Tag Archives: Peggy Orenstein

Schoolgirls

I shot off a post a few weeks ago while in the middle of Schoolgirls by Peggy Orenstein, a book I chose because I so enjoyed Cinderella Ate My Daughter and was curious about the author’s take on life as a junior high girl.

Some of the stories presented were so foreign to me, I didn’t know what to think; the first half of the book, detailing life at a suburban middle school somewhat like my own, was filled with girls so afraid of getting something wrong in class that they never spoke or volunteered answers.  The same girls were pinched, grabbed, and harassed in hallways while school officials simply said that “boys will be boys.”

Then I realized the book was written in 1994.  I was in junior high in 2000 and in a small, Midwestern town.  Maybe we’ve come a long way since then?  Maybe my itty bitty, small town experience was just a different planet compared to the coasties?  I’m not sure which is the case (I’m hoping the former and that schools can really pat themselves on the back for making gender equality better in the classroom), but either way, the book simply didn’t resonate with me.  I felt sorry for the girls, women now of about 30, and the various body image, familial, academic, and social problems they were facing…but I just couldn’t seem to invest myself in the book.

So, I guess I’m walking away from it saying “meh”.  I also think I’m walking away from reading about issues related to public school for a while: the Professor and I decided years ago, before we were even married, that we would be homeschooling our kids.  Now, while Pookie is still in diapers, is the time to be thinking about, researching about, and planning for that chapter in our lives…not arming myself for a fight that isn’t mine.

A Gripe

I raved earlier about Cinderella Ate My Daughter, a book about the girlie-girl-ness of being, well, a little girl today and all the implications that may or may not have.  I enjoyed the book, it made me think, and it changed the way I look at certain aspects of princess play, Barbies, etc.

So I was really excited to pick up Orenstein’s previous tome, Schoolgirls, taking the same sort of approach to girls in middle school.  Though it was published in 1994, the girls Orenstein writes about could very well be your current neighbors: they struggle with eating disorders, sexual harassment, the constant urge to look desirable while being told that they’ll be considered sl**s if they actually feel desire.  Their tales are gripping and eye-opening, but I’m struggling with Orenstein’s main thesis.

Her premise is that girls are taught to be docile, “sweet”, to play the rules; meanwhile, boys are taught those things with words but their outbursts are tolerated and even coddled or pushed aside as “simply boys being boys.”  The author comes to the conclusion that we should be pushing girls to be more aggressive and outspoken.

As a Christian, I feel that Orenstein–and perhaps a lot of other feminists and women’s issue writers–has pinned down the wrong problem.  I think we need to teach our young men to be real men.

I worked in a public school before Pookie was born.  I spent full hours searching the halls and grounds for sixth grade boys skipping out on math–hours when I should have been tutoring kids in multiplying fractions. Why is this tolerated?

Boys were loud and obnoxious in class, but the repercussions were never much.  Why is this tolerated?

A boy in the lunchroom had smeared ketchup (accidentally) all over a bench.  Other kids told me and pointed it out; the boy was embarrassed and refused to clean it up.  Instead of lecturing, I appealed to his masculinity–but the real kind, the gentlemanly, chivalrous kind: “I guess somebody’s just going to have to be the hero and clean this up.”  He blinked while my words soaked in, wiped up the ketchup, and tossed away the dirtied napkins with a big grin.  It became my go-to tactic, to ask boys to be heroes.

Sorry, this post is disjointed and not entirely well-written…I’m just trying to work through my thoughts on the issue of boys and girls and discipline and what’s truly the matter with how they act, because I’m certain it has less to do with a need for female dominance than feminists want us to think.

Care to chime in on the subject?  I’d love to hear other experiences or opinions!

Abomination & Barbie Dolls

Sherri Early of Semicolon wrote recently on her blog about the need for light and darkness in novels, particularly as this pertains to Christian literature: how dark is “too dark”?  Can Christian books make mention of occult things, sinful things, dark things while still edifying?

While I love Amish/plain living romances, sometimes I feel like something more…meaty, if you will, but I haven’t had much luck finding Christian fiction that isn’t clunky, one-dimensional, or underdeveloped (my budget has me strapped to the library, so that may be part of my problem).

So I approached Abomination by Colleen Coble with some trepidation; I haven’t read a thriller in quite some time and never one labeled as Christian.  I worried I might have found a clunker.

I was wrong.

Abomination opens with a woman who has been attacked and stabbed but cannot remember how it happened, where she is, who she is, or why the little girl in the back seat calls her mama.  From other characters’ POVs, we learn that the amnesia-ridden woman is being hunted by a serial killer, plus her worried ex-husband (who happens to be the police officer investigating the serial killer).

Twists and turns abound, and I gasped when I learned who the killer was…not who I was expecting, which is always a nice surprise.

{There were a few unfortunate bits, mostly editing: the main character’s true identity is given away too soon because of a typo, sentences that don’t work, wonky speech patterns, repetitive word choice…but that might be the OCD editor in me.}

The balance of light and dark was quite good; perfect, actually for a dreamer like me.  When I was younger, I got so wrapped up in The Face on the Milk Carton that I worried I might have been stolen from my real parents, even though I look just like my mother, I talk just like my mother, I act just like my mother, and I probably even chew gum just like my mother.  So, I have a history of allowing the story to take me in too much.

But that didn’t happen this time around; I had a moment in the dark of my home where I thought of Gideon, the serial killer in Abomination, but then my thoughts turned to Christ.  It was like he said, “Hey, that’s just a story…aren’t I bigger than a story?”  And He is.

So maybe I’ve grown up or maybe Colleen Coble hit the right balance of dark and light; I’ll let you read it and decide.

Also, I devoured a book a few weeks ago called Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein.  I wish I had it in front of me so that I could talk about it better, but if you have a young daughter, it’s worth the read.  It’s also worth asking the questions the book raises, like how does princess play affect our daughters?  Is Snow White really a good role model if her single greatest quality is her looks–I mean, what else does the girl do?

Orenstein looks at girlhood critically with all sorts of facts and statistics, but she also approaches the subject from a mom’s perspective, thinking of and writing about her own little girl.  At times the book is terrifying, as I don’t want to think of Pookie being marketed to constantly with pink or pressured to look “hot” when she reaches third grade or spend her teen years confused by the world’s message that she should looking desirable is good but feeling desire is bad.

The book is secular, so Orenstein and I disagreed on certain things (sex before marriage as an example), but it was a fascinating look into the marketing machine and the new world of girl in today’s society.  Again, a must-read for parents of young girls.

Well, could those titles have been any more different?!

I also found myself relating to a lot of Orenstein’s theses, thinking, “That’s exactly what happened to me…that’s how I felt/thought/acted.”