Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls

ISBN: 1594481881
ISBN 13: 9781594481888
By: Mary Pipher

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Reader's Thoughts

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.

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.

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.

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.

Melinda

This book is highly recommended in "How to Talk to your Child about Sex" by the Eyre's, which I have read and reviewed ( http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/... ), so I have queued it up for reading. *************************************This book is a good companion book to read with "Packaging Girlhood", see http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/... for my goodreads review."Packaging Girlhood" shows you what goes on behind the media and marketing that pushes girls (from toddler to college age) unwittingly towards stereotypical diva / boy crazy / shopper personnas. "Reviving Ophelia" puts real faces on the girls who have been objectified and demeaned into these stereotypes, and who live with the pain and horror that it can involve. The author provides case study after case study from her own patients who have dealt with issues ranging from eating disorders to rape. It is again not a happy book to read, but I feel a very worthwhile book to read. Girls are growing up in an increasingly toxic environment. The pressures of perfect body image and "fitting in" socially turn fairly well adjusted elementary school girls into depressed and withdrawn middle schoolers and then bitter suicidal high schoolers. Just as girls are going through puberty and significant body changes, the schools become torture chambers of taunting and humiliation. Mary Pipher provides an interesting "this is the way it was" snapshot of life when she was growing up and contrasts it very effectively with the life of girls she counsels now. It isn't the way it used to be, and it is getting worse. To provide solid evidence of what she discusses, the author provides case studies from her practice as well as interviews with various girls who did not need counseling. She deals extensively with body image and how young girls, without the maturity or support to know what to do, turn to bulimia (binge / purge eating), anorexia (extreme weight loss through dieting and/ or excessive physical activity), drugs, or alcohol for solutions.Interestingly enough, some of the solutions the author has to help young girls through their growing up years include:1) Parents, DON'T DIVORCE, stay married if you can because an intact family is better for children of all ages. In the chapter on divorce, the author says that in the beginning of her practice in the 1970's she believed that children were better off with a happy single parent rather than unhappy married parents. However after 20 years of practice as a therapist, she has changed her mind. She realized that in many families the children may not notice if their parents are unhappy or happy. Yet a divorce shatters children, and very often does not make parents any happier and frequently makes women poorer and children more vulnerable.2) Be present and part of your daughter's life. Parents need to be parents and not abdicate decision making to their daughter. One interview the author had with a well adjusted teen girl showed that the mother was not working outside the home, but was present and engaged in all aspects of her daughter's life. 3) Establish structure in your home, establish rules and limits, follow through with consequences when rules are broken. Girls make wiser decisions and are more stable when their home life has these elements in them. Learn when to be flexible and when to stand firm. Too much firmness is actually better for the girls than too much leniency. One case study the author references was a situation where parents chose to let their daughter decide very early on what she wanted to do without much interference or guidance from them. They wanted her to be free to make decisions. What they did not realize was that being overly permissive did not help their daughter make GOOD decisions. She needed more guidance and firmer boundaries. In trying to teach her to be free and independent, they had actually contributed to her being overwhelmed and depressed. She needed for them to be the responsible adults and guide her, so she could grow up into a responsible adult.The 2001 edition of the book I read had a reader's guide at the end with some good questions to think about and answer. There was also an interview with Mary Pipher 10 years after the book had been published. One question in the interview that I thought was particularly good was "If you could offer one or two pieces of advice to girls, their parents and teachers, what are the best things they can do to weather the storm of adolescence?" Mary Pipher's answer is revealing and I quote it completely. She answers, "First of all, be very intentional about media. Don't watch a lot of TV, be cautious about the kind of music and movies you consume, read good books as opposed to teen magazines. Be careful about your intellectual diet. If you have an intellectual diet of junk food, you have a brain full of junk. I would advise people that this is a serious life decision -- deciding what to consume, in terms of information and culture.Another thing that's very important is that teenagers not be isolated from other age groups. The biggest and best change we could make in America overnight would be to have a whole bunch of seventy-year-olds rehearsing with middle school bands, helping kids learn to read, teaching children how to garden and fish, and so on. Likewise, it's important for teenagers to be involved with little kids, and with people in their twenties, who can look back on when they were that age and offer them some decent advice on how to make choices. I really argue for a lot more mixing of the generations than we have now.Finally, I think it's really important for parents to insist that their kids be plugged into family. Adolescents should go to family reunions, eat at family meals, and have regular contact with grandparents and cousins and extended family members. Parents shouldn't let kids make all of their own choices about how they spend their time. Essentially, kids are told three thousand times a day by advertisements to spend their time shopping and consuming. Unless parents teach kids that there are other ways to spend their time, how will children even know that they have other interests?"In reading these suggestions, I was happy to see that families who homeschool are taking her advice to heart. Homeschoolers I know evaluate TV, music, and movies that come into their homes and strive to teach discernment over blind consumption. They as a rule read more books, and place a high value on a vigorous intellectual diet. Homeschoolers I know also mix multiple generations together. Seventy-year-olds ARE teaching middle schoolers. Teens ARE around little kids. Homeschoolers I know ARE teaching their kids other ways to spend their time and learning other interests.So while the overall book is very sober, I think there is great reason to be encouraged. Mary Pipher insists that the only way to change the toxic culture young girls are facing is to change the culture. I think homeschooling parents are hearing what she has said, and are responding.

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.

Jonna

I maybe could give this book five stars. I read it my freshman year of college and then again last month and it was interesting how my perspective has changed. I still agree with the author's basic premise, though, that society is very damaging to young girls and women in general. She talks a lot about the effects of the media, peer pressure, goes into eating disorders, violence against women, etc. I would recommend it to anyone with daughters.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Laura

While this book had a whole bunch of interesting anecdotes, there were nothing more than anecdotes. The fact that a bunch of her patients manifested particular characteristics doesn't lead to the ability to generalize about adolescent trends in general, as Pipher does here. On the contrary, it's just as reasonable to believe that her patients, many of whom presumably came to her through referrals from other patients, were a self-selecting group, each of whom referred people to Pipher because she had proven talented in dealing with particular adolescent issues. If Pipher had written a book about the traits of her individual patients, most of whom were adolescent girls, that would have been one thing, and probably would have been a pretty good book. But when you're trying to make broad pronouncements about social trends, as Pipher is, anecdotes about your group of patients won't cut it. At all.

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