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by Carla Fine
Review by Elizabeth O’Connor, Ph.D. on Feb 14th 2003
Strong, Smart & Bold is
a production by Girls Inc., which refers to itself on the book jacket as the
leading empowerment organization for girls.
Girls Inc. is a national organization focusing on research, education,
and advocacy for girls. The
organization offers programs at its own sites (most of which, according to its
website, are located in low income areas), as well as making its programs
available offsite. Its programs center
around the Girls Bill of Rights established by the organization. There are six such rights (for example, A
girl has the right to accept and appreciate her body; A girl has the right to
prepare for interesting work and economic independence). Each chapter in the book focuses on an
individual right, and includes activities, exercises, and suggestions for how
to encourage your daughter to be aware of her rights and develop strengths in
order to achieve her goals.
There are some statistics in each
chapter to support the assertion that society is pressuring girls in various
ways to be less than what they could be.
The fact that the book is a little light on research, though, does not
pose a significant problem. I do not
really need to see research on marketing trends in childrens clothing, for
example, to know that girls clothes have become increasingly sexualized; I
need only look at some of the older girls who attend my daughters elementary
school to know that mini skirts, bare midriffs, and halter tops have become
commonplace among the pre-teen set.
What this book does do is offer some tips for how to handle such
situations. Many of the tips range from
the general (Teach a girl to critique beauty ideals for girls and women as
they are portrayed in television programs, popular songs, movies, books, and
magazines) to the lofty-but-impractical (Lobby the fashion industry to expand
its definition of beauty by featuring more diverse-looking models), but there
are some very worthwhile ideas as well.
The chapter on resisting gender
stereotypes, for instance, advocates examining the gender roles that operate in
your own house, and making sure that responsibilities are not defined along
gender lines. It also suggests reading
the financial section of the newspaper with your daughter, so that she develops
a basic understanding of economics and gets the message that she should be literate
about finances as she grows up. Encouraging
her to become proficient at using a computer is important as well, and the
chapter gives some tips on how to accomplish that.
I am not one who is overly fond of
self-help type exercises, and some of the ones suggested in this book I found a
bit silly; I cannot imagine asking my daughter to draw a castle, for instance,
so we could label all the happy things that belong in her castle and thus learn
what makes her special. If you are one
who finds such exercises useful then by all means this is the book for
you. Even if you do not care to indulge
in such activities, however, it would be a mistake to rule this book out. There is some solid advice packed in here,
as well as some food for thought about the perils of raising a girl today. Even if you do not choose to adopt any of
the techniques suggested here, you will at least be encouraged to think about
issues that will be of importance to your daughter.
Link: Girls Inc.
2003 Elizabeth O'Connor
Elizabeth OConnor, Ph.D. is
co-author with Suzanne Johnson of For Lesbian Parents (Guilford, 2001)
and The Gay Baby Boom: The Psychology of Gay Parenthood (NYU Press,