Down from the Pedestal: Moving Beyond Idealized Images of Womanhood

Overview

Simone de Beauvoir warned almost fifty years ago that the positive images of women that place them securely on pedestals - images like the Faithful Wife, the Good Daughter, and the Wise Old Woman, honored and mythologized by American culture - are far more insidious and difficult to ignore than negative images like the Dumb Blonde that leave women feeling bad about themselves. Identifying with idealized images almost invariably wins a woman love and approval, and offers her the seductive promise of a formula for ...
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Overview

Simone de Beauvoir warned almost fifty years ago that the positive images of women that place them securely on pedestals - images like the Faithful Wife, the Good Daughter, and the Wise Old Woman, honored and mythologized by American culture - are far more insidious and difficult to ignore than negative images like the Dumb Blonde that leave women feeling bad about themselves. Identifying with idealized images almost invariably wins a woman love and approval, and offers her the seductive promise of a formula for leading a happy, productive life. But, as psychologist Maxine Harris explains in Down from the Pedestal, women who hide behind the safety and predictability of idealized roles find their individuality obscured by the images that dictate what they should want and how they should live their lives, define their relationships, and raise their children. Through the hundreds of interviews that form the basis of this provocative and insightful book, Harris came to know women like Liza, the married mother of two, whose long-time struggle with anorexia reflected her desire to remain physically the Eternal Girl and her inability to complete the transition between young womanhood and midlife; and Ruby, the quintessential Selfless Mother, who measured her worth as a person and her success as a mother by total devotion to her children's welfare and denial of her own needs. In this extraordinarily clear and accessible new interpretation of adult female development, Harris offers women like Liza and Ruby a way to descend from the pedestal of idealized images and enjoy the freedom of seeking a personal and authentic existence. By thinking about their worlds in terms of broad themes rather than alluring but suffocating images, women can better explore and understand the meaning of their experiences. Using compelling examples and detailed case histories, Harris shows how life themes can be a positive and empowering way for women to fulfill the potential of their lives. O
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Psychologist Harris ( Sisters of the Shadow ) writes about ``the images which trap women and the life themes which can liberate and give meaning to their lives.'' Identifying stereotypes like Eternal Girl, Selfless Mother and Sweet Old Lady, the author shows how women suffer from the expectations of themselves and others that they fit into these roles. Harris proposes alternative ways that a woman can think about her life based on broader, more flexible themes: in the early years, exploring and preparing; in midlife, creating; in the later years, contemplating and measuring. Seventy women of varying backgrounds relate their experiences and a repeated wish that life for subsequent generations will be better than it has been for them. This innovative approach to understanding female psychology offers appealing insight for both sexes. (Jan.)
Library Journal
According to psychologist Harris ( Sisters of the Shadow, Univ. of Oklahoma Pr., 1991), archetypes such as the Eternal Girl, the Dutiful Daughter, the Super Mom, and the Sweet Old Lady are inconsistent with the modern female experience, yet they continue to entrap women because women still hold out the promise of affection and approval from significant others and the culture at large. Harris describes 15 of these insidious ideals, each specific to a particular period in a woman's life; her accounts of interviews with 70 people illustrate how adherence to an archetype can create crises during times of transition. The second half of the book explores themes of living, which Harris finds more useful for providing cohesion and integrity in women's lives. Unfortunately, some of the material is repetitive, and some of her examples seem contrived, but the book is readable and will doubtless prove enlightening for some people. Recommended for larger public and academic collections.-- Beverly Miller, Boise State Univ. Lib., Id.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385469944
  • Publisher: The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/1/1993
  • Edition description: 1st ed. in the U.S.A
  • Pages: 304

Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
1 The Power of Images 3
2 Trapped by Images 24
3 Images of Young Womanhood 44
4 Images of Midlife Women 74
5 Images of Older Women 107
6 Themes of Living 139
7 Themes of Young Womanhood 154
8 Themes of Midlife 183
9 Themes of Older Womanhood 214
10 From Images to Life Themes 240
Notes 256
Bibliography 267
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