A Must Read

I just finished reading Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters by Courtney E. Martin. The book was recommended to me by a friend who tore through the pages at a rapid pace. I was working on a few books simultaneously so I didn’t read it nearly as fast, but it’s a really important book for everyone to read. Regardless of age and frankly even gender, I think the messages within the pages of the book are super important.

At face value, it’s about disordered eating. But also perfectionism. And feminism. And generally feeling good about ourselves… as women, as daughters. Eating disorders truly affects everyone. Whether you yourself are struggling to find the control to stop eating or if you’re struggling with the idea of being in control of your eating. Or if your friend is struggling. Really, it’s an issue we all know in one way or another. Even just the time we spend thinking about our appearances and debating whether to eat that cookie or not… it adds up.
The book addresses eating disorders among high school girls, athletes, college students, and even women in their early 20s. In fact, Georgetown is specifically called out for the high rate of disordered eating. The book says that 25% of the school is reported to have disordered eating, but I know that while I was there the rumors were that it was 1 in 3 (or 33%).
The book really goes into great detail tracking down a lot of the sources of these issues and how it manifests itself differently in women. It was totally written in terms of feminism and what it means for women. But I have to say that I personally know many guys who struggle with an unhealthy combination of eating, drugs, and over-exercising.
The book is not necessarily setting out to solve the problem, but it brings a lot of the issues to light in an important and meaningful way. I think it should be required reading before entering high school and then before entering college and before getting your first job. It’s important and relevant and something we all should be aware of.
Speaking of body image and being overly critical of ourselves, this Dove Real Beauty Sketches video is quite incredible:
Have you read the book? What do you think of the video?

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buying this book right now, thanks for the recommendation! but if this book is feminist-based, it should be about gender equality, as feminism is defined by Merriam-Websters as "the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes". I'm not trying to tell you you're wrong, by any means, just trying to let you know the difference! The meaning of the movement is just as important as what people think and know about it.

Looking forward to reading!


When you read the book, you'll understand/see the connection to feminism. In short, our generation was raised by "feminist mothers." Courtney sