Girls' Development During Adolescence: Diminishment of Self

1477 Words 6 Pages
Large numbers of American girls face a crisis during adolescence. Numerous studies document the disturbing trends that affect girls during this vulnerable time. Girls' IQ scores drop. Their grades in math and science decline dramatically. The confidence, curiosity, and willingness to take risks that mark their childhood years are replaced by unassertiveness, boredom, and a cleaving to the status quo. Girls at this age become prone to eating disorders, self-mutilation, and depression. Even girls without obvious signs of distress undergo a curious diminishing, as if all the interests and energies of their childhood must now be channelled into maintaining a narrow and alien definition of self.

What happens to girls as they grow up?
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The overwhelming sense of these messages is that a girl's value is measured in direct proportion to her ability to be attractive to men.

"A girl might be bright, friendly, competent, and attractive, but without a boyfriend she lacks social validation of these positive attributes. It is as though being selected by a boy tells others that a girl is worthwhile." This is the conclusion sociologists Lott and Bush drew from their research with high school girls.

Out of a dozen-plus teen magazines at my local newsstand, all but one revolve around girls' relationships with boys. The lone exception is geared for a younger, prepubescent audience. A sampling of these magazines reveals articles like these: "41 Ways To Make Him Swoon," "Kissing Tips," "Must-Have Fashion," "The Coolest Prom Ever," "High School Sex Scandal." The "Total Turn- Him-On Guide" in April's Young and Modern tells girls to stand tall, show their intelligence, and maintain their own interests-- but to do all these things within the context of attracting and "keeping" a boy. The article also offers advice such as "soft lips=hot lips" and plans for how to touch a boy without it seeming planned.

One teenage girl describes the pressure to define herself in terms of men like this: "Every teen magazine you look at is like, guy this, how to get a date, guys, guys, guys, guys, guys. So you're constantly…