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Curse of the Good Girl

goodgirlcurseBeing good is bad. Being bad is good. That’s the message communicated in Rachel Simmons’ book, The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence. “Our culture is teaching girls to embrace a version of selfhood that sharply curtails their power and potential,” says Simmons. “In particular, the pressure to be ‘Good’—unerringly nice, polite, modest, and selfless—diminishes girls’ authenticity and personal authority.”

Simmons argues that The Curse of the Good Girl “erects a psychological glass ceiling that begins its destructive sprawl in girlhood and extends across the female life span, stunting the growth of skills and habits essential to becoming a strong woman.” According to Simmons, “Being Good is a fundamentally self-limiting experience.”

Simmons, a Rhodes Scholar, founding director of the Girls’ Leadership Institute, and a consultant to schools and organizations around the world, wants young women to consider how being a Good Girl limits them, and how being a Bad girl would empower them. Simmons believes that “Bad Girls”—those who are outspoken, proud, and rebellious rule-breakers, and commanding attention—have qualities that are, in fact, very good.

“The decision to be Bad is equally a sign of courage, the willingness to resist convention and be who you want to be. Bad Girls take up space with their bodies and voices; they are immodest, tough and proud. They don’t care what other people think.” According to Simmons, having girls embrace their inner “Badness” is the key to overcoming the “poisonous” impact of the pressure on girls to be “Good.” “Real girls” know that there is no right or wrong way. They reject good and bad stereotypes and pick and choose for themselves the ways in which they want to be good and bad.

“Good” and “Bad” drain girls of their authenticity by telling them who and how to be. . .A Real Girl has both Good and Bad in her and available to her. She chooses who she wants to be, and her internal architecture is by her own design.”

Simmons claims that for women, “Equality is the freedom to create a life of her own design.” In order to break the Curse of the Good Girl “we must give every girl the tools and permission to be herself, whoever that is. . .” Some of the “tools” she suggests are the ability to identify one’s own thoughts and feelings, and the communication skills to make those thoughts and feelings known.

Simmons concludes that, “When girls can no longer agree upon the answer to the question, ’Who is a Good Girl?’ we will know they are free to be themselves.” Her aim is to educate girls to get beyond an external definition of “Good” and “Bad,” dictate their own standards, have the authenticity to be who they truly are, and the power to claim what they want to be.

For me, reading this book was aggravating. Simmons advanced some very good ideas about equipping young girls to be aware of their thoughts and feelings and to communicate them in an authentic, open way. Teaching young women communication skills is something that I definitely advocate. But her categorization of what constitutes “good” and “bad” and her insistence that girls cannot rely on an external standard to know “good” and “bad” were maddening.

Simmons underlying claim that being good is a “fundamentally self-limiting experience,” that girls should choose to be “bad,” that women will only be self-actualized and powerful when the dichotomy of good and bad are overcome, and that women have the authority to choose and create their own measure of right and wrong, were merely an updated take on 1970’s feminist drivel.

As I was reading, the Lord’s warning about mixing up right and wrong constantly came to mind: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!” Isaiah 5:20-21 (ESV)

If we really want to help the next generation of girls, we’ll expose the falsehood behind Simmons’ message. We’ll teach them that there is an external standard of right and wrong to which they ought to align their lives—God’s standard. And that being bad is bad, and being good is good.

Satan tempted Eve to embrace a version of selfhood that he said would increase her power and potential. He convinced her to rely on her own compass for knowing good from bad, right from wrong. He convinced her that she had the right to determine who she was, and what her womanhood was all about. Women ever since have a sin tendency to succumb to the same sin. Simmons is wrong. It’s not “The Curse of the Good Girl” that diminishes woman. It’s the Curse of Sin that tempts us to ignore God and try to decide for ourselves what is bad, and what is good.

© Mary A. Kassian


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About The Author

Mary Kassian

Mary Kassian, the founder of Girls Gone Wise, is an award winning author, internationally renowned speaker, and distinguished professor of Women's Studies at Southern Baptist Seminary.

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