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Over-Achievers With Low Self-Esteem (buffy mention)

Tuesday 28 March 2006, by Webmaster

If you read the most-emailed article in the New York Times at the end of last week ("To All the Girls I’ve Rejected"), then you know that some college admission offices are holding female applicants to a higher standard than their male counterparts in hopes of achieving a greater gender balance on campus.

That’s because women’s enrollment in college is dramatically outpacing men’s. By the 2009-2010 school year, according to the Business Roundtable, women will earn 142 bachelor’s degrees and 173 associate degrees for every 100 awarded to men in these categories.

American girls, meanwhile, are not only advancing in the classroom but on playing fields as well. One in three high school girls now plays a sport, compared to one in 27 before Title IX (an act that called for more college scholarships for women to ensure parity with male athletes in 1972). The cultural landscape has shifted accordingly, offering up highly empowered female heroines both real and fictional, including Mia Hamm, Lisa Leslie and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

But for all the undisputed advances made by young women, evidence suggests there is more to this story, a dark side that has long been acknowledged but seems all the more baffling in this era of increasingly accomplished girls.

Foremost, a young woman’s body is still a battleground — the relentless focus of the porn industry, the celebrity and the weight-loss industries. Advocates in the field of eating disorders remind us that these illnesses have doubled their reach in the last 30 years, that they are fatal in 10 percent of cases, and that they are affecting younger and more ethnically diverse girls. And it’s not just about food and other forms of bodily self-abuse such as cutting. In a 2001 Harvard study, one in five teen girls reported being hit or being forced into sex by their partners. Depression is another pervasive affliction among college women, despite their groundbreaking achievements and presumably bright economic prospects.

The hazards that young women face on the way to adulthood are real — as real as ever. The problem is how to understand them in light of girl power, Buffy and the WNBA.