The Politics of Girls' Anger
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A rebuttal to—or at least an amplification of—the research and popular writing that shows young teenage girls as tuned-out and turned-off shadows of their lively, challenging preadolescent selves. Brown (Education and Human Development/Colby Coll.) was co-author with Carol Gilligan of the much-discussed Meeting at the Crossroads (1992), the study of girls— development at an Ohio school that seemed to reinforce reports that girls on the cusp of puberty experience plummeting self-esteem. Brown objects that reports of this research (which made girls appear passive and victimized) were misleading. She set up another study of white junior high school girls, differentiated by class (working vs. middle), in two communities in Maine. Each group of girls met weekly to discuss gender-related issues and whatever else might come up. Both groups were angry and frustrated about what they felt was discrimination in the classroom and pressure for them to conform to a female ideal. The working-class girls were more likely to express their anger directly, to feel outrage appropriately, and to resist more strongly fitting into the good-girl mold. Yet they saw their futures as “dim” and uncertain and themselves as “stupid,” because they or their families had been unable to move up the economic ladder. The middle-class girls were more likely to lead double lives: quiet and conforming in public (e.g., school), argumentative and defiant at home or among close friends. Their economic futures were rosier, however, with college and career virtual givens. Brown explores both groups’ awareness of (and struggles against) cultural expectations of what women should be. That they seem to be losing the war is sad; that they are fighting at all is heartening. Appealing subjects mix confusion and protest about equally; but in this study, the consequences of the economic gap are more interesting than those of the gender gap.

Pub Date: Oct. 25th, 1998
ISBN: 0-674-83871-8
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Harvard Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1998