I was on the Today Show on Tuesday, March 10th to discuss my new book”Supergirls Speak Out: Inside the Secret Crisis of Overachieving Girls,”and I had the pleasure of chatting a little bit with Meredith Viera before the cameras started rolling. We were chatting about the irony that the smartest, most savvy young women are the ones who were the most likely to push themselves to be perfect, even if they were intellectually conscious of the pressures society put on young people.
I interviewed a handful of students at the University of California-Berkeley who manifested this problem perfectly. These were students in their twenties at UC-Berkeley, studying psychology and sociology and women’s studies. They were aware of the many pressures on young women today and could describe them eloquently, but no one knew just how to eliminate these pressures on women and everyone subscribed to these pressures at least little. After all, each source was a student at Berkeley and they all were interesting and charming young women! Some had private personal stories about having had mental breakdowns and eating disorders themselves, and many of them pushed themselves to excelâ€¦ just like the Supergirls. Actually, almost all of them were Supergirls!
So here’s that irony, again: the smartest, savviest young women today:many of whom ascribe to feminist beliefs:are still vulnerable to the pressures on women that they object to. In fact, they may be even more vulnerable!
I write in my book that girls who excel in school because they’re Supergirls (and thus achieve for the wrong reasons) frequently don’t care about learning the subject matter on the test:they just want to ace it!:yet I think the girls who push themselves the hardest are the smart girls who see the subject matter at hand as crucial information.
The Supergirls are lucky because they’ve all been raised around feminism. This phenomenon of girls taking on too many leadership roles and feeling the push to take on all the honors classes possible wouldn’t have ever been possible if feminism wasn’t in the picture; the good part of the Supergirl phenomenon is that it’s finally cool for girls to be smart and assertive! So how can we as feminists put ourselves into this equation, and intercept the push to be perfect, and help the young women in our lives become successful and happy?
For some adult feminists, the situation can be even more personal than that. For social justice leaders, bloggers, and organizers who use the internet to learn more and promote, there can definitely be a personal push to try to do everything! I encourage anyone who wants to help the Supergirls to go easier on themselves and analyze personally whether they have a healthy relationship with their work and a healthy drive to succeed. Like most feminisms, helping other women means helping ourselves. Now that’s a win-win!
Check out my new book, “Supergirls Speak Out: Inside the Secret Crisis of Overachieving Girls,” available wherever books are sold or here.
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