sarah

The Girl Within: 2

The Girl Within: 2 - Emily Hancock I was mostly confused by this book until the first paragraph of the summary chapter, which says:This book holds a bold idea: that the real fertilization of the female is held in coming back to the girl she is in the first place -- rather than in the penetration of the male. A woman's ability to sustain the original self without abandoning her girlhood essence to proscriptive patterns of womanhood rests on her ability to counter fairy-tale notions in which young girls on the verge of womanhood fall unconscious only to be awakened by a prince. Preserving the original identity of girlhood and expanding it in adult life also requires guarding against the exploitation of "female" obligation, fending off a takeover of womanly selflessness that, when cut away from a commitment to the self, impedes development. Likewise, protecting the original self and sustaining its authority involves resisting female subordination to demeaning tasks that distort womanly identity.This paragraph summarizes the book's argument nicely. Unfortunately, the rest of the book didn't, in my opinion, support the argument very well.My main problem with this book is that it is posing a new model of female development to replace the one developed by Freud and expanded by contrasting female development to male development as described by Erikson. Unfortunately for me, this means she is replacing a model that in my opinion is supported by very little evidence with another which is supported by even less evidence. So, if you already think that Freud did a good job of describing human psychology based on his highly biased interviews with his Victorian Viennese patients, you might credit that someone could describe how each woman must find her own identity through reconnecting with herself as a pre-adolescent based on interviews with less than 100 adult women in 1980s New England. Personally, I need a LOT more science in my science.My other problem with this book is that the argument wasn't convincing. Each of these women went through a period of weak self-identity during her teens and twenties, and eventually came to know herself again in her thirties or forties. The author asks them about this process and asks them about their childhood, and then concludes that they drew on their girlhood selves to become their adult selves. It's a nice story, but a simpler explanation is that a stronger understanding of one's self is part of the ongoing maturation process and is a natural part of ageing. The book doesn't rule this out and doesn't explain why the inner child explanation is better.Finally, on a personal note, I didn't find I had much in common with the subjects in Hancock's work, and I couldn't find this pattern in myself at all. I enjoyed reflecting on my own maturation and trying to fit myself into this pattern, but it just wasn't true for me. I also found several of the book's ideas, such as that it's common for a woman to enter into marriage in order to have an identity imposed upon her, might have been truer for previous generations than they are now. Most of the people I know didn't marry until they were more certain of their own identities. To marry when you don't know yourself seems to me to be an obvious mistake, and I don't know anyone who has made it in my generation. But that could be a coincidence of who I am friends with, and I could be wrong on this point.I read this book hoping to find some insight on the rocky years between girlhood happiness and adult happiness so that I could understand my daughter a bit better when she goes through her teenage years, and maybe even help her hold onto her identity as she ages. No luck. Although the author has made a work of academic psychological theory accessible to a general audience, this book is clearly aimed at those looking backward, not forward.