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Schoolgirls: Young Women, Self-Esteem, and the Confidence Gap

Schoolgirls: Young Women, Self-Esteem, and the Confidence Gap

4.2 9
by Peggy Orenstein

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When Peggy Orenstein's now-classic examination of young girls and self-esteem was first published, it set off a groundswell that continues to this day. Inspired by an American Association of University Women survey that showed a steep decline in confidence as girls reach adolescence, Orenstein set out to



When Peggy Orenstein's now-classic examination of young girls and self-esteem was first published, it set off a groundswell that continues to this day. Inspired by an American Association of University Women survey that showed a steep decline in confidence as girls reach adolescence, Orenstein set out to explore the obstacles girls face—in school, in the hoime, and in our culture.

For this intimate, girls' eye view of the world, Orenstein spent months observing and interviewing eighth-graders from two ethnically disparate communities, seeking to discover what was causing girls to fall into traditional patterns of self-censorship and self-doubt. By taking us into the lives of real young women who are struggling with eating disorders, sexual harrassment, and declining academic achievement, Orenstein brings the disturbing statistics to life with the skill and flair of an experienced journalist. Uncovering the adolescent roots of issues that remain important to American women throughout their lives, this groundbreaking book challenges us to change the way we raise and educate girls.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This important book should be read by  parents raising children of all ages and of both sexes."  — New York Times Book  Review.

"This book is to young girls what  Black Beauty is to horses, what Upton  Sinclair's The Jungle was to the  processing of meat. To read School  Girls is to remember — how reluctantly! — what  it means to be a girl in junior high." —  Carolyn See, Washington Post Book  World.

"Orenstein's study should be  required reading for all American teachers. And  students. And everyone else. [grade] A." —  Entertainment Weekly.

"School Girls is a fascinating book.  Hopefully it will be read by the right people —  parents and educators who could change the  experience of young girls in the future." —  Los Angeles Times Book Review.

"School Girls cautions those of us  who educate and mold young people to wake up and  see the social and intellectual consequences of  simply letting 'girls be girls' and boys be boys.'"  — New York Newsday.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Following a 1990 poll which found that girls suffer plummeting self-esteem and reduced expectations as they enter adolescence, journalist Orenstein visited two California middle schools to take a more personal look at the statistics. (Oct.)

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.86(d)

Meet the Author

Peggy Orenstein is the author of Flux: Women on Sex, Work, Love, Kids and Life in a Half-Changed World. An award-winning writer and speaker on issues affecting girls and women, she is a regular contributor to The New York Times Magazine, and her work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Vogue, Glamour, Mirabella, Details, Elle, Mother Jones, The New Yorker, and other publications. Additionally, she has served as an editor at Esquire, Manhattan inc., 7 Days, and Mother Jones magazines.

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SchoolGirls: Young Women, Self-Esteem, and the Confidence Gap 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Sharon_Lowry More than 1 year ago
School Girls is a pivotal book on the socialization of girls; it's so compelling and eye opening. All these years later, it still stands up; it's still relevant. I recommend it to anyone who is a parent or grandparent or teacher.
aprilmrm More than 1 year ago
I found this book riveting--and heart-breaking. I think anybody who teaches should read this book, as well as anyone who has a daughter. My only wish of the book is that there had been some follow-up with many of the girls Orenstein profiled. I couldn't help but wonder, Where are they now? Maybe in an afterword section, particularly because the book was written almost 20 years ago. At any rate, I loved this book and definitely recommend it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
veRONica_RAL_E4 More than 1 year ago
This book was very interesting. For an assignment in class, I had to read through it and write notes on sticky notes for the parts that related to me, and this really was no challenge. This book was perfect in every aspect. I would recommend this book to any person of any age of any gender. Quite honestly, I was just going to open the book up to random pages and make the assignment up, but as I got started reading it, I couldn't put it down!

