Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls

ISBN: 1594481881
ISBN 13: 9781594481888
By: Mary Pipher

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Reader's Thoughts

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.

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 Although the book is outdated I did not find a whole lot that related to the average American girl.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!

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.

Marc

Overall, a pretty scary summation of the pressures affecting our growing daughters (especially for a father!). Though a bit dated, I'm sure many of the trends have only gotten worse since the 1990s. As a parent of a bright child, (and someone trying to familiarize myself with pressures and upcoming challenges), I hope we'll be able to mediate some of these!My only real critique is her constant comparison to boys and how they're raised. Pipher seems to be saying that only girls can have complicated feelings and face tension/mixed messages from cultural values. I think all people (boys and girls) face these challenges, just in different ways. That's the problem with artificial social constructs of values. She does mention that her work is done with girls so she doesn't talk about boys' experiences--but then I wish she would have just left it at that instead of using boys' roles/expectations as some sort of standard to measure the girls' experiences against.

Natali

I won't lie: this book scared the shit out of me. Please Lord, never let my daughter become a teenager! This is a serious topic that not enough research addresses: the confusing messages confronting adolescent girls and how little understood they are in our culture. I wanted to read it in order to understand the challenges my daughter will face, although it was written when I was a teenager so it helped me understand a lot of the things I went through as well. I wanted to gain an adult's perspective so that when it is time to face these issues, I can be ready to do so with empathy. I highly recommend this book to anyone raising girls. She addresses the dangers of body image, sexuality, drinking, drugs, and the importance of the relationship with both mother and father in separate chapters. Most of our daughters won't face the extreme circumstances as the case studies in this book - I hope!! - but we can learn from them and hopefully use this knowledge to make the world a better place for all of our children.

Kim

I've read this book a couple of times (especially when I'm recommended it to one of my teenage students who's having a hard time) and it's a really powerful book.

Jessica

I read this book when it first came out in 1994, when I was 13. I had just been busted by my parents for stealing prescription drugs from their medicine cabinet (I think the plan was to kill myself...hazy), and this book appeared on my mother's nightstand soon after. I remember approaching the book like an army general who has gotten his hands on the enemy's battle plans, only interested in it as far as it could reveal to me what plan the adults were hatching this time so I could fortify my defenses and plan a counterstrike. The book also appealed to me because there was a thin, attractive white girl of about my age on the cover who, I assumed, wanted to commit suicide like Ophelia in a pool full of flowers. This encapsulated my two main desires at 13: To be thin and attractive, and to commit suicide. I failed at both.Alas, "Reviving Ophelia" didn't quite keep my attention at 13. If it had, I think it would have helped me understand that the intense pain I was suffering was not just my own hell but a part of a nationwide epidemic. I don't know if this would have helped me, but it might have. Instead, all I remember thinking was that Pipher, like many adults, seemed disproportionately concerned by body-piercings. Revisiting the book now, 16 years and a few million miles later, I still don't think nose rings are as big of a deal as Pipher makes out. I am struck, however, by her prescience at identifying a trend which no one else up to that point had made much of: Girls in the early 1990s were literally losing themselves. Young girls have always had a rough time of it in American society, but suddenly the troubles hit the white middle class like a tidal wave. At 13, I didn't have the maturity to connect Pipher's thesis with what I indeed experienced regularly: Friends in the last phases of anorexia having heart attacks in the shower, almost everyone else an anorexic wanna-be, relationship abuse, drug abuse, suicides, crippling depression and self-hatred. Now, as an adult, I can appreciate Pipher's commitment to showing the world that these were not isolated problems, problems that happened only to girls from fucked-up families, or just weird girls. This was a catastrophe that struck almost every girl I knew growing up. It has still not been fully examined, although many of the problems that blighted my generation are starting to wane (and new ones are rising - try buying your female toddler something that does not resemble a porn star costume at Target). While I think that Pipher oversimplifies too much, and that she is ill-equipped to make sense of many of the cultural changes of the early 1990s, her thesis generally stands today: Our culture poisons adolescent girls, transforming them from children to sex objects, from active participants in their own lives to passive spectators. And most bizarrely, these problems are distinctly post-women's liberation/post-feminism. I don't think it's entirely ridiculous to wonder if the daughters of the women who won liberation in the 1960s paid for their mother's gains via some sort of cultural backlash.

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.

Julia

I've been meaning to read this for ages, since it's the book that directed the media's attention to the troubles faced by adolescent girls. Since it was written two decades ago, it's definitely dated. Some of Pipher's concerns might even seem laughable to girls and young women today - I snickered a bit at the "crack is being sold in our suburbs!" bit, especially considering drugs like meth are today far more of a concern in Pipher's midwestern community. Despite this, the book has aged pretty well. The feminist concern that young women lose themselves in order to please others is still a major social issue, although I think there are some encouraging signs of progress. Pipher's argument that women are overemphasizing decisions to dress sexily as "feminist," rather than examining the social pressures that lie beneath this desire to be desirable, is even more necessary today. Pipher writes clearly and compassionately about a range of young women, including her troubled clients and several successful and happy young women she interviewed. Anyone interested in the intersection of feminism and psychology should read Reviving Ophelia because of its influence and insight.

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.

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.

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.

Victoria McVay

I had to read this for a class I took recently, it was… alright. There are some great points and lessons in this book, however, the author makes incredibly broad and exaggerated statements about girls going through puberty, almost as though this book should be taken as doctrine. I definitely do not agree that everything she speaks of, introduces you to, etc, is the "norm," nor do I think girls who escape the repercussions of our "girl hating America" are typically wealthy, in loving stable homes, or smart enough to block out all of the evil cultural pressures we've had shoved down our throats over the years. It has a strong sense of feminism, the author even says things early on such as, "Where are the women in the history books?" and she talks about how girls grow up seeing men in powerful positions, and thus automatically yet possibly unconsciously believe they are powerless in a man's world. Pah-leez! Really? For one, women are in history books, for two, there are more men because in those time periods, women were at home raising families, not waging war and writing the Constitution. Smh… the world is not out to get us. Aside from that, I do think its a good book for parents and their daughters while going through puberty, perhaps they'll be able to learn from others' mistakes so they don't have to experience those particular hardships themselves.

Emily Quaco

When it came to Reviving Ophelia, personally I liked it. What stuck me the most about this book was how Dr. Mary Pipher got so into her investigation. She was wanting to figure out the social and culture challenges of teenage girls, and what caused them to be how they are. She realized that there is a lot that goes into the challenges of fitting in a society and then figured out why a lot of girls were suffering from different things. This book is recommend for older teens/ early twenties and people that want to realize and understand the challenged adolescents face to this day.

Natalie

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.

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