Monday, May 13, 2013

Girl Land, by Caitlin Flanagan. Reagan Arthur Books, 2013

Girl Land is not a place that exists in physical space; it’s a place in time. Girl Land is the time between childhood and womanhood, when girls turn inward, write in diaries, and dream of romance. Teen girls need protection during this time; protection from the cruel world, from boys, from the internet. They need a strong father in their lives to provide this protection, yet divorce makes it common that a girl grows up without her father present in the house to protect her from boys. Modern life is destroying Girl Land. Rather than turning inward and writing in a diary, the modern teenage girl is posting her every mood and deed onto Twitter and Facebook. Worse, she is giving oral sex to boys and thinking she is still a virgin. Refusing to allow the girl internet access in her bedroom is the best gift the parents can give her, because this will protect her from the cold, cruel world.

I found Flanagan’s stand rather at odds with modern thought. Rather than teaching girls to be strong and independent, she wants them to rely on their fathers to protect them. Now don’t get me wrong; I’m all for keeping both parents present in the girl’s life! But I don’t feel that having the father absent from the dwelling is necessarily worse for girls than it is for boys, and I don’t feel that the couple has to be heterosexual to raise a healthy girl. Nor do I think that denying ‘net access in the privacy of a girl’s bedroom will keep her from seeing the wrong things; most modern phones will allow her to see all the wrong places anyway.

I just don’t think that putting a teenage girl in a cocoon is the best way to prepare her for adult life. If going through adolescence is as traumatic as Flanagan says it is, girls need to be given the tools to deal with it, not hidden in fluffy pink womb. Oddly, given that she has sons, the author ignores teenaged boys in this world. Shouldn’t boys be brought up to respect girls and not rape, rather than laying the burden of avoiding rape on the girls? There is something very old fashioned in this book’s message, and I don’t mean that in the good way. 

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