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Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: How the Quest for Perfection is Harming Young Women
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Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: How the Quest for Perfection is Harming Young Women

3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  1,005 ratings  ·  131 reviews
This eye-opening look at twenty-first century culture and its impact on women reveals how food and weight obsession, driven in no small part by images of celebrities openly wasting away, threatens a new generation of girls as the feminist exhortation that ?you can do anything? is twisted into ?you must do everything.? It also inspires readers to consider what wonderful thi ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published September 2nd 2008 by Berkley (first published April 17th 2007)
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Jul 04, 2008 Aly rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
I don't know why I ordered this b/c I hated the excerpt in Bitch. The author consistently uses language that suggests she is speaking for ALL women who struggle with eating disorders and body image issues when she's really speaking for a very select few that share her stereotypical version of these problems:

"We win scholarships galore, science fairs, and knowledge bowls, spelling bees and mock trial debates....We pride ourselves on getting as little sleep as possible and thrive on self-deprivat
This was horrible. It made me feel bad about food, people, society, myself. The author wrote as if it were a thesis and while the writing isn't bad, it's just a bunch of borderline-anorexics complaining about their bodies. There aren't any suggestions for improvement or statements on how society could improve, just a lot of "___ sucks."
Jessica Valenti
Full disclosure: Courtney is a good friend of mine. That said, I think this book is fabulous...personal, beautifully written and - while about a sad subject - hopeful.
Eh. The writing is pretty lackluster, relying heavily on I, I, I, we, we, we. Martin tries to speak for all women, using sweeping generalizations, trying to show us how good, and how bad she is. She had Hispanic boyfriends in high school (oh my!), but of course, she still got straight As. She was smart AND drank Forties. Oh boy. Overall, I think she was embarking on an interesting project in this book, but it was just a whirlwind rampage through the low self-esteem of women, and didn't offer any ...more
I have mixed feelings for this book. (Drat, I just returned it to the library so I can't look up quotes properly.) Either way, Courtney E. Martin makes it clear what subset she's looking at, while at the same time I also think that isolates a lot of people who have eating disorders or eating disordered tendencies. While it could stem from control, not everybody has the opportunities as Martin did growing up. Even her attempts to show it showed socioeconomic and racial lines seemed delegated to o ...more
I applaud Martin for writing about this topic and for following her urge to talk about eating disorders so that they will stop consuming young women. However, there was a lot missing from this book. I agree with Martin that while our mothers' generation felt the pressure to be "good girls", our generation feels the pressure to be "perfect girls." What Martin doesn't examine is how this demand to be perfect is a result of a thoroughly narcissistic society.
I feel like Martin was trying to talk ab
Elevate Difference
Who doesn’t want to be perfect? We’re bombarded by images of perfection every day. Mothers are expected to work full-time, do more than their fair share of housework, volunteer for PTA fundraisers, and dazzle everyone at the local bake sale with their homemade peanut butter cookies. Our celebrities aren’t just actresses or singers anymore; now they do both, while simultaneously designing their own clothing line and serving as goodwill ambassadors to third world countries. Young girls are encoura ...more
This book is so wonderful. It focuses on the unspeakable: how much women hate their bodies. What we are ashamed of we are silent about. Courtney Martin lets it all out: how food marks us as good or bad. How exercise marks us as good or bad. How our paycheck and resume marks us as good or bad. She encourages us to stop criticizing ourselves because our disordered eating and hateful thoughts are at the worst killing us and at the least stunting our potential.

The last chapter was the most inspirin
I found this depressing and disappointing. The author relied heavily on generalizations. First she tells us that she doesn't know any women who don't spend way too much time thinking about food and how it makes them good or bad, how she doesn't know any women who aren't weighing every calorie. Maybe she needs new friends. I know we've moved away from a culture where food is the heart of the home and people pick and choose their foods for health, for flavor and for pleasure, but yes, there are ma ...more
Putting this on the "read" shelf is kind of a lie, because I only got a third of the way through before I had to stop. Apart from the prose being clunky, histrionic, and inexplicably riddled with curse words, the material itself is a hot mess.

