Packaging Girlhood Rescuing Our Daughters from Marketers' Schemes

Sharon Lamb, Ed.D., and Lyn Mikel Brown, Ed.D.

St. Martin's Griffin



Trade Paperback

336 Pages



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Winner of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society's Books for a Better Life Award

The image of girls and girlhood that is being packaged and sold to your daughter isn't pretty in pink. It is stereotypical, demeaning, limiting, and alarming. Girl Power has been co-opted by marketers of music, fashion, books, and television to mean the power to shop and attract boys. Girls are besieged by images in the media that encourage them to pursue accessories over academics; sex appeal over sports; fashion over friendship. These stereotypes are everywhere, from Disney movies to hip-hop lyrics, Nickelodeon cartoons to Seventeen magazine.

Little girls are portrayed as "perfect little angels," sometimes with a sassy twist; elementary school-age girls are boy-crazy "tweens," ready to buy into a version of mini-teendom that eclipses the wonderful years of childhood that truly belong to them; middle-school girls are cast as full-fledged teenagers, or at least teenage wannabes, eager to conform to that CosmoGIRL! lifestyle. And high school girls? They are sold an image of the sexually free model-diva-rock-star that the younger girls are supposed to look up to.

Packaging Girlhood exposes these stereotypes and the very limited choices presented to girls of who or what they can be. Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown give guidance on how to talk with young girls about these negative images and provides with the tools and information needed to help girls make more positive choices about the way they define themselves in the real world.


Praise for Packaging Girlhood

"Packaging Girlhood is a must-read for anyone who cares about the health and well-being of girls. It exposes the marketing industry's assault on preteens and is filled with helpful suggestions for beleaguered parents."—Susan Linn, associate director of the Media Center at Judge Baker Children's Center and instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School

"Parents constantly complain that they have only a small shovel to hold back the avalanche of products and messages that erode children's resilience and sap their self-esteem. Now they have this book. Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown's sharp analysis and patiently pragmatic advice is just what we need to sustain our daughters' quests for healthy identities."—Michael Kimmel, author of Manhood in America and professor at SUNY-Stony Brook

"Be prepared to be shocked and saddened as you come to see the world of sex, shopping, media, body fat, and self-esteem through the wide eyes of today's American girls. Be prepared, also, to find invaluable guidance and insight from authors Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown, who know our daughters from the inside out. This is a must-read for parents and teachers who want to steer girls away from marketing schemes that distort female power and authority and toward true self-acceptance and authentic empowerment."—Polly Young-Eisendrath, author of Women and Desire and The Resilient Spirit

"Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown have that rare gift of translating cutting-edge research and analysis into strategies and information that every parent (and every girl) can use in daily life. In Packaging Girlhood, they provide solid ways for families to help girls stay rooted in reality while buffeted by the powerful winds of commercialism. In the process, we parents learn more than a little about staying rooted in reality ourselves. This is the kind of guidance that families need, especially if they think they are immune from marketers' schemes."—Joe Kelly, president of Dads and Daughters (DADs)

"With compassion, insight, and humor [Lamb and Brown] unravel and demystify the messages girls confront throughout their development, and they offer adults useful tools to help girls resist their powerful pull. Packaging Girlhood is filled with useful information and practical suggestions for adults wishing to help girls critique and rewrite consumer culture's narrow and toxic portrayals of girls. Never judgmental and always illuminating, Packaging Girlhood reflects Lamb and Brown's deep respect for girls and their firsthand understanding of the dilemmas of parenting."—Lynn M. Phillips, Ph.D., Department of Communications, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

"A tour de force of excellent scholarship put in a very readable context and chockful of practical suggestions for parents for change! In Packaging Girlhood, Lamb and Brown expose the manner in which our daughters, whom we believed had been newly reinforced with 'girl power,' actually remain enslaved in the gender straitjacket of narrow and distorted messages about what being a 'real girl' or young adult female is all about. A must-read for anyone who teaches, works with, or wishes to support girls (from tots to teens) in our society and for every parent of a daughter who wants to give her child a legacy of meaningful possibilities instead of a prepackaged world of inhibiting stereotypes."—William S. Pollack, Ph.D., author of Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood

"That girls are overwhelmed by images of princesses, demure femininity and pink, pink, pink is no surprise. What is shocking, as Lamb and Brown so astutely demonstrate, is the downright bombardment girls receive, coming from all forms of media. Lamb and Brown, both psychologists, came to harsh conclusions after they surveyed girls; sat through hours of Rugrats and Kim Possible television programming; scoured stores such as Hot Topic and Claire's; watched Hilary Duff movies; listened to Eminem and Beyoncé; visited; and read Caldecott books. The idea of 'girl power was snapped up by the media,' and 'what it sells is an image of being empowered,' argue the authors. Girls are offered two choices by the marketers: they are 'either for the boys or one of the boys.' Even rebellion is being packaged, 'the resistance, that edginess and irreverence that once gave girls a pathway out of the magic kingdom.' The book is incredibly readable and rises above others in the genre by giving parents concrete tools to help battle stereotypes. Lamb and Brown include lists of books and movies with positive role models and talking points to help your daughter recognize how she is being manipulated. The authors aren't trying to deny anyone princesses or pink; they just want girls to be knowledgeable enough to choose what will truly interest them."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

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  • Sharon Lamb, Ed.D., and Lyn Mikel Brown, Ed.D.

  • Sharon Lamb is professor of psychology at Saint Michael's College in Vermont and the author of four books, including The Secret Lives of Girls. Her research on girls' development, teenagers and sex, and abuse and victimization is widely cited. As a clinical psychologist, she often works with girls, listening to their struggles and hearing their strengths, in her private practice in Shelburne, Vermont.

    Lyn Mikel Brown, professor of education and human development at Colby College in Maine, is the author of three books on girls' development, including Meeting at the Crossroads: Women's Psychology and Girls' Development (with Carol Gilligan). She creates programs for girls at her nonprofit organization, Hardy Girls Healthy Women (

  • Lyn Mikel Brown Ed.D.




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