Why do so many women feel obliged to put other people's needs first, even when they don't want to? The self-sacrificing impulse comes from women's history, not their nature, says Stephanie Golden.
Drawing on interviews with experts and a diverse group of women, plus extensive scholarship, Golden traces the historical, cultural, and mythic factors that gave women the responsibility to sacrifice and suffer for the benefit of our entire society. "Slaying the Mermaid" (a title inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid, the ultimate self-sacrificing woman) illuminates common female experiences: the belief that being a "good mother" means endless self-sacrifice; romance, the surrender of a woman's very being to an ideal embodied in a powerful man; on-the-job "enabling" that makes the boss look good while undermining a woman's own career; the obsession with weight, which makes a virtue of self-denial.
Golden analyzes the psychological effects of the self-sacrifice mandate, then expands this theme beyond individual experience to its broader social meanings.
She helps women distinguish self-destructive from positive, constructive forms of sacrifice, so they can reclaim the original meaning of sacrifice as an act that both transforms and empowers.
|File size:||405 KB|
About the Author
Got the Girl Scouts' Writer badge (the only one that interested me) when I was 12: that signaled the future. I began writing fiction, but discovered that what really compelled me was literary nonfiction--especially once I developed a way to use a central image as a method of analysis. An image constrains and focuses thoughts while allowing you to come at your material from many different directions without losing coherence, since the analysis acquires its form from the structure of the image. I used this method for both my literary nonfiction books: For *The Women Outside,* a study of homeless and marginal women, it was the figure of the witch. For *Slaying the Mermaid,* about women and self-sacrifice, it was Hans Christian Anderson's Little Mermaid. Literary nonfiction didn't pay the rent, but I like writing books, so I became a book collaborator and wrote five other books with experts. (For a series of articles on how book collaboration works, see my website: http://www.stephaniegolden.net.) And since for a freelancer diversifying = security, I started writing all sorts of other things: magazine articles, newsletters, reports for nonprofits, grant proposals, training manuals, and lately websites.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is an important book deserving a wide audience. I was initially sceptical of the author¿s journalist credentials, assuming her treatment would amount to little more than pop psychology. Boy was I wrong. Despite her conversational tone and sometime confessional approach, I was amazed by the depth and breadth of her analysis. This is independent scholarship at its best: Free of academic jargon and ideological conceits, Stephanie Golden manages not only to assemble a remarkable amount of research but to tease out some fascinating insights as to how the concept of sacrifice mediates the female experience of and engagement with the world. What I found particularly impressive was her multi-faceted and multi-layered approach. Remaining sensitive throughout to how (self-)sacrifice is internalized and manifests itself across cultural, racial and generational divides Golden draws on sources as varied as history, mythology, religious iconography, analytic psychology, biology and personal interviews, weaving what begin as disparate, seemingly unconnected strands into a seamless whole by the book¿s end. Although she strongly disputes essentialist theories about women¿s innate masochism, this book is not a polemic. Rather, it is an uncommonly sensitive and sensible exploration of how women¿s lives tend to be marked by self-denial and the ease with which we, often against our own best interests, put others¿ needs and desires ahead of our own.