mind, and spirit.Another thing I walked away with is that there are strengths and weaknesses in every form of parenting. It made me want to hug the stuffing out of my parents for loving me so much to try to keep me grounded and busy. They gave me a moral basis to work from and allowed me to explore who I am with a lot of support. Man, if I can be half the parents they were....but I digress...I think it is a very good read for parents with daughters. After reading it I came away with a sincere worry about my daughter loosing her power. She is amazing, and somehow I hope that we can get through the teen years leaving that power in place for adulthood. I have to add at least one more step to the two in the first paragraph. Not everyone will agree but prayer and meditation are essential to knowing what our daughters need from us. Go team.

Matt

My interest in this one is kind of hard to pin down: in part, like everyone else I'm curious and concerned about what young women go through-- this is probably just curiosity, mixed with a recognition that I'd like to understand my students a little better. But at the same time, I think that "teen girl" as a category is kind of a political football, a screen through which people wage these kind of political turf battles-- in other words, disparage the culture for its effects on teen girls. Teen girls are kind of the ultimate silent witnesses to pretty much anything you want to say about them, and I was at least a little curious what this book would say, since it was so well-received when it came out, and I think it still has some resonance, at least among fogeys like myself.Pipher, or at least her book, kind of pushes back against my expectations in the sense that she really doesn't over-reach as much as some books from the right and left. It's true that she says at one point the love and boundaries, what is essentially the conservative parenting route, seems to work better for adolescent girls. But she is quick to add that this causes problems when the girls mature and need to make their own way. Maybe I'm missing something, but I felt like the book was really balanced in terms of how it approached girls here.Lots of the stories are interesting, just in terms of the lives some people lead, and Pipher's explanation of her treatment style, while not in-depth (the book as a whole is short on depth, really) seem plausible and even the kind of thing you might be able to suggest without a clinical background. Her description of the differences between bulimics (disorganzied) and anorexics (controlling) was interesting, though I feel like I've seen in before. I wanted more insight, maybe, into cutting, but it wasn't that kind of book.All in all, I felt like this was a good read, though not as challenging, scary, or eye-opening as I'd thought it'd be. I don't know what that means, but part of me thinks that it at least suggests things are that much more dire than they were fifteen years ago when this was published-- what was news then really does feel like a given now. And that can't be good.

Laura

This book is targeted at parents of girls in the 90's. While I think it had many good things to say, it was also very repetitive and could have been edited into a much tighter and more to the point read. Also, a little updating is in order. When Pipher wrote this book, things like "myspace" and "facebook" weren't even in existence. I imagine that many parents in the 00's and beyond would probably appreciate some tools for dealing with these new intrusions into family life.Some parents might take issue with some of Pipher's sentiments. This book is not written from any particular religious standpoint and thus some pluralistic views are in place. She does also take the stance that some experimentation with "chemicals" in adolescence is normal and to be expected. As a mother of a soon to be teenaged stepson...I don't agree with this view!All in all though, this book does drive home the amount of influence the culture at hand can have upon a child. Pipher deals with the cultural impact on girls' psyches in the main, but even parents of boys should take note of the negative impact that their son's can experience as well.

Lisa

Every parent ought to read this book to understand how to help their daughters cope with adolescence and the challenges they will face. There are a number of "worst case scenarios" sprinkled throughout the book that put fear in me as a mother. I made good choices growing up, despite being raised by some very hands-off parents; I am fearful that my daughter's world, which is so much different from my own at her age, might put in front of her too many obstacles, not all of which she might overcome. From a purely knowledge-gain perspective, this was a good read. Getting into the nitty-gritty of girls' developmental stages, and how it is impacted by society's perceptions of girls, was enlightening. I am all too aware that images of "perfect" bodies makes most women self-critical of their own. The concept of control/acceptance as a family dynamic was helpful and thought-proving. I will definitely keep this book on my shelf for when my daughter is in the midst of adolescence to help her (and myself) guide her through the trenches.Thank you, Mary Pipher, for the work you've done with girls and women.

