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Raising Their Voices

Raising Their Voices

The Politics of Girls’ Anger

Lyn Mikel Brown

ISBN 9780674747210

Publication date: 10/01/1999

Two fourteen-year-old girls, fed up with the "Hooters" shirts worn by their male classmates, design their own rooster logo: "Cocks: Nothing to crow about." Seventeen-year-old April Schuldt, unmarried, pregnant, and cheated out of her election as homecoming queen by squeamish school administrators, disrupts a pep rally with a protest that engages the whole school.

Where are spirited girls like these in the popular accounts of teenage girlhood, that supposed wasteland of depression, low self-esteem, and passive victimhood? This book, filled with the voices of teenage girls, corrects the misperceptions that have crept into our picture of female adolescence. Based on the author's yearlong conversation with white junior-high and middle-school girls--from the working poor and the middle class--Raising Their Voices allows us to hear how girls adopt some expectations about gender but strenuously resist others, how they use traditionally feminine means to maintain their independence, and how they recognize and resist pressures to ignore their own needs and wishes.

With a psychologist's sensitivity and an anthropologist's attention to cultural variations, Lyn Brown makes provocative observations about individual differences in the girls' experiences and attitudes, and shows how their voices are shaped and constrained by class--with working-class girls more willing to be openly angry than their middle-class peers, and yet more likely to denigrate themselves and attribute their failures to personal weakness.

A compelling and timely corrective to conventional wisdom, this book attunes our hearing to the true voices of teenage girls: determined, confused, amusing, touching, feisty, and clear.


  • It has been seven years since a much-discussed study by the American Association of University Women identified the phenomenon of girls' diminishing sense of self-worth as they approach adolescence. Since then, [several] books have further lamented the evaporation of young girls' feistiness into hesitancy and self-doubt. Lyn Mikel Brown takes a different tack. In Raising Their Voices, she argues that the popular reception of such books has all but ignored an equally significant phenomenon--girls who 'actively resist dominant cultural notions of femininity'...This book is an attempt to provide an alternative prophecy, with the hope that it...will be fulfilled...Brown's thesis that working-class girls are better equipped to avoid the epidemics of American adolescence is provocative.

    —Rebecca Mead, New York Times Book Review


  • Lyn Mikel Brown is Associate Professor of Education and Human Development at Colby College.

Book Details

  • 272 pages
  • 6 x 9 inches
  • Harvard University Press