Courtney Martin makes an interesting argument about the phenomenon she calls The Paradox of the Perfect Girl. It’s the result of the recent upsurge of girls outperforming boys academically:
The perfect girl is everywhere. She is your niece, your daughter, your friend’s genius kid. She is the girl who makes the valedictorian speech at your son’s graduation and the type-A class president in the skimpy black dress that he brings to the prom. The perfect girl is thin and hungry, not for food, but for honors, awards, scholarships, recognition. The Princeton Review book is the perfect girl’s bible. Her appointment book, even at 14, is filled morning to night with scheduled activities. She speaks three languages. She has five varsity letters. She never stops to breathe. She is voted most likely to succeed. She knows she will because she devotes every last iota of her energy, and then some, into achieving.
Far from being an advantage, Martin claims the phenomenon is harmful:
My friends and I were accomplished, no doubt. We were also horribly unhealthy. Theresa Foy DiGeronimo and Richard D. Kadison describe “a steady and alarming rise in the severity of student’s mental health problems” in their new book “The College of the Overwhelmed.” In 2000, almost seven percent of college students reported experiencing anxiety disorders within the past year. Women are five times as likely to have anxiety disorders. Eating disorders affect 5-10 million women with the highest rates occurring in college-aged women. According to the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12.3 percent of women ages 18-24 report frequent mental distress. According to a recent UCLA survey, 38 percent of college women report feeling frequently overwhelmed.
The solution, according to Martin, is to learn something from the boys and scale back this desire for achievement. While the argument is appealing, I have one question for Martin (and it’s an honest question): would you give up your own achievements — most notably, your contract to write a book about this very phenomenon — to attain this more balanced approach to life?
(via Rebecca Blood)