Reviving Ophelia Essay, Research Paper
Adolescent girls growing up in today’s society endure many more hardships than in previous years. Adolescence is no longer a time of endless sunny days spent on the back porch with a glass of country time lemonade and a smile extending ear to ear. Adolescence for girls is now generalized as a dark and depressing period of life that often seems hopeless and never ending. Mary Pipher PH.D tries to illustrate just how drastically life has changed over the years for teenage girls through her best selling book “Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls”. Although Mary Pipher was once a clinical psychologist, she articulates very well for everyone to clearly understand her ideas and perspectives. One way she is able to transfer her ideas to her readers without losing any of the emotion and feeling is by using actual quotes by her adolescent girl clients. I feel this is a very effective way to keep the readers attention and to convey the reality of the problems many teenagers are trapped in. I agree with Pipher that our society has changed for the worse even though we are persuaded to think that we are moving in the right direction. Yes, equal right movements have been placed in the law, but the respect that people once had for women has been eliminated. Comparing girls’ true selves to the Bermuda Triangle, Mary Pipher goes to great depth to explain what a mysterious trend this has become. No one can reason why these girls can no longer appreciate anything in life when just a few years before a spittle bug could have kept them mesmerized for an hour. Pipher recalls early in the book the image of Shakespeare’s Ophelia drowning herself due to failed attempts to please both her father and hamlet. She states that adolescent girls are similarly drowning in confusion as they try to sort out details in their life, and decide whom they really want to please. I really liked how Pipher points out that during the most stressful time during girls lives, our society stresses the importance of cutting the emotional ties with moms and dads although this is the time when parental guidance and support would most likely be needed, but maybe not appreciated at the time. However, some parents can actually impact the girl’s choices negatively by insisting that they grow up too fast or to confine to the norm.
This is a frightening crisis that Pipher demands we meet head on; indeed, among American girls there is more depression, eating disorders, addictions, self-mutilation, and suicides than ever before! I really related well with this book because I grew up being a tomboy. I still sometimes wish that I were a guy because life would seem so simple. I, too, miss the days when I could go to a social gathering without a mask, and I could actually be myself without worrying if I was acting proper or if I wore the right thing. I really feel that Pipher mainly emphasizes the major problems adolescent girls are now facing, the causes of these problems, and how as a society and individually we can deal and change this reoccurring depressing pattern our teenage girls are following.
First, Pipher blames the low self respect of adolescent girls everything from parents to peers, but mainly faults our society as a whole. We are all guilty of getting caught up in the media, television, and magazines. “Have you seen Rosie? She has lost so much weight!” “Oprah gained all of her weight back and more!” These are just a few of the comments that are made after watching two of the most watched talk shows. I know these comments sound harmless, but to a young girl who is struggling with the perfect body image these comments reinforce the importance of appearance. Pipher also points out that intelligent girls are more prone to depression because they are more aware of their surroundings and therefore more aware of the new constraints they face as they leave childhood. Our society idealizes tall, dark and very skinny women. Thin is one thing, but “we” like skinny enough that it kills. I really like when Pipher uses the quote from Monica, a depressed fifteen year old, who had a hard time making friends because of her weight. “All five hundred boys want to go out with the same ten anorexic girls,” she pleaded. This kind of put some humor in a very serious matter. Television, movies, and magazines are at the root of glamorizing thinness and sexuality, and even encouraging the use of drugs. Our society also puts women on the back burner. Men are wonderful, powerful, and successful and women need to put sugar and cr?me in their coffee. Pipher attributes this attitude to the schools of adolescents. Schools treat girls and boys differently. Boys are twice as likely to be seen as role models, more likely to receive teachers attention, and more likely to speak up in class. Junior high school is when girls began to drop in their academics. This may be due to the fact that girls place being popular as a higher priority, or they might give up on their hopeless efforts at trying to gain the teacher’s approval. Pipher also believes that an adolescent girl’s thoughts and emotions effect their relationships and actions, and can be a cause of their problems. Girls’ emotional immaturity makes it hard for them to hold on to an identity of themselves as they often idealize characteristics of other girls. One thing that I noticed while reading “Reviving Ophelia” is that two girls can come from totally different backgrounds, be a part of different social cliques, and have an enormous gap between their intelligence but still have the confusion and anxiety of becoming a woman as a common bond. Girls during adolescents cannot think clearly; everything is a dramatic event. For example, a pimple can keep an eighth grade girl from attending a football game. This seems ridiculous; however, this petty problem seems almost as major as a death in the family at the time to the girl. Sometimes, a girl going through the stress of adolescence just needs emotional comfort. This was true of Cindy age fourteen who was brought in for depression. Happiness and a cheerful attitude towards life can even assist with physical conditions as in this case. Personally, I know how much it means just to have a person to rely on. I can have the worst day of my life, but then I will talk with one of my very good friends and I am always laughing by the end of our conversation. Basically, we have to blame ourselves for letting the self-esteem for adolescent girls get this low.
