Attention parents of daughters, I saw an interesting and disturbing report on the Today show today. Dr. Stephen Hinshaw was discussing his book, The Triple Bind ((c) 2009 Random House), excerpted (and edited) here. I think there's evidence of this effect throughout Ridgewood...
Today’s [teenage] girl faces not only a double but actually a Triple Bind: a set of impossible, contradictory expectations. ... Our teenage girls are baffled, distressed, and overwhelmed as they try ever harder to meet these ever more punishing demands. They’ve responded with a lower age of onset of depression, increases in aggression and violence, and skyrocketing rates of self-mutilation, binge eating, and suicide. They’ve also responded by sacrificing key portions of their identities, developing feelings of self-hatred, and becoming overwhelmed with a general sense of pressured confusion. The Triple Bind is possibly the greatest current threat to our daughters’ health and well-being, an enormous obstacle to their becoming healthy, happy, and successful adults.
Each portion of the Triple Bind is challenging enough. But it’s the combination of all three aspects that makes it deadly:
1. Be good at all of the traditional girl stuff.
2. Be good at most of the traditional guy stuff.
3. Conform to a narrow, unrealistic set of standards that allows for no alternative.
At first glance, you might think that a girl was free to become anything she chooses. Look a little closer, though, and you’ll see that whatever else she may decide, she must also always be sexy, thin, pretty; have either a great boyfriend or a husband and kids; and be wildly successful at her career.
...girls face increasingly unrealistic standards for achievement. Only the top grades and test scores, combined with the most impressive extracurriculars, will fit a girl for a top college, a destination that is becoming virtually a requirement for more and more middle-class girls. Poor and working-class girls now dream of becoming superstar athletes, top models, or self-made entrepreneurs — and attending the Ivies as well. I’m all for dreaming, but girls are being given the message that anything less than the absolute best counts as failure.
[click here for the complete article]
Dr. Hinshaw's tips for how girls can overcome 'The Triple Bind:'
** Find out what you're really interested in. Sometimes this is difficult, with the pressures from parents, teachers, and your own "internalized voices" (i.e., you're not succeeding if you don't do X, Y, and Z). Self-discovery takes time, and it also means that you have to leave some room for mistakes.
** Connect with a wider world. Animal shelters? Tutoring? Neighborhood clean-up? Political causes? These are just some examples of activities that can stop the relentless self-focus of the triple bind and that can connect you with like-minded peers and friends.
** Think critically. As you read, as you watch the media, as you connect on social networking sites, think hard — do all girls really look like the computer-enhanced images on magazine covers? Is a diet the solution to everything? Do I have to follow the latest trends to be popular? Don't accept everything you encounter at face value!
Welcome to Laurie Goodman's blog. I use this space to share news and opinions about education and schools in Ridgewood, the state of New Jersey and the nation, in addition to other issues I'm personally interested in. I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, questions or opinions, too, by posting comments on any blog entry. Please observe basic courtesy -- keep your comments focused on issues, no personal attacks or bullying, please. Contact me directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org