Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls

Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls

by Mary Pipher

Hardcover(Library Binding)

View All Available Formats & Editions


The phenomenal #1 New York Times bestseller. More than 1.5 million copies sold. Now available from Riverhead.

This is the groundbreaking work that poses one of the most provocative questions of a generation: Why are American adolescent girls falling prey to depression, eating disorders, suicide attempts, and dangerously low self-esteem? Dr. Pipher posits that it's America's sexist, look-obsessed "girl-poisoning" culture-one in which girls are constantly struggling to find their true selves. In Reviving Ophelia, these girls' uncensored voices are heard from the front lines of adolescence. Personal and painfully honest, this is a compassionate call to arms, offering strategies with which to revive these Ophelias' lost senses of self.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780613014380
Publisher: Demco Media
Publication date: 02/28/1995
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 5.66(w) x 8.58(h) x 1.04(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Mary Pipher, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and author of The Shelter of Each Other: Rebuilding our Families and Another Country: Navigating the Emotional Terrain of our Elders. Awarded the American Psychological Association's Presidential Citation, Pipher speaks across the country to families, mental health professionals, and educators, and has appeared on Today, 20/20, The Charlie Rose Show, PBS Newshour with Jim Lehrer, and National Public Radio's Fresh Air.

Read an Excerpt

Reviving Ophelia is my attempt to understand my experiences in therapy with adolescent girls. Many girls come into therapy with serious, even life-threatening problems, such as anorexia or the desire to physically hurt or kill themselves. Others have problems less dangerous but still more puzzling, such as school refusal, underachievement, moodiness, or constant discord with their parents. Many are victims of sexual violence.

As I talked to these girls, I became aware of how little I really understood the world of adolescent girls today. It didn't work to use my own adolescent experience from the early 1960s to make generalizations. Girls were living in a whole new world....

Even in our small city with its mostly middle-class population, girls often experienced trauma. How could we help girls heal from that trauma? And what could we do to prevent it?

This last year I have struggled to make sense of this. Why are girls having more trouble now than my friends and I had when we were adolescents? Many of us hated our adolescent years, yet for the most part we weren't suicidal and we didn't develop eating disorders, cut ourselves, or run away from home....

But girls today are much more oppressed. They are coming of age in a more dangerous, sexualized, and media-saturated culture. They face incredible pressures to be beautiful and sophisticated, which in junior high means using chemicals and being sexual. As they navigate a more dangerous world, girls are less protected.

As I looked at the culture that girls enter as they come of age, I was struck by what a girl-poisoning culture it was. The more I looked around, the more I listened to today's music,watched television and movies and looked at sexist advertising, the more convinced I became that we are on the wrong path with our daughters. America today limits girls' development, truncates their wholeness, and leaves many of them traumatized....

What can we do to help them? We can strengthen girls so that they will be ready. We can encourage emotional toughness and self-protection. We can support and guide them. But most important, we can change our culture. We can work together to build a culture that is less complicated and more nurturing, less violent and sexualized and more growth-producing. Our daughters deserve a society in which all their gifts can be developed and appreciated. I hope this book fosters a debate on how we can build that society for them.

From the Paperback edition.

Reading Group Guide

1. Why are kids having more trouble coming of age in 2000?

2. Discuss the differences in childhood and in parenting between your era and today. What was better, or worse? How can we preserve the best of both eras for our children?

3. How do we build a sense of community in our neighborhoods today? How can we help other people's children? What institutions can help us?

4. How do we balance the need to protect our children with the need to raise them free of unnecessary fear?

5. What useful work do we have for children in our community?

6. What can we do to fight violent and sexualized media and the omnipresence of marketing to children?

7. What experience in adolescence are mostly girls' experiences? What experiences are mostly unique to boys? What issues are shared by both genders?

8. What do you think a typical school day is like in the life of your child? (Your students?)

9. How can schools and families protect girls from eating disorders? How can we hold advertisers and media more accountable for their images of young women?

10. How has our culture changed for girls since Reviving Ophelia was written? Discuss both negative and positive changes.

11. How do computers affect girls' social and emotional development?

12. How can we help girls hold on to their true selves?

13. What role do sports play in girls' development?

14. Why do girls argue so much with their mothers and what can be done about it?

15. How can fathers help their daughters through adolescence?

16. What are the signs of depression in teens and when should a family seek professional help?

17. What guidelines andpolicies should parents have about their children's friends?

18. How can we keep our teens connected to older and younger people and not isolated in peer culture?

19. What is a good school harassment policy?

20. How do we teach boys to respect women and girls?

21. What are some differences in adolescence across ethnic groups--specifically African-American, Asian, and Hispanic?

22. What is your policy about movies, television, music, and computers? How do you enforce it? What are the relative merits of protecting children from media versus exposing them to media but processing it with them and helping them understand it?

