Books

From Publishers Weekly (starred review). ”That girls are overwhelmed by images of princesses, demure femininity and pink, pink, pink is no surprise. What is shocking, as Lamb and Brown so astutely demonstrate, is the downright bombardment girls receive, coming from all forms of media. Lamb and Brown, both psychologists, came to harsh conclusions after they surveyed girls; sat through hours of Rugrats and Kim Possible television programming; scoured stores such as Hot Topic and Claire’s; watched Hilary Duff movies; listened to Eminem and Beyoncé; visited MySpace.com; and read Caldecott books.

The idea of girl power was snapped up by the media, and what it sells is an image of being empowered, argue the authors. Girls are offered two choices by the marketers: they are “either for the boys or one of the boys.” Even rebellion is being packaged, “the resistance, that edginess and irreverence that once gave girls a pathway out of the magic kingdom.” The book is incredibly readable and rises above others in the genre by giving parents concrete tools to help battle stereotypes. Lamb and Brown include lists of books and movies with positive role models and talking points to help your daughter recognize how she is being manipulated. The authors aren’t trying to deny anyone princesses or pink; they just want girls to be knowledgeable enough to choose what will truly interest them.”

Lamb, Sharon & Brown, Lyn M. (2006). Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters From Marketers’ Schemes. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

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Player. Jock. Slacker. Competitor. Superhero. Goofball. Boys are besieged by images in the media that encourage slacking over studying; competition over teamwork; power over empowerment; and being cool over being yourself. From cartoons to video games, boys are bombarded with stereotypes about what it means to be a boy, including messages about violence, risk-taking, and perfecting an image of just not caring.

Straight from the mouths of over 600 boys surveyed from across the U.S., the authors offer parents a long, hard look at what boys are watching, reading, hearing, and doing.

They give parents advice on how to talk with their sons about these troubling images and provide them with tools to help their sons resist these messages and be their unique selves.

Brown, Lyn M., Lamb, Sharon, and Tappan, Mark. (2009). Packaging Boyhood: Saving Our Sons From Superheroes, Slackers, and Other Media Stereotypes. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

In Girlfighting, psychologist and educator Lyn Mikel Brown scrutinizes the way our culture nurtures and reinforces this sort of meanness in girls. She argues that the old adage “girls will be girls”–gossipy, competitive, cliquish, backstabbing– and the idea that fighting is part of a developmental stage or a rite-of-passage, are not acceptable explanations. Instead, she asserts, girls are discouraged from expressing strong feelings and are pressured to fulfill unrealistic expectations, to be popular, and struggle to find their way in a society that still reinforces gender stereotypes and places greater value on boys.

Under such pressure, in their frustration and anger, girls (often unconsciously) find it less risky to take out their fears and anxieties on other girls instead of challenging the ways boys treat them, the way the media represents them, or the way the culture at large supports sexist practices.

Girlfighting traces the changes in girls’ thoughts, actions and feelings from childhood into young adulthood, providing the developmental understanding and theoretical explanation often lacking in other conversations. Through interviews with over 400 girls of diverse racial, economic, and geographic backgrounds, Brown chronicles the labyrinthine journey girls take from direct and outspoken children who like and trust other girls, to distrusting and competitive young women. She argues that this familiar pathway can and should be interrupted and provides ways to move beyond girlfighting to build girl allies and to support coalitions among girls.

Brown, Lyn M. (2004). Girlfighting: Betrayal and Rejection Among Girls. New York: New York University Press

This book, filled with the voices of teenage girls, corrects the misperceptions that have crept into our picture of female adolescence. Based on the author’s yearlong conversation with white junior-high and middle-school girls–from the working poor and the middle class–Raising Their Voices allows us to hear how girls adopt some expectations about gender but strenuously resist others, how they use traditionally feminine means to maintain their independence, and how they recognize and resist pressures to ignore their own needs and wishes.

With a psychologist’s sensitivity and an anthropologist’s attention to cultural variations, Lyn Mikel Brown makes provocative observations about individual differences in the girls’ experiences and attitudes, and shows how their voices are shaped and constrained by class: working-class girls are more willing to be openly angry than their middle-class peers, and yet they are also more likely to denigrate themselves and attribute their failures to personal weakness.

A compelling and timely corrective to conventional wisdom, this book attunes our hearing to the true voices of teenage girls: determined, confused, amusing, touching, feisty, and clear.

Brown, Lyn M. (1998). Raising their Voices: The Politics of Girls Anger. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

“Should sound a national alert to society that even our most privileged girls still pursue normal femininity at great risk to personal and civic health.”
The Boston Globe

Lyn Mike Brown and Carol Gilligan ask “What, on the way to womanhood, does a girl give up?” One hundred girls gave voice to what is rarely spoken and often ignored: that the passage out of girlhood is a journey into silence and disconnection, a troubled crossing when a girl loses a firm sense of self and becomes tentative and unsure. These changes mark the endge of adolescence as a watershed in women’s psychological

development and the stories the girls tell are by turns heartrending and courageous.

Listening to these girls provides us with the means of reaching out to them at this critical time, and of better understanding what we as women and men may have left behind at our own crossroads.  A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR.

Brown, Lyn M and Gilligan, Carol. (1993). Meeting at the Crossroads: Women’s Psychology and Girls’ Development. New York: Ballantine Books.

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