Myria

The author has good intentions and I agree with her on some things but…. This was horrible. I don’t even know where to begin! I really don’t. I understand parents wanting to protect their kids from these kinds of things but I hope any parent does not live by this book. Please do more research. A LOT! I don’t know if it was just me but the way Mary worded some things, it came off as she blamed men for this problem. WHATEVER. This just reminds me of a joke that Katt Williams said about woman blaming their self esteem on men. As he said “It is called SELF esteem! It is the esteem of your M***** F***ing self!” If it wasn’t that then it’s all about the media or peer pressure. Maybe I just don’t get this whole peer pressure and media thing bc growing up, I was too hard headed to be fooled by any of that. Everyone goes through peer pressure through all stages of life but there is a thing called personal responsibility. Being a girl does not give you a free pass at it. She also acts like girls can’t protect themselves or don’t have any inner strength or common sense. And as a parent, you don’t need a book like this to tell you that you should teach your child that. You don’t just pop out a kid and then that’s it. That is the role of being a parent! Giving them a safe, happy home to live in, helping them, guiding them and teaching them. That right there helps tremendously with giving your child good roots, confidence and a good head on their shoulders. And if you need ANY book to tell you that, then maybe you shouldn't be a parent.NO parent is perfect and we all make mistakes, of course, and your child will deal with challenges through life (you can’t keep them safe forever) but that’s life! Blaming this kind of stuff on social trends, does not cut it. At all!!!! Parents need to pay attention and do some homework on this subject. And by SUBJECT, I mean= *raising a bright kid *how to be there for them *not raising an air head *and understanding that self-esteem issues stem from MUCH MORE than just what the author liked to point her fingers at. What I DON'T mean= is finding ways to blame everything else but your parenting skills and/or lack of self responsibility.

Suzanne Evans

My mom gave me this book when I was like 12 or 13... this was only the beginning of the self help slurry of books, clippings, etc that my mom would throw my way. As an adolescent girl (who this book is geared towards) I hid the book under my bed and read other bull shit things like the other books you will see on my list (read in the early to mid 90s). Thinking I knew what was best for me, as girls do at that age, I continued to resist my mother's consistent pushing me to read this book. She eventually gave up, an I found the book something like 10 years later and figured why not, I am already an adult, lets see how off I was in growing up. WOW... I feel like if I just listened to my mother at 13 I could have avoided A LOT of the most annoying parts of growing up.

Beth

I have been meaning to read this book for years and finally got around to it. The beginning of the book is almost depressing because it highlights all the hardships that girls encounter as they enter puberty and how it crushes their vivacious, independent spirits of childhood. But I liked how Pipher gives a framework to how to see things from a girl's perspective while giving her tools to help her through the hard times. Self-reflection, handling stress, choosing limits for yourself, etc. I appreciated that she believes that a strong family structure and positive women influences can help girls through--although it might not be easy to see that anything is helping until later adolescence. I enjoyed the wide variety of anecdotes because she shows how the culture affects almost all girls while still showing that each situation is different and is changed by many variables--home situation, parenting styles, environment, school friends, talents, looks, etc. Since this is about adolescents growing up in the 1990s, it is probably now considered "old," but I think most of what she has to say still holds up today, perhaps even more amplified than in the 90s. I would love to see this book updated with more about how social media and the omnipresent cell phone and internet have affected the culture that girls grow up in and the messages that are being thrown their way.

Kathleen

This book deals with the lives of young girls and their struggle with eating disorders. I read this when this was an issue in my own family, and I found it to be a great resource.

Shelly

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.

Artistlace

This book has been around since the mid 1990s, and I finally took the time to read and enjoy it.I wish I'd picked it up sooner, but most of the themes and issues discussed in the book are just as relevant today and when the text was written.Mary Pipher has a writing style that lets you in on her perspective and personal experiences, while educating you and making the reader more conscious of the world that surrounds them. Personal anecdotes are sprinkled among the interviews and descriptions of adolescent girls and their parents that Mary met and treated while writing this book.It is a sad fact that so many young girls entering adolescence loose their androgynous interests and distinct personal traits in favor of becoming a more marginalized version of themselves based on what they feel society expects of them.A friend recently suggested that we need a sister publication of "Reviving Ophelia" written with adolescent males in mind, as surely they struggle with gender roles and expectations upon entering adolescence as people of all genders do.

Marianne

I am too angry about the idiocy of the author of this book to write a review. It started off somewhat promising, although it's horribly crafted and hokey. It took a downward dip when Pipher mentioned that she honored a client's request not to "tell [the client's:] parents" that the client's boyfriend had abused her. That's against the law, Mary Pipher. You gotta report that shit--perhaps not to the parents but definitely to the police for sobbing out loud.

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