Girls Gone Mild
Girls Gone Mild
Young Women Reclaim Self-Respect and Find It's Not Bad to Be Good
By Wendy Shalit
Random House, Hardcover, 9781400064731, 352pp.
Publication Date: June 26, 2007
At twenty-three, Wendy Shalit punctured conventional wisdom with A Return to Modesty, arguing that our hope for true lasting love is not a problem to be fixed but rather a wonderful instinct that forms the basis for civilization. Now, in Girls Gone Mild, the brilliantly outspoken author investigates an emerging new movement. Despite nearly-naked teen models posing seductively to sell us practically everything, and the proliferation of homemade sex tapes as star-making vehicles, a youth-led rebellion is already changing course.
In Seattle and Pittsburgh, teenage girls protest against companies that sell sleazy clothing. Online, a nineteen-year-old describes her struggles with her mother, who she feels is pressuring her to lose her virginity. In a small town outside Philadelphia, an eleventh-grade girl, upset over a “dirty book” read aloud in English class, takes her case to the school board.
These are not your mother’s rebels.
In an age where pornography is mainstream, teen clothing seems stripper-patented, and “experts” recommend that we learn to be emotionally detached about sex, a key (and callously) targeted audience–girls–is fed up.
Drawing on numerous studies and interviews, Shalit makes the case that today’s virulent “bad girl” mindset most truly oppresses young women. Nowadays, as even the youngest teenage girls feel the pressure to become cold sex sirens, put their bodies on public display, and suppress their feelings in order to feel accepted and (temporarily) loved, many young women are realizing that “friends with benefits” are often anything but. And as these girls speak for themselves, we see that what is expected of them turns out to be very different from what is in their own hearts.
Shalit reveals how the media, one’s peers, and even parents can undermine girls’ quests for their authentic selves, details the problems of sex without intimacy, and explains what it means to break from the herd mentality and choose integrity over popularity. Written with sincerity and upbeat humor, Girls Gone Mild rescues the good girl from the realm of mythology and old manners guides to show that today’s version is the real rebel: She is not “people pleasing” or repressed; she is simply reclaiming her individuality. These empowering stories are sure to be an inspiration to teenagers and parents alike.
“Here we are, decades after the feminist revolution, and yet crude self-display -- of a kind that makes the daring of the 1960s seem quaint -- is considered something that a "normal" college girl might eagerly choose to do for a stranger with a camera and a release form. What is going on? "We continually malign the good girl as 'repressed,'" notes Wendy Shalit, "while the bad girl is (wrongly) perceived as intrinsically expressing her individuality and somehow proving her sexuality."Wall Street Journal, reviewed by Pia Catton
“What makes the [Girls Gone Mild] movement unique, according to Shalit, is that it's the adults who are often pushing sexual boundaries, and the kids who are slamming on the brakes. "Well-meaning experts and parents say that they understand kids' wanting to be 'bad' instead of 'good'," she writes in her book. "Yet this reversal of adults' expectations is often experienced not as a gift of freedom but a new kind of oppression." Which just may prove that rebelling against Mom and Dad is one trend that will never go out of style.”Newsweek, reviewed by Jennie Yabroff
“The culture has not yet carved out a space for women to indulge their own fantasies rather than to fulfill those of men. Feminism has not finished its job; a version of nonmushy, nonmarital sex that makes women feel good about themselves is still hard to achieve. Yet as a feminist, it's hard for me to concede these things to Shalit. . . .”The Nation, reviewed by Nona Willis-Aronowitz
"What is the point of casual sex if the sex part isn't any good?" Ms. Shalit asks, quoting former sex columnist Amy Sohn. It's a question many girls are asking. On one sex-ed site, the number one topic for girls is how to refuse a boyfriend's request for sex without losing the boyfriend. ...”
Washington Times, reviewed by Cheryl Miller
“I have little doubt that Girls Gone Mild will make at least as many people as mad as did its predecessor. The puzzling thing about this anger is that Shalit sounds nothing like the baby Savonarola of her critics’ nightmares. Not only is her style even-tempered, sweetly reasonable, and full of pleasing glints of dry wit, but she is no zealot, at least not in the usual sense of the word. ...Girls Gone Mild is not a Roger Kimball-style tour d’horizon of the approaching apocalypse. ...[it is] an intelligent, illuminating, and unexpectedly optimistic book about those young women who have chosen to opt out of the revolution.”Contentions, reviewed by Terry Teachout
“Girls Gone Mild throws into detailed, sickening relief the actual content the average girl in North America is subjected to from birth onwards in the determination to make her "bad." . . A solid researcher, citing wide-ranging statistical, professional and anecdotal testimony, Shalit builds a persuasive case for promiscuity's harsher toll on women than men.”
The National Post, reviewed by Barbara Kay
“Shalit marshals her evidence with the diligence of a trial lawyer. . . .[she] makes it clear that for girls, the young world is not a safe harbour, but a Darwinian thrash hunt wherein their degradation is the prize. Shalit does not preach; she merely reports on the pockets of girls who are taking back their innocence and insisting it is not naiveté."
The Globe and Mail, reviewed by Elizabeth Nickson