Book Reviews: Odd Girl Out and Curse of the Good Girl

Girls run the world? We wish.

It’s no secret that I’m a woman and I have a daughter so these books really spoke to me. It is important that we look at the culture we’ve created for young women and take a good hard look at how to fix it. I’ve spoken more than once about ugly encounters/incidents that Autumn and I have had over the past few years. I wish I’d had copies of these books to hand to the individuals involved.

In light of the recent high-profile Stanford rape case and the documentary, The Hunting Ground, it seems more important than ever that women stick together and push for serious changes in society. Girls could run the world if women realized that together we’re a force to be reckoned with. From what I’ve seen, I believe that the suffragists would roll over in their graves if they could see what we’ve become

Odd Girl Out

Women are underrepresented in politics and business. Grown women tear down young girls and strive to stamp out those who are different. It takes a strong woman to stand her ground against and onslaught of pressure to submit and blend in. Those who don’t fall in line are often left out. This is the point of Odd Girl Out, an attempt to explain the aggression between girls (and women).

Odd Girl Out

Examining the tendency to victimize other girls for no apparent reason, to exclude them from social groups, is an ongoing issue in all schools and across all races and economic backgrounds. Boys are expected to fight in a very physical way because, “that’s what boys do.” It is unacceptable for girls to express anger, hurt, or frustration in the same manner. Instead, girls are encouraged to keep things quiet, to suppress such feelings as if they aren’t there at all. Not only is this extremely unhealthy, it leads to a different type of aggression that flies under the radar of parents, teachers, and other adults in these kids’ lives. This practice has led to a new kind of bullying that leaves lasting marks on a girl’s psyche and shapes not only her self worth but who she becomes as an adult.

Why It’s Important

Consider the woman who felt the need to berate my daughter for wearing her hair in buns, for wearing tall socks that said “Back Off,” and for generally being larger, stronger, and more competitive than the other girls on the court. Clearly, this woman was raised in this culture of hidden aggression. Sadly, she chose to perpetuate the cycle by spinning her rhetoric in front of her daughters.

At this point, my daughter, doesn’t fully understand the depth of this depravity but someday she will. Someday, my daughter, like most other girls, will be excluded from a group or groups for something silly. She will feel the sting of the exclusion. Her reaction will be as much on me as it is on her. All I can do is prepare her in the best possible way. To teach her that there are ways to handle it, to teach her to do things different.

Do you have a daughter? Then it’s your responsibility to do the same for her.

The Curse of the Good Girl

In this follow up book, Simmons explores the tendency for girls to be taught to be good, sweet, modest, and selfless. Another documentary came to mind when I read this book, Miss Representation. In fact, I watched it a second time with both of my kids. Girls and women are expected to behave in a certain way. We are regarded as the “fairer sex” for more than one reason. We are expected to submit, to follow, to be good. If we aren’t, if we don’t do these things then we are labeled outliers, problems, and, essentially, bad.

The Curse of the Good Girl

 

Look at how female political candidates are treated in the media as opposed to men. The current Presidential race is no exception. Why are we not asking why Hilary Clinton could be the FIRST woman President of the United States? Why are we not critical of the underrepresentation of women in government? The media remains critical of Hilary’s appearance but nobody comments on Trump’s ridiculous hair or Bernie’s age. Further, Trump’s daughters are regularly objectified (even by their own father) but his sons do not receive the same treatment. It’s no secret that I really don’t like Trump, especially since he contributes to the suppression of women, but sexualizing and objectifying his daughters while tearing down Hilary Clinton’s appearance is not sending a good message to young women looking to enter politics.

Would you enter a field where you will constantly be chastised for your appearance? Doubtful.

Changing Views

Am I ranting now? I suppose I am. But I’m also the mother teaching her son to be a feminist and reminding her daughter that she can be anything she wants to be. It’s taken me a long time to get here and, admittedly, I still relapse into “the good girl” mentality including feeling guilty when I stand up for things I believe in.

Recently, I was reminded just how differently women coaches are treated as I set out to help coach my kids’ teams.  I witnessed first hand how I could say the exact same thing as a man only to see him commended for being “visionary” while I was disregarded. Male coaches have told my daughter  to be less emotional on the ball field. Telling our daughters to be less emotional, to hold it all in is detrimental to them and just plain wrong. Just because I went through it and spent many years “keeping it in” doesn’t mean my daughter needs to do the same.

Mea culpa, Autumn. It changes now.