I was expecting concise exposition peppered between groups of case studies, and, indeed, this is what the book's intro would have you believe you're going to be getting, too. But instead, I had read maybe 8 pages of 'case studies' by the time I got to page
vomititious heteronormative book on anorexia that is promoted as a book for ALL females to read. this book is only applicable to white, middle to upper class, heterosexual females. the author makes dangerous assumptions and has no credible researchers to back up what sh...e is arguing. women of color are a blip in the book. there is no information on lesbian anorectics and a whole chapter on "what men want." she uses the adjective anorexic and a noun for most of the book and transitions to the n ...more
Bonnie Samuel
I originally gave this book two stars, but I had only read about a quarter of the book before putting it down, thinking I wouldn't go back to it. I continued reading anyway, and based on the new material, had to downgrade my review to one star. The author lost me completely when I got to the part where she calls Britney Spears a "virgin-slut" before referring to her role as a mother as a "not that convincing performance". Madonna is also a "slut", Foxy Brown a "glorified video ho" and Lil' Kim i ...more
Roxanna Banana
I'm pretty sure I hated this. I thought the author was only aware of the struggles of rich white girls. She vaguely mentioned that there were young women of colour who are also beginning to struggle with body image and eating disorders. I just found it poorly written, and it was not anything new that other books haven't handled in a more realistic fashion. I would NOT recommend this.
Aug 06, 2007 Eve rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Women!
Wow. She talks about the twisted thought process of every young woman in America. (and many young men). I'm so glad she explosed the dirty secrets of many "perfect" girls. Not only do many have eating disorders, but most just look perfect and are struggling with deep issues, and self hatread.
It is apparent from the introduction that the author has no idea what she is talking about. She based her thesis on anecdotal evidence! "So I wondered, why is it that all my friends either have an eating disorder or have disordered eating?" Shut up, you eating disorder dilettante.
It was long and repetitive but glad I read it. Truly I don't think this many women hate their bodies but I'm old and could be wrong. The perfectionist connection was interesting. She the writer certainly did her homework.
This book is hard to start. The beginning made me feel like I wasn't "every woman" because I wasn't struggling with overwhelming eating disorders or a completely distorted body image. Martin uses a lot of "I" and "We"'s which make you feel like if you're not a part of that set then you're not really meant to read the words, or you're incapable of understanding/empathizing.

If you're not a part of that set, keep reading. If you are struggling with these things, there are a lot of trigger warnings
Anyone who has had an eating disorder or is close to someone who did/does should read this.
Reading the intro and the first chapter or two I had high hopes for this particular book. It started out so well. It was interrogating the thinking and behavioural processes behind disordered eating without the constraints of a background in psychology. However, what began as an interesting interrogation of the socio-cultural contributions to disordered eating and an explicit interrogation of the thinking processes quickly slipped, even including a chapter on what men find attractive in women (t ...more
Lisa Mettauer
I read about anorexia. I think it’s because ages ago when I was a nurse, an anorexic woman was admitted to my floor. She was so thin, it hurt to look at her. That was way before anorexia was widely known as a disease and we had no idea what to do with her or how to help her. How inconceivable that someone would want to starve themselves. The few days she was with us stayed with me over the years and so I’m drawn to books about it.

My latest was Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: The Striking New
I couldn't even finish this book. In fact I got to page 80 and got so sick of it that I had to stop. This book claims to stand up for girls of all backgrounds when really it talks about only straight, slim, white middle class, high achieving girls whose struggle with their self esteem stems from a need for perfection. They apparently believe being fat to be the worst thing one can possibly be (talk about privileged). Martin generalises enormously and appears to be blaming the parent's for their ...more
Hooray! I finished the book!