23. How can we teach children to behave properly? 24. How do we teach values to our children?

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Reviving Ophelia 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 67 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I opened Reviving Ophelia with an open mind. As a 17-year old high school junior, I am usually turned off by books that my mother and teacher enjoy. This one, however, was much different. Immediately, I was pulled into the book. Maybe it was because I realized that I am one of the girls Pipher is talking about; I am Ophelia. I doubt if I was a boy or even a father I would be very interested, but because it pertained to me directly I was pulled into the reading. I could relate to each and every one of the 'characters' in one way or another. I felt for these girls and their problems, and each and every one of them contributed to the book. I don't think I've ever read a book before and was able to just say 'Yes! I know exactly what you are talking about!' It's nice to know that there are actual studies done on teenagers; that someone would think to take the time to figure out what it is with teenagers (girls in particular) that make us the way we are. Mary Pipher's main thesis is practically the life of every teenage girl out there, including myself. It makes me realize that as a young teenage girl, I am not alone. By reading this book, I have learned that society just expects boys to be able to handle more on their own and be more independent than girls. That is just an assumption made by many. As to if it's true or not, I couldn't say because I am not a boy, I have no brothers, and I have never read a book about the lifestyle of a teenage boy. A lot of girls today no longer have the support behind them telling them 'You are not alone'. The author's tone was very sympathetic and understanding to the girls, and she told each story with a personal glimpse behind it. It's almost as if Mary Pipher had known each and every one of those girls for years. Each tale of the unique girls had a conflict and resolution. Throughout the last third of the book, a lot of the girls' problems had to do with their relationships with others. Boyfriends, moms, dads, and siblings were all common topics. Some of the girls that I read about were so interesting that I wish I could read more about them. Mary Pipher has established a theme that growing up as an adolescent girl is not easy. It's challenging, confusing, scary, and exciting all at the same time. Adults sit back and watch us run and fall, and they have to step back and let us get up on our own. We won't learn anything by not falling, but there comes a point when the last time you fall and you feel as though you are never going to make it back up, an adult is needed to lend that hand and pick us back up. Pipher calls it 'girl-poisoning'. Girls are pushed to be someone they aren't; do things they don't want to do; and be happy doing it. There is media, sexism, feminism, and raging hormones that are everywhere. Throughout this book, these girls' tales have been completely real and un-cut. They tell it how it is, and then Pipher explains the psychological aspects behind what they feel and think. One of my favorite phrases in the book was, 'Ophelia died because she could not grow. She became the object of others' lives and lost her true subjective self.' (Pipher 292) Ophelia is from Shakespeare's Hamlet. In Hamlet, she is a free and happy child who loses herself at adolescence. When she falls in love with Hamlet, her only objective in life becomes living for his approval. Torn apart by her efforts to please both her Hamlet and her parents, she loses the fight when Hamlet rejects her for being a compliant daughter. Beset by grief, and without any inner direction, Ophelia drowns in a creek, weighed down by her heavy and elegant clothes. Pipher uses the title Reviving Ophelia in reference to bringing back what died inside Ophelia- that adolescence innocence. Is it really possible to bring back a self that you lost? And if you did bring back that self, would it be the same thing? Mary Pipher is posing the question, What can we as a society do to help adolescent
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this for my journalism class this past summer, and I loved it. Not only did it answer some big questions of mine, but - as a high schooler- it helped me understand what girls my age are going through. It's a great book for anyone trying to understand a teen girl's mind and its a great read.
zhukora on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I borrowed this book off my mother's bookshelf twelve or thirteen years ago when I was just entering adolescence myself. My mother never got it back. The book is ostensibly a parenting-oriented psychology text, but I think it was likely far more useful to me as a girl on the cusp of the age range discussed in the book than it would have been in the hands of my mother. Young as I was, this was the first explicitly feminist text I had ever been exposed to, and for the first time in my life it was able to give me a framework for understanding and a means of describing and recognizing the tensions and problems I was beginning to be able to detect in the environment around me and in the girls who were my friends and classmates. It didn't really matter to me that the girls whose stories were featured in the book were by and large far more troubled than myself or any of the adolescents I knew; I could still relate to the angst, insecurities, and general mien shown in their stories. To a degree, both at the time and still today, I felt that having a broader and more holistic understanding of what made things go wrong for so many girls inoculated me against many of these same problems, and allowed me to adopt more effective coping strategies for the drama that inevitably comes with simply being a young teen, and especially with being a young teenage girl.The text in Reviving Ophelia is fairly simple, straightforward, and concisely described. For all that it's firmly grounded in feminist theory and psychotherapeutic practice, it's neither overly academic nor bogged down in complex theoretical nuance. It is certainly valuable reference reading for parents of preadolescent girls to prepare them for what their daughters may soon be subject to, but I think it can just as effectively (if not more so) be treated as an invaluable toolkit for young girls themselves who may already be confused by the changes thrown at them by biology and their social group, as a means of clarifying and educating them about the hazards of youth in a superficial society.
