Down from the Pedestal

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9780385469951: Down from the Pedestal

Explores our culture's idealized images of women, showing how they help determine how women lead their lives and offering alternate themes for life's stages that help break down these confining idealized sterotypes

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From Kirkus Reviews:

A partially successful exploration of the stereotypical images and overriding themes through which many women live their lives. The idea that girls and women learn to fit themselves into idealized images is not new, although the images and their effects vary from generation to generation. Some images, says clinical psychologist Harris (Sisters of the Shadow, 1991--not reviewed), are transient--those of the ``Flapper,'' the ``Cheerleader,'' and Marabel Morgan's ``Total Woman,'' for instance--but others sink their roots deeper into myth. Reflected in fairy tales, the ``Dutiful Daughter,'' the ``Selfless Mother,'' and the ``Wise Old Woman'' are all roles offered to women at various stages in their lives. Harris agrees with Simone de Beauvoir that it's more difficult to separate from these positive images than from pictures of women as ``Whore,'' ``Devouring Mother,'' or ``Witch.'' Here, discussions and case histories of women trapped by such images precede the liberating concept that women's lives are guided by themes. For the young woman, Harris says, primary themes are exploration of self and of the world that awaits her. For women in midlife, the most important themes involve nurturing and creativity, while for older women, integration and perspective take precedence. Whether a young woman chooses to drop out of school and have babies or to pursue college, travel, and a high-powered career, she's exploring her world and the options available to her. In the same fashion, whether a midlife woman chooses car-pooling or stock-brokering, she's nurturing either children or clients. The transition to the last stage may be the most difficult, the author contends, because there are fewer role models and because older women tend to become invisible. One solution to the crossover: a ``croning'' ceremony to be celebrated on the 56th birthday--the age when, Harris says, a woman officially becomes a ``crone.'' Harris's discussion of female role-playing is overly familiar, but her intriguing look at ``the themes of a woman's life'' proves fresh and insightful. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Library Journal:

According to psychologist Harris ( Sisters of the Shadow, Univ. of Oklahoma Pr., 1991), archetypes such as the Eternal Girl, the Dutiful Daughter, the Super Mom, and the Sweet Old Lady are inconsistent with the modern female experience, yet they continue to entrap women because women still hold out the promise of affection and approval from significant others and the culture at large. Harris describes 15 of these insidious ideals, each specific to a particular period in a woman's life; her accounts of interviews with 70 people illustrate how adherence to an archetype can create crises during times of transition. The second half of the book explores themes of living, which Harris finds more useful for providing cohesion and integrity in women's lives. Unfortunately, some of the material is repetitive, and some of her examples seem contrived, but the book is readable and will doubtless prove enlightening for some people. Recommended for larger public and academic collections.
- Beverly Miller, Boise State Univ. Lib., Id.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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