Cassandra's Reviews > Girl Land

Girl Land by Caitlin Flanagan
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Feb 07, 12

Read in February, 2012

A few years ago, I was about 24 at the time, I was walking on Lexington Avenue near 85th St, in the middle of the day. I over heard the teenage boy in front of me (couldn't have been more than 14) call the teenage girl next to him several names, including ho,bitch etc. What did she do? Shrug! I was stunned. Needless to say, I stopped the young "gentlemen" asked him to repeat himself and when he refused, told him he may never call women those names again ever! I then turned to the young "lady" and told her to never to let anyone treat her with such disrepect ever again. Ironically, when I was 14 - just a decade older than this young woman - no boy or man could have gotten away with treating me or any of my friends or school mates that way. It was done - but none of us stood for it. Even the girls desperate for attention, would walk away.

I mention this story because I just finished Girl Land and the author Caitlin Flangan describes as a whole what my story is a microcsom of: the brain washing of young women to believe they are valueless.

Needless to say, I found the book intriguing.

I enjoyed Ms. Flanagan's discussion of young women and the "oral sex" trend of the mid 2000s. (Dr. Phil really is a sick jerk.)

Her discussions about dating and coming of age brought clarity to my own girl-to-grown up phases. Some reviewers take issue with Ms. Flanagan's comments about girls growing up with out fathers. Being the daughter of a single mother with no father figure, I was the object of unwanted attention. It wasn't until my mother's boyfriend interceded on my behalf that I was left alone.

Ms. Flanagan's arguments on why the theory that women reach their sexual peak in their mid 30s (while men reach theirs in their late teens) is outright wrong made a lot of sense. The chapter on Proms is entertaining ... I never went to mine for many of the reasons cited by Ms. Flanagan. Separately, why are teenage girls not allowed to pursue their sexual desires? Why are women charged with keeping men's desires in check? Intriguing questions, whose answers I took for granted. Now, I am not so sure ...

I recently advised my 14-year old female mentee to save sex (oral, genital etc) for when she is older, ie (a)in love, and (b) both mentally and physically prepaired for the consequences (and not just STDs and Babies). I didn't try to scare her. I didn't predict dire consequences or depreciation of her pesonal value. Instead I advocated treating herself with respect and giving herself the time to arrive mentally at a place where both A and B are realities.

Given my advice, she will probably be old enough to have her own health insurance before she has sex for the first time. And, that is not a bad thing.

All joking aside, has Ms. Flanagan's book caused me to change this advice? No.

I applaud (and stand for) a women's right to choose how and what she wants to do with her body. However, I believe society has devalued women, especially young women. To a large extent, Flanagan makes this same argument.

So, what is Girl Land? It appears to be a place where young women are protected and allowed to develop on their own terms free from society's interference. Reminds me of The Red Tent concept - a place for girls and young women to inquire, ask questions, reflect and mature at their own rate.

Should we bring back Girl Land? It appears Flanagan believes so as it will give women an opportunity to mature into the fully realized sexual beings that we are.

Is this practical? I don't know. Is it a necessity? Given society's current treatment of women, and young women's accepatance of it (see example above), YES! I think we start by teaching our daughters to value themselves for themselves.
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