I was trying to write a review for this book but everything I was typing just didn't do it much justice. So I will just say this book is about how women grow up in life being two contradicting things: a perfect girl (everything must be right, especially our bodies, and right for bodies is thin) and starving daughters (we are all young inside looking for attention, filling that hole with food). It's horribly depressing at times but insightful. She interviews young wome
Jun 05, 2009 Kim rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who has any interest in the social status of women?
Shelves: non-fiction, feminism
I think most women who read this will identify with the Perfect Girl description, or at least will see their friends in it. Martin kind of generalizes that all the Perfect Girls she knows go to prestigious academic institutions (even though she uses anecdotes from various backgrounds she seems to focus on academic achievement) but in my experience that is not necessarily the case. Some readers seem to think she is trying to talk about eating disorders in general when in fact Martin is focusing o ...more
Courtney E. Martin is upper class, white and can't stop talking about herself.
...and how she hung out with "wannabe thugs" in her middle school, and went by the name, "Ghetto Booty."
There are so many "I's" and "We's" at the beginning of her sentences it drove me nearly over the brink.
As I was reading her book, I kept wondering, "Why didn't she just write her own autobiography?" And then I realized that if this were book were in the autobiography section, and wasn't supposed to be about 'third
*Tapping into the hunger for life*

Despite the author being in her mid-twenties---no, *because* the author is in her mid-twenties---this book provides a hard-hitting and authentic look at the struggles of a generation of girls who have been encouraged by others to be anything, yet have pushed themselves to be everything. Filled with the wisdom (and language) that can only be known and passed on by one who has grown up in a culture bursting with eating disorders and food/fitness fanaticism, Perfe
The underlying message of the book is a positive one. Women need to stop pressuring each other into unhealthy behavior; they should be more open, accepting, and less judgemental. A number of girls and young women from different socioeconomic and racial backgrounds are feeling pressure to be thin. The desire to be thin is linked to the desire to be perfect; a desire born out of the last wave of super-woman feminism. We are not recognizing milder forms of unhealthy behavior. We need to talk about ...more
Lauren Klinger
Dec 27, 2007 Lauren Klinger rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: men who want to understand women and girls' body issues and fellow feministas
I heart Courtenay E. Martin and the other girls who blog on

PG,SDs is a good book but not a great book. Martin's main point is that our generation of girls is obsessed with their bodies partly because of pressure put on them by feminist mothers. Its definitely an interesting theory.

Martin relies extensively on stories of girls and women from the interviews she's conducted -- they are really interesting.

My only complaints were:
The stories sometimes seem truncated or spastic -- l
Lisbeth Solberg
Not sure if Martin's insights on eating disorders and eating near-disorders are all that new, and I wasn't crazy about her writing style, but she does assemble in one place numerous personal stories and quotations on a compelling subject. I think she misses the point slightly: it isn't just the curse of unreasonable expectations or perfectionism that haunts women--and men, too, more and more--but the omnipresent hidden camera we internalize from so much media. Has there ever been a culture so pr ...more
Aug 18, 2009 andrea rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to andrea by: Women and Children's First Intergenerational Feminist Book Club.
Three and a half stars, really.

It was difficult to separate my own blinding frustration with the issues discussed from the book itself. This is less the author's fault and more reflective of how much I've read up on the topic of body image in past few years. The "perfect girl/starving daughter" metaphor is somewhat overplayed. It's an apt way of describing the internal dichotomy so many young women struggle with in modern times, but, by the eight reference, the repetition became overkill.

A frequ
I wanted to like this book…and I did really enjoy many chunks of it. I think I was waiting for the: Here is what you can do to start improving your own self image and here are things we need to change to help the next generation build a positive self image from the get-go. That just never really happened.
I think a great number of Martin’s points are excellent. The world is full of women who are not satisfied with their bodies and it is accepted that we NEVER should be…we should always be wishin
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Courtney E. Martin is a writer, teacher, and speaker, living in Brooklyn.

She is a widely sought-after speaker, having spoken at over 50 colleges, universities, and institutions over the past few years. Courtney has also been on Good Morning America, the TODAY Show, the O’Reilly Factor, CNN, and MSNBC, among other major media outlets. She was in the final three for the Washington Post’s Next Great
More about Courtney E. Martin...
Click: When We Knew We Were Feminists Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists The Naked Truth: Young, Beautiful, and (HIV) Positive We Don't Need Another Wave: Dispatches from the Next Generation of Feminists Ballots for Belva: The True Story of a Woman's Race for the Presidency

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“We are a generation of young women who were told we could do anything and instead heard that we had to be everything.” 33 likes
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