Adolescent girls deal with more and more every day. Divorce, abuse, rape, and criticism are just few of life’s struggles many girls face in our society. To cope with these struggles a plethora of girls choose to use drugs or alcohol, self mutilate, and engage in unhealthy sexual relationships to hide their pain and fear. Control is the main ingredient girls are searching for while doing these things. Anorexics lose control of everything else, so eating is the only thing they feel that they have a say in. Many young girls are so concerned with making other people feel better that they forget about their own problems. My best friend in junior high killed herself our sophomore year in high school. She was a person who tried to please everyone except herself. She had to get first place in hurdles for her dad, she had to study three hours a night for her teacher, and she had to buy the right clothes so her friends would be her friends. This is how she thought. After reading this book I realize that she didn’t want to change to this proper “back burner” type of girl, and she was going to stay true to herself even if it killed her. All of the eating disorder clients from Heidi, who needed to be thin for gymnastics to get a scholarship, to Samantha, who became anorexic after being fed up with all of the insults and being ridiculed by peers, are way too familiar to me. This is definitely a reality with severe consequences that our society wants to avoid. You can’t avoid it; it is not just going to go away without changing people’s views on acceptance.
Throughout “Reviving Ophelia”, Pipher urges change to take place in our society and in each household. To grow into healthy adults, Pipher stresses that girls need love from family and friends, meaningful work, respect, challeges and safety. We also need to promote identities based on talents and interests rather than appearance and sexuality. Schools need to have classes that teach good habits for coping with stress, self-nurturing skills, and a purpose for life. Pipher encourages parents and society to recognize and take responsibility for neglecting to care for our adolescent girls. She insists that we can do more for adolescents by just listening than anything else. I remember in junior high when everyone would offer you advise or tell you something you should do; it doesn’t help during this time because it goes in through one ear and out the other. Learning comes so much from just listening. Pipher also speaks to the adolescent girls themselves to be positive, and to think confidently about themselves. A diary, poetry, or an autobiography can also be very beneficial to teenage girls; indeed, this is a good way to drain emotions that are carried throughout a day. This is a place where they can be themselves. This is also a time when Pipher believes girls should search deep for their values and beliefs. Relaxation is also a main aspect that girls need to practice. I think two of the most basic skills that Pipher says girls need, making choices and managing pain, are also the toughest. I do not have a good choice making plan at all; it takes me thirty minutes in the morning to put my makeup on because I can’t choose what colors I want to go with. It is also difficult for girls to manage pain because at this age they take everything so personal. This is when Pipher presents painting or poems to express hurt as a substitute for self-mutilation or drugs and alcohol. Adolescent girls basically need to put blinders on to prevent seeing any bad, they need to concentrate on the good times when they had no worries, unfortunately most adolescent girls “crawl in a deep dark hole” where light is no longer remembered.
In conclusion, Mary Pipher’s main point in writing “Reviving Ophelia” is to reveal how adolescent girls are being neglected and overlooked. We must be willing to look beyond the surface, become involved, and support girls as they develop physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. We must strive for something better for our teens. We cannot keep labeling our “daughters and sisters”, instead we have got to give them a path that leads to self-esteem. The media will give the public what they are search for. Right now that has been women roles that are lessened and more sexualized for the pleasures of men.
Pipher, Mary. “Reviving Ophelia”