The Good Girl Revolution


FAQ

Why did you write this book?

I wanted to showcase a new generation of role models beyond Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, to get people thinking about--and talking about--girls who represent something deeper. There are so many amazing young women out there, but all you usually see in the media is the exhibitionists.

Why don't we hear more about these girls?

Well, people tend to think goodness is boring, they misunderstand what the good girl is about. So I wanted to challenge people's preconceptions about the good girl and say: "She's not who you assume." The girls I profile in this book are very outspoken; they're not demure or mild at all. Society assumes they are but in fact, as their individual stories show, these girls are the real rebels.

What's wrong with the exhibitionists? Don't you think women should express their sexuality?

Some of my best friends are exhibitionists, actually. This book is definitely not meant to be a personal attack on them. The problem is that if we only focus on one narrow notion of empowerment--taking your clothes off in public, being casual about sex, that sort of wildness--then girls don't have real choices. We have to allow for another idea of empowerment, and I wanted to detail what that looks like, so girls would have an alternative ideal to aspire to.

Lots of sex-ed curricula today teach "you can wait until you're ready." Isn't that an alternative?

If an adult pats a girl on the head and says, "There, there--you don't have to have sex if you're immature and you're not ready yet," that's not a viable alternative. That's an insult.

What would be a real alternative?

First we have to collapse this false dichotomy we've set up, between the sexually experienced girl who has feelings, and the inexperienced girl who is a prude and repressed. This dichotomy doesn't capture the experience of most young women--nor men for that matter. We have to allow for young people who are mature, have feelings, and yet want to wait until marriage and find that one special person to bond with and commit to.

What do you think is the future of these girls you write about, and how do you know that they're really going to change society?

I tried to confine myself to the facts in this book, to stick to reporting and letting the girls I interviewed speak for themselves. For example, I did cover the Harvard Business Review's prediction that sex won't sell as much with young people today--businesses could provoke outright bans of their products if they don't understand this, the Review pointed out. But I quoted this in the context of a ban that was actually happening: the "Girlcott Girls'" campaign against Abercrombie & Fitch. These young women are already changing society.

But how can we know that this trend will continue?

We don't--the future depends on my readers. The more we smirk at the good girl, the more girls will behave in ways they are deeply uncomfortable with, just to fit in. But if we can get over our preconceptions about these girls, and expand our notion of empowerment to include them, then, yes, I believe society could really change. These girls are already out there--we just have to appreciate them, and their ranks will increase.

Why did you change the title for the paperback?

I think it's significant that much of my support has come from high school and college students, whereas my critics tend to be older and tend to pre-judge these girls without even hearing their stories first. What I've realized is that we need a revolution in the way we approach these issues: a new vocabulary and a new concept of female empowerment. Fortunately, the beginnings of one is already underway. 

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Notable and Quotable

"The steamy days of Washington summer may be upon us, but these girls, all from Burke, were definitely not getting skimpy. For a generation bombarded with news of pantyless celebrities, most of the girls we interviewed were surprisingly modest, more Hilary Duff than Lindsay Lohan."

-- Ylan Q. Mui, 'It's Not Just Parents Saying No to Skimpy Clothes,' Washington Post, June 4, '07