VS in Mrs. Mcintyre's E4 class
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a very controversial book. It addresses a lot of hurtles that girls and even women have to deal with. It talks a lot about how just being a woman can have a huge effect on our self esteem. It talks about how women can give into men in search of love, and sometimes sacrifice a lot of their standards and morals just to feel accepted. Sexual harrassment also, is a huge issue. A lot of women go years without talking about sexual harrassment they have experienced. I really think that this book helps reveal to women how they need to stop listening to how a steriotype labels them and start having confidence in themselves without having to look like barbie.
Guest More than 1 year ago
School Girls was a book about the drop in self esteem of girls that are in middle school and going into high school. It was interesting to see how the girls change from when they are with their friends to when they sit in class. The two schools that Peggy decided to shadow were very different, from the subrubs to the inner cities of California. You recieved a different point of view and different problems that each girl encounters because of where they live. The book is easily relatable, especially if you are a woman most of the things I was able to relate too. The book offers an insight on the dropping self esteem of today's teenage girls and offers some hope to what we can do to stop it. This book was very well written, and I would definatly read it again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Schoolgirls presents an extended observation conducted at two very different schools in Northern California, whose student population is very different and yet shares some similarities. The main focus of the observation is to analyze how self-esteem and self-confidence in female students (6 to 8 grades) is affected by their environment, and what in the schools settings and/or personal lives has a greater impact on the future development of these girls. The first school¿s population is primarily comprised of upper-class white students, while the second is a poor school whose population is mostly divided between Latinos and African Americans and the while population counts for no more than 10% of the whole student body. Peggy Orenstein loosely organizes the book by engaging into the description of a handful of female students at the two schools, as opposed to offering a general analysis of her overall observation. Yet she is able to offer an understanding of the situation at hands that goes beyond the limitations of the personal case and individual peculiarity that make of each girl a different and unique case study. Different issues are observed in the two schools, therefore it is not possible to make an instant and direct comparisons between how similar `conditions¿ may affect students in different ways depending on independent variables. Yet, I am not sure the books even has that intention, and a direct and systematic analysis seems to be only a secondary reading of it, and not necessarily a valid approach to the information that Schoolgirls provides. Personally I believe the main concern with the book is to truly find out what affects self-esteem among young girls facing puberty, and the choice of two antithetic school environments is not to draw a comparison between them but to cover a larger spectrum of ethnicities and understand how different issues may affect female students belonging to different cultural backgrounds and coming from different social strata. I thoroughly enjoyed the book for its simplicity of exposition and the conversational style in which is written: which I happen to find to be quite enticing and alluring. At times I found myself unable to put the book down, driven by the desire to know how a certain episode might end, intrigued and even challenged by the narration of facts that the author was able to convey is a very direct, straightforward and yet inquisitive manner. As I have mentioned earlier, the author chooses to focus on particular students, and places them within the larger environment of the school and personal life settings, with details that are not excessively overwhelming and yet consent the read to formulate a deeper and more homogenous visual idea of who these girls are and consequently, to identify with them on a more personal and direct level. At times I truthfully felt like reading a well-written novel, yet with the constant consciousness that the people described are true persons, and not fictitious characters fabricated in the imaginative mind of some creative writer who lives in the constructed world of his own visions. I honestly believe the writing style is crucial to the success of this book, along with other choices made by the author that make of Schoolgirls an easy read, and yet provides a tremendous amount of information. The author is able to provide data from large and systematic studies without falling in the common trap of dryness and impenetrability that many books offering this kind of scientific information seem to be bound to suffer from. Not only is she able to sprinkle throughout the book important and encompassing data ¿ to support, validate or simply introduce an issue ¿ with a lightness and fluidity that is impeccable. Not only is every statement that she makes, pertaining statistical or analytical information other than her direct observation, backed by proper footnoting and bibliographic references. Far more important and just as rema
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was very impressed with the book. Reading it for a college course, women studies, I was already inclined to dislike the book, yet reading it cause me to see what happened to me throughout middle school and high school. I read knowing exactly how these girls felt. Though one feels that society does not act in such ways, this book shows that gender inequality isn't only at work but in the schools as well. It is no wonder that girls are paid less, become pregnant, and then have to support such families on that small income. Since reading, I have strived to change the double standards womens face. This is an eye opener.
Guest More than 1 year ago
School Girls by Peggy Orenstein is an overall great book that can offer help to many people in many areas. I feel all teachers in today's society should read this book because it addresses many important issues young girls face such as, the loss of self-esteem, loss of confidence and the gender gap. Most teachers are not aware that they are giving more attention to guys as opposed to girls. By having teachers read this book they can bring about more awareness and alleviate if not eliminate these gender constraints. Teachers who are more aware of girls low self-esteem and loss of confidence during adolescents can encourage girls both inside and outside the classroom. This in turn will allow boys and girls to be given an equal opportunity to learn. This book is also helpful to adolescent girls to help them deal with these issues and show them they are not going through this ordeal alone. School Girls examines how society and family can have a profound impact on how girls view themselves. It shows how almost every girl has a struggle that they must overcome whether it be confidence, anorexia, school or family problems. Most girls including myself can identify with these feelings of self-doubt. The book helps girls to show them that they can overcome these gender and confidence gaps if the issues are addressed. The book is informative and helpful to parents who are raising teenage girls. The book gives insight into many of the problems the girls face and possible solutions as to how to overcome those problems. It also address some of the common reasons as to why girls lose their self-esteem. I am glad I read this book because it has made me more aware of the gender gap and the issues that adolescent girls are facing today. This will help me to make sure when I start teaching not to make the same mistakes some of these teachers in the book made. It has also made me realize that, since I will be a female biology teacher, I need to encourage the girls who are strong in the sciences to go on to higher level science courses. I will also spend more time on issues concerning girls such as eating right, and the consequences of starving yourself and also the consequences of having unprotected sex such as HIV.