Saturday, January 26, 2008

Girls Gone Mild

Girls Gone Mild, by Wendy Shalit, picks up where her last book--A Return to Modesty: Recovering the Lost Virtue--left off. The subtitle is "Young Women Reclaim Self-Respect and Find It's Not Bad to be Good," and the book documents hopeful pockets of cultural revolution against the prevailing ideas that women have to be aggressively sexual to get ahead. There are girls fighting Abercrombie & Fitch over their t-shirt messages, girls speaking out as role models for abstinence, and girls starting a nationwide movement of fashion shows of flattering, modest clothing. There are "3rd and 4th wave feminists," as Shalit calls them--"feminist" girls who don't buy the militantly anti-feminine feminist thinking of 1st and 2nd wave feminists. (I found this chapter fascinating!)

Overall, Girls Gone Mild didn't grip me as much as her first book, which was a comprehensively-researched, compellingly-presented case for modesty as the truest way to empower women, with examples from the pages of history to the pages of Cosmopolitan, driven by the author's passion, good sense and sound logic.

Girls Gone Mild is similarly well-researched and very current, but it doesn't have the unity and the passion of A Return to Modesty. It's more of a documentary of contrasting points of view. Shalit quotes extensively from interviews and email conversations with women coming from all perspectives, including those representative of the oversexualized view of women today. She quotes women who are upset if construction workers don't wolf-whistle when they walk by and parents who can't understand why their daughters are still virgins (why don't they "just get it over with"?). She spoke with tots who've learned from Bratz toys and TV shows how to strut their stuff, and middle school teachers who think it's appropriate and empowering for girls to be taught pole-dancing and lap-dancing and perform in front of the whole school. She tried to find out why a girls' underwear manufacturer would market thongs to 5-7 year olds.

You can see why this book is a fascinating--and sometimes disturbing--read. You wouldn't want to just hand this book to your teenage daughter, but I fully intend to bookmark the more encouraging passages for mine--the stories of the girls who are fighting the prevailing winds and making waves in a good way!

Most telling of all: I have trouble finishing non-fiction books, once I've caught the gist, but I couldn't put down either of Wendy Shalit's books. Highly recommended.

For more book reviews, see Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books.


Megan (FriedOkra) said...

I'll see if my library has the first one, I think, then maybe move on to the second one. I'm interested that the concept of feminism is incorporated. It's tough to find a way to blend my somewhat liberal social views with my generally conservative faith. Maybe this book would make some headway in that area for me.

Brea said...

Thanks for that review, J! I've been wondering about those, and I think I'll check the library for both in the series the next time I'm there.

~Brea, the tiny(book-loving)mama