nlaurent on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is a classic and there should not be a parent with a boy or a girl entering middle school that should not have this on their bookshelf after a careful reading. This book is what inspired me to homeschool my own daughters and allowed me to place back into context what I went through as a young lady. Remember though that this book was writtenn originally several years ago, and the behaviors it describes have gotten much worse for many young girls. If you get one message from this book, it's that our girls are dealing with bullying and sexual harassment not just once in awhile, but often on a literally daily basis. It is not OK to parent with our heads in the sand, or for us to assume taht things have gotten better than when we went to school. Even if you homeschool, you must be aware of what this type of behavior looks like so you can discuss it with your daughter and perhaps even more importantly, your sons. Discussions must occur around why this impairs learning, self-image and harms the development of human potential. Don't be afraid to read this book. Be afraid NOT to read this book.
busymom51 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The author is a psychologist who has specialized in working the adolescents, particularly girls. Her findings conclude that the girls of the 1990's experienced a deep crisis, brought on by the stresses of entering adolescence compounded by a culture of sexism and "lookism." She presents numerous case studies sorted by problem areas such as parental relationships, divorce, depressions, eating disorders, drugs and alcohol, and sex and violence. She paints a bleak but not hopeless portrait, citing girls who have come through rough situations with strength and courage. Her catch phrases - saplings in the storm, families as root systems, cactus flowers blooming in the desert - show a strong connection with nature. Much of her book is solid common sense - a girl with firm consistent guidelines, tempered with opportunities to demonstrate her independence will grow stronger than a girl with no set boundaries and no opportunities to earn the trust of her family.Junior High is obviously the real battlefield. The onset of puberty and the tremendous pressure to conform to peer expectations changes girls dramatically. The media sends a message of superficiality and consumerism and ignores anything or anyone who isn't perfect by its own definition. Girls who feelinsecure are punished and ostracized. Girls who are different are shunned. Dr. Pipher compares the 1960's culture of her own adolescence with the 1990's and illustrates the complexity of being a 1990 teenager versus the relative simplicity of 30 years prior. A sobering and frightening book but a must read.
jenreidreads on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A must-read for all women.
Marse on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mary Pipher's book was written in the 90s and was a wake-up call to parents of adolescent girls. While it is important in documenting how rough the world has become for adolescent girls, it doesn't really offer much practical advice for parents of today. If you are reading this book for tips on how to get your daughter through those awful times, then I would skip all the case studies (taken together they are quite frightening for a parent) and just read the last chapter where the author gives a general overview of what type of parenting seems to have given the most benefit to daughters. It's not much, but it is a starting point.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
NOOOOOOOOOOO! I DON'T HAVE ENOUGH MONEY! I just read the sample to this, and let me just say... it was amazing! Be open minded when you do read it though. My english teacher told me to read this because I, too, would like to become an adolescent psychologist! Today's teenagers need help, girls and boys. I've heard some of the things that people go through and I wish they could have help. I think if more people read this book, they'd understand teen girls in a less hypocritical way. Most people do look at girls as a weekness, even girls think other girls are! Whatever you do... Give this a chance! You wont regret it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a twelve year old girl with depression, and even though I've only read the sample(because my mom wanted it and I was curious as to what she wanted) it just reminded me of my elementary days. I used to run around all the time, speak my own mind, not worry about what others thought of me. I got along with everyone, sand in public, read vivaciously. I was so happy. Then after the death of my father (he had depression) I became a recluse. I don't know if anyone in my class noticed this, but I became mean and sarcastic then. No longer the vivacious girl that ran around and sang in public, I kept on going on a ladder, and not up, but down. Now, in 7th grade, the beginning of new crushes, responsibility, freedom... but with the good comes the bad. Insecurities, depression, rejection-the feelings every girl experiences. This book, even just a sample that was only 15 pages, gave me a feeling of acception. Alot of people go through this. Buy this book. You will not regret it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago