Elevate Difference's Reviews > Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: The Frightening New Normalcy of Hating Your Body

Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters by Courtney E. Martin
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Jan 10, 2009

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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 encouraged to get straight A’s, serve as student council president, play on the tennis team, and get perfect SAT scores. And every one of us is supposed to achieve these feats effortlessly, moving gracefully through life in stiletto heels and a perfect size six dress. According to Courtney E. Martin, author of Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: How the Quest for Perfection is Harming Young Women, these expectations—whether they are from young girls' parents, from the media, or self-inflicted—have created a breeding ground for eating disorders among young women in America.

Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters postulates that it is our obsession with perfection that creates an environment where disordered eating habits thrive. As Martin states: “The body is the perfect battleground for perfect-girl tendencies because it is tangible, measurable, obvious. It takes four long years to see 'summa cum laude' etched across our college diplomas, but stepping on a scale can instantly tell us whether we have succeeded or failed.” Women are striving for perfection on the scale because they think that’s a more attainable goal than being perfect in every other aspect of their lives. It’s the one thing they can completely control.

The book is told through interviews with hundreds of women and young girls from a variety of backgrounds and is laced with the author’s own flirtation with disordered eating and the observations of her friends and classmates. Surprisingly addictive and easy-to-read, Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters never comes across as self-righteous or preachy and, instead, clues the reader in to the subtle ways that women everywhere are judged based on the way they look.

We all need to find a way to strive for something a little less impossible than perfection. While Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters doesn’t have all the answers, it deals smartly with the realities facing young women today, without stigmatizing disordered eating as “shameful” or “embarrassing.”

Review by Jen Johnson
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Reading Progress

January 10, 2009 – Shelved
Started Reading
January 11, 2009 – Finished Reading

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