Girls on the Edge: The Four Factors Driving the New Crisis for Girls

From Sax’s introduction to this book: “Early on I began to understand that girls are not the winners in this story. Both the girls and boys are disadvantaged, but they’re disadvantaged in different ways. More and more boys are developing an epicurean ability to enjoy themselves – they enjoy video games, pornography, food, and sleep – but they often don’t have the drive and motivation to succeed in the real world outside their bedroom. More and more of their sisters have that drive and motivation in abundance – but they don’t know how to relax, how to have fun and enjoy life. For many of these girls, each accomplishment is only a stepping-stone to the next goal. “

Our culture is pushing girls to present themselves sexually at earlier ages than ever before. But girls really crave a relationship. The Twilight series of romance novels for girls has the main character, Bella, falling in love but not getting involved in anything sexual and saving herself for marriage in book 4. This series had a much greater appeal to teen girls than would have been expected – maybe girls really desire the genuine relationship. What girls wear dramatically affects their academic performance according to studies done – skimpy clothes cause them to be more self-conscious and focus on the boys’ reactions. He touches on the problem of our society pushing girls toward lesbianism. He ends with a Bible quote from Song of Solomon – “Don’t awaken love before its time.”

Chapter two is about the complex questions raised by texting, instant messaging, and the growing proportion of girls who are obsessed with social networking sites. While these girls get hyper-connected with peers, they are disconnecting from themselves. The self they promote on Facebook profile and other media is not the real them – it is a persona carefully crafted to be “cool.” She begins writing blogs that do not express who she really is but will entertain her peers and get her lots of “likes” or comments. The “skills” developed in blogging and social networking do NOT translate to better work-place and adult life skills, and actually drain away many hours that could be better invested reading books. Girls get proficient at texting but then find they can’t pursue a relationship in person (boys have the same problem). Many girls are not getting enough sleep as they invest hours on social network, school work, texting, etc. then turn to ADHD medications and caffeinated drinks. He touches on malicious bullying with technology and the problem on sexting. His solution — more sleep and parental control of computers, phones, and electronic communication devices.

Many girls become obsessive about athletics, academics, or appearance to the point that it becomes destructive. Even a good thing, like wanting good grades, can become an obsession. Others turn to alcohol, drugs, anorexia, cutting, and other harmful outlets to deal with the dissatisfaction and stress in their lives.
He touches in chapter four about environmental toxins that may be affecting girls in a very different way than their brothers. The chemicals in many plastics is causing girls to enter puberty at earlier ages, which results in a sexualization that they are not mature enough to deal with. It also tends to leads to obesity. He gives some practical advice about how to live in the 21st century and cautiously avoid plastics when possible. The chapter ends with the assertion that if a girl lives at home with her biological Dad she will enter puberty later than girls who don’t live with Dad and backs up that claim with results of some recently studies.
The last three chapters focus on helping girls develop their spirituality and become part of a group with women influencing them, not just peers and boys. He advances the idea again of single-sex schools instead of the coed model so common in the US explaining the many advantages. He touches on how to deal with “mean girls” and have girls get along. The next chapter is about how the exercise and sports for girls needs to be very different from that of boys – definitely NOT coed PE.

Chapter 7 is about how girls are spiritual by nature and should be encouraged to pray, meditate, read the Bible (or other religious books) and get well grounded. Being part of a church that imparts traditional moral teaching has been proven to prevent girls from many of the dangers of society, peer pressure, and depression. These girls are happier, better adjusted, and able to accept the disappointments that are inevitable and hurt. Mr. Sax is not promoting organized religion or a relationship with Jesus – he suggests that yoga or a back-packing trip in nature can be just as beneficial! He also includes a section recommending that mature women (not just peers) be involved in the process of making girls into ladies – he suggests that churches, girl scouts, all-girl schools, and knitting circles can help with this.

In conclusion, I am struck by how many of the problems teen girls have today could be solved or mitigated by parents being actively involved in setting limits and by being an active part of a Bible preaching church with adults who set good examples and lay out good teaching for the girls.