Reviving Ophelia

Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls

Mary Pipher - Author

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ISBN 9781594481888 | 312 pages | 01 Aug 2005 | Riverhead | 5.51 x 8.22in | 18 - AND UP
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"An important book... Pipher shines high-beam headlights on the world of teenage girls." -Los Angeles Times

The phenomenal #1 New York Times bestseller. More than 1.5 million copies sold. Now available from Riverhead.

This is the groundbreaking work that poses one of the most provocative questions of a generation: Why are American adolescent girls falling prey to depression, eating disorders, suicide attempts, and dangerously low self-esteem? Dr. Pipher posits that it's America's sexist, look-obsessed "girl-poisoning" culture-one in which girls are constantly struggling to find their true selves. In Reviving Ophelia, these girls' uncensored voices are heard from the front lines of adolescence. Personal and painfully honest, this is a compassionate call to arms, offering strategies with which to revive these Ophelias' lost senses of self.


Reviving Ophelia is my attempt to understand my experiences in therapy with adolescent girls. Many girls come into therapy with serious, even life-threatening problems, such as anorexia or the desire to physically hurt or kill themselves. Others have problems less dangerous but still more puzzling, such as school refusal, underachievement, moodiness, or constant discord with their parents. Many are victims of sexual violence.

As I talked to these girls, I became aware of how little I really understood the world of adolescent girls today. It didn't work to use my own adolescent experience from the early 1960s to make generalizations. Girls were living in a whole new world....

Even in our small city with its mostly middle-class population, girls often experienced trauma. How could we help girls heal from that trauma? And what could we do to prevent it?

This last year I have struggled to make sense of this. Why are girls having more trouble now than my friends and I had when we were adolescents? Many of us hated our adolescent years, yet for the most part we weren't suicidal and we didn't develop eating disorders, cut ourselves, or run away from home....

But girls today are much more oppressed. They are coming of age in a more dangerous, sexualized, and media-saturated culture. They face incredible pressures to be beautiful and sophisticated, which in junior high means using chemicals and being sexual. As they navigate a more dangerous world, girls are less protected.

As I looked at the culture that girls enter as they come of age, I was struck by what a girl-poisoning culture it was. The more I looked around, the more I listened to today'smusic, watched television and movies and looked at sexist advertising, the more convinced I became that we are on the wrong path with our daughters. America today limits girls' development, truncates their wholeness, and leaves many of them traumatized....

What can we do to help them? We can strengthen girls so that they will be ready. We can encourage emotional toughness and self-protection. We can support and guide them. But most important, we can change our culture. We can work together to build a culture that is less complicated and more nurturing, less violent and sexualized and more growth-producing. Our daughters deserve a society in which all their gifts can be developed and appreciated. I hope this book fosters a debate on how we can build that society for them.

Preface ..... 11
Chapter 1: Saplings in the Storm ..... 17
Chapter 2: Theoretical Issues - For Your Own Good ..... 29
Chapter 3: Developmental Issues - "I'm Not Waving, I'm Drowning" ..... 45
Chapter 4: Families - The Root Systems ..... 74
Chapter 5: Mothers ..... 101
Chapter 6: Fathers ..... 115
Chapter 7: Divorce ..... 131
Chapter 8: Within the Hurricane - Depression ..... 146
Chapter 9: Worshiping the Gods of Thinness ..... 166
Chapter 10: Drugs and Alcohol - If Ophelia Were Alive Today ..... 186
Chapter 11: Sex and Violence ..... 203
Chapter 12: Then and Now ..... 232
Chapter 13: What I've Learned from Listening ..... 248
Chapter 14: Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom ..... 260
Chapter 15: A Fence at the Top of the Hill ..... 282
Recommended Reading ..... 295
Index ..... 297
“An important book…Pipher shines high-beam headlights on the world of teenage girls.”
Los Angeles Times

“A must-read for all of us who care about young women in our lives…Reviving Ophelia arms us with information we can use in helping our daughters grow to adulthood with their strength intact.”
Lincoln Star Journal

“Pipher is an eloquent advocate…[she] offers concrete suggestions for ways by which girls can build and maintain a strong sense of self.”
Publishers Weekly 

“Serious and thoughtful material presented with the fluidity of good fiction.”
Kirkus Reviews

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