High school and university students are suffering from unprecedented levels of anxiety, and anyone raising teenagers these days knows they're coping with huge amounts of stress. This goes double for girls, who have what Rachel Simmons calls "role overload" in her book Enough as She Is: How to Help Girls Move Beyond Impossible Standards of Success to Live Healthy, Happy and Fulfilling Lives. Girls have to be smart and beautiful and athletic and ... they have to look as though playing all these roles takes no effort at all.
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Last October, Alice Paul Tapper, a Year 5 student in Washington, DC, wrote an op-ed in The New York Times that had women of all ages nodding in solidarity. On a Year 4 trip, Tapper noticed that "all the boys stood in the front and raised their hands while most of the girls politely stayed in the back and were quiet". That made her upset.
You're not just imagining it. Girls are starting to think about their ideal body at an earlier age. In her book Beauty Sick: How the Cultural Obsession with Appearance Hurts Girls and Women, psychology researcher Renee Engeln cites the infuriating data: Thirty-four per cent of five-year-old girls deliberately restrict what they eat at least "sometimes". And 28 per cent of these girls say they want their bodies to look like the women in films and on TV.