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

3.97  ·  Rating Details  ·  986 Ratings  ·  70 Reviews

The classic account of the hurdles facing adolescent girls in America--now reissued with a new Foreword, to coincide with the award-winning author's new book on women and identity.

Inspired by a study by the American Association of University Women that showed girls' self-esteem plummeting as they reach adolescence, Peggy Orenstein s
Hardcover, 335 pages
Published August 1st 1994 by Doubleday
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Mar 17, 2008 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As an educator, mother, or future mother, OR someone that works with young girls, this book is a must read. I cried through most of the book remembering the hardships of adolescence: popularity, boys, harassment, being female. This book is an interesting microscope into a few girls lives. I was so moved by this book, I emailed the author inquiring about the girls in the story, and what became of them. This was her reply:

Dear Jennifer,

Thank you so much for your note. It makes my day to hear from
Apr 30, 2008 Vince rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I gave this book four stars because it does exactly what its description says it does: describe the hardships that girls in their adolescence face.

And now for the $1,000,000 question:

Where is the equivalent book (call it "Schoolboys") that describes the hurdles that adolescent boys face???

People, especially feminists, like to assume that all is hunky dory with boys and that we don't need to help them (even the media likes to assume this -- just ask Time magazine). I don't think this is the case,
Fascinating book. A bit uncomfortable l to read at the beginning, as it makes you reflect on your own high school experience, but the book delved into many areas about how women are influenced in school that I not thought of. In the last chapter she presented an educational environment that was focused on a wider world view in terms of gender. I would have liked to have read more about solutions to the issues she uncovers, but still an excellent read.
May 25, 2008 jill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to jill by: Lani
Shelves: non-fiction, feminist
This book was written in response to a study about self-esteem and girls in school conducted by the American Association of University Women, and I have to admit that throughout most of my reading of it, one of the questions in the back of my mind was "okay, but don't girls generally out perform boys in educational settings?" So it's interesting that one of the feminist blogs I read (because that's the kind of manhating bitch I am) had this posted earlier this week.
Whatever learning differences
Nov 14, 2013 user rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Completely different from what I thought it to be. I thought it would take in account the things we suffer through, perhaps historically on big events. Thought and assumed a lot of things. I thought wrong.

An overall tasteless, biased book. I'm not even sure what the claim is in here.
Waste of time, never again.
While I am a female as well, the facts and claims of our so-called "low self esteem" was so wrong, I just couldn't.
Sep 22, 2008 Valerie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cypresslibrary
This book is a great resource for parents.
Jan 28, 2016 Lynley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I went into teaching my first job was in a girls only high school. It was thought of single sex education in general that girls' schools are best for girls but boys tend to suffer a bit with an overly masculine culture at boys' schools.

There are also problems with girls only education of course. Namely, some of them get a big shock when exposed to the wider co-ed world.

Strangely, many parents who send their girls to single sex schools do so because they don't want their daughters 'distrac
You need to read this book.

If you're interested in education, you should read this book.
If you're interested in gender roles, women studies, class issues, you really need to read this book.

It's basically an ethnography of two middle schools, one in a poor area and one in a ritzy area. We follow a handful of students at each school and get glimpses into their home and school lives. There are nuanced reactions and interactions with the adults around them that are really telling about expectations
Every time I read a book like this, I walk away thinking how terrifying it is to be a girl in these circumstances and wonder how I missed most of this doubt and self-harm behavior when I was this age. This book underscores a number of common themes about girls in schools, the stereotypes of docile and compliant behavior and the secondary status girls have in school. But I find myself a bit skeptical as the book cannot show all perspectives, only those that reinforce the author's thesis so it end ...more
Jan 11, 2011 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Every parent, teacher, man, and woman needs to read this book. I can honestly say it has changed me. This is not a problem that went away when women entered the work force or were given the right to vote. Inequalities happen in subtle ways everyday, everywhere. Reading this book made me so much more aware of them and pushed me to change the way I teach and think.
Jun 23, 2016 Marian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Disturbingly accurate even after 20+ years.
I read this book for a class in college and dang, it makes me want to home school my kids if I ever had any. It just talks about all the issues and peer pressure that is out there.
Miss Casabona
Aug 15, 2014 Miss Casabona rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book, and it made me think a lot about my own teaching practices and how I handle gender issues in the classroom and the literature we read. While I don't agree with everything that the author says/does, and while I am critical of her research method (pulling students out of class to interview them when they are already falling behind), I do appreciate the attention brought to the desire for a gender equitable classroom.
Bethany Morrow
I read this in university, and remember preparing to discuss it, and knowing I'd have to show very specific examples juxtaposing the author's tone when discussing the white, more affluent girls and their problems (which never stole their identity and destiny) vs the girls of color in the second half of the book. I see you.
Oct 05, 2012 Joe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In Schoolgirls, Peggy Orenstein explores self-esteem in young women; in particular, she focuses on how self-esteem relates to education: how low self-esteem can cause women to hold themselves back, and how the school environment can hurt self-esteem in many women.

The book takes a look at one school that is relatively well-off, and another that does not have many resources. Orenstein discusses a number of issues in the contexts of the different situations; it's not an exhaustive study, but it's n
Mar 25, 2008 Carolyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: parenting-books
I LOVED this book. It does a beautiful job of exploring the social and academic struggles of young women across racial, ethnic and class lines and is so readable. Orenstein is a journalist and that carries through in her story telling-- non-fiction with the allure of a plot and characters. The book also does a nice job of explaining young womens' roles in their own lives without making them victims or vixens (or beating up too much on boys). Much of what she writes is not earth shattering for pe ...more
Jan 01, 2009 KeTURah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a real eye-opener for me, but not in the way one might think. The research for the book was done on 11-14 year old girls during the early 90's, the same time that I was in that age in school. I recognized the mostly white suburban school immediately - it had the exact same environment of female oppression that I remember from my school. And now I realize why I had such a tough time in school - i was conditioned to be unassertive. the saddest thing is that, trapped in a world of dou ...more
Reading this book just a few months after reading Orenstein's Cinderella Ate My Daughter has given me a lot to think about as I continue to raise two daughters. I can't say Orenstein's findings (or the research studies she references to flesh out her anecdotal observances) are encouraging. In Schoolgirls, I was most struck by the chapter in which a teacher taught a class that emphasized women's roles in history to the degree that men's roles are normally emphasized, and about the ways people rea ...more
Rase McCray
Feb 07, 2016 Rase McCray rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was awesome. Published in the early 90s, I'd be interested in an update to see how far we've come -- though the instant relatability and familiarity of so many of the findings makes me fear we haven't come all that far.
Jul 20, 2015 Melinda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was great. Although a bit older still applied to today. Gave me some great ways to teach my girl and my boys to see a person for who they are and not their gender.
Erika Duan
Feb 23, 2016 Erika Duan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Peggy Orenstein has written a very important book, in particular by increasing public awareness of the pernicious disadvantages faced by underprivileged American school children (especially minority girls). Written and reported in 1995, it would be tremendously enlightening if one could make a comparative assessment against our current situation in 2016.
S Colberg
Didn't finish, but was insightful. Seeing some of the same issues raised here, being talked about by my pre-teen daughter.
Feb 10, 2016 Olivia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Schoolgirls may have been published in 1994, but it's still painfully relevant now. Could barely put it down.
Dec 08, 2014 Bharathi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book was written inthe 90s. A few things have changed, but some gender issues have lasted for these 20 years. This is a book for all educators to read.
Oct 02, 2008 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone; parents, feminists, women
This was a slow read for me, but it needn't have been. It's easy to read, and very interesting. I wanted to take time to digest what I was reading. Ms. Orenstein follows several middle school girls of different races and different socio-economic backgrounds through a few years. She observes different teaching styles and the school childrens' reactions to them. We end the book with a portrait of a teacher doing a great job of profiling women and minorities in history. It gives me hope that our ed ...more
Mar 28, 2011 Monique rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A must-read book for anyone (male or female!) with a daughter; your eyes will truly be opened to what in all likelihood awaits her in middle school. If you are female, "Schoolgirls" might remind you of some painful times in middle and high school and even give you some insight into why your own life/career choices, etc. turned out the way they did. This was definitely true for me and I have resolved to make some different choices on my daughter's behalf based on the information in this book.

Dec 20, 2008 Erica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was recently asked, in a board game, what book most changed my life. I answered School Girls. I read it in 1995, after the recommendation of a friend. This book turned me on to social science, gender issues, and the reality that there are jobs and passions in the world that deal with gender differences, education, and just plain curiosity about how our society affects us. I guess I would've made my way to this perspective eventually, but as a 17 year old, this was exciting and mind-opening. Al ...more
May 26, 2016 Morgan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Incredibly thought provoking and poignant.
Dec 11, 2015 nogk marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Nice to read..Useful
Nicole G.
Jun 19, 2008 Nicole G. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2007
What this journalist discovered in her yearlong investigation into two different middle schools during the 1992-93 school year is nothing new, but no less sad and damaging. Girls are still marginalized in the classroom and considered secondary, and worse, teachers attempting to combat the male aggression often fail. As a future teacher and a former student who knows this situation all too well, I think it helps to look at such things from an adult perspective and make as many attempts to change ...more
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Peggy Orenstein is the author, most recently, of Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture. Her previous books include The New York Times best-selling memoir, Waiting for Daisy; Flux: Women on Sex, Work, Kids, Love and Life in a Half-Changed World; and the best-selling SchoolGirls: Young Women, Self-Esteem and the Confidence Gap. A contributing writ ...more
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“Women are one-half of the world’s people; they do two-thirds of the world’s work; they earn one-tenth of the world’s income; they own one one-hundredth of the world’s property.” 2 likes
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