I recently bought "Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: The Frightening New Normalcy of Hating Your Body" by Courtney E. Martin. I don't know if the Houston Public Library got rid of it, or if it was stolen - I'm just really jazzed about the fact that I picked it up at Powell's for only five dollars.
Some of the topics include: perfectionism and how it relates to eating disorders; how our relationship with our mother and father affects our body image; sex and attraction; the media and popular culture; diets, plastic surgery and extreme makeovers; the "obesity epidemic"; athletic obsession in middle-school, high-school, and college; eating disorders on college campuses; post-college disappointment; spirituality; and more.
There were a lot of things that I really loved about this book, which is why I decided to write my first-ever book review. Don't worry, I'm not planning on quitting my day job.
It was really refreshing to find a book about the 20-something generation's obsession with food, fitness, thinness, and perfection. I thoroughly enjoyed reading a younger woman's perspective about eating disorders. The book was written using conversational and easy-to-understand language. It never felt too dense to comprehend and enjoy. Throughout PGSD, Martin weaves in anecdotes from her own life, as well as from girls and women she interviewed for the book. I felt that these stories and conversations make the epidemic of eating disorders and self-hatred feel more personal.
PGSD is a great tool in understanding the pressure that American women face to be "effortlessly perfect." Martin highlights the extreme link between perfectionism and how it leads to eating disorders and negative body image, declaring: "Our bodies are the places where our drive for perfection gets played out." One of the most important reoccurring themes in PGSD is also included in the title - the frightening normalcy of hating your body. Martin exposes many different aspects of mainstream media and American culture that encourage women to hate their bodies, to never be content or satisfied with how they look.
Although I really enjoyed PGSD, there were some things that could have been better. Martin's lens is that of a White, well-educated, privileged, middle-class, heterosexual young woman. This is evidenced not only by her personal anecdotes, but also by some of her perspectives. Chapter Seven is titled "What Men Want: The Truth About Attraction, Porn, and the Pursuit." This chapter touches briefly on the pressures that men face, and how this causes negative body image and eating disorders in men. However, it really focuses on what men find attractive in women. Sure, there are some "sweet" quotes about how men really value a good sense of humor and confidence - but even these still reinforce the pervasive idea that a woman's worth lies in whether or not a man will find her attractive. My biggest complaint with Chapter Seven is the heterosexism displayed; it is written for a straight, female audience.
PGSD can definitely be triggering for those who have experience disordered eating or negative body image; be sure to practice self-care while reading it.
Overall, I thought that "Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters" was a fantastic book. It offered a fresh, new perspective on perfectionism, negative body-image and eating disorders. Throughout the book, there were some real gems in the forms of quotes and thought-provoking questions. Martin advises in her conclusion that "We must raise our consciousness through raw conversation. We must talk about how bad it really is in order to get better. We must admit we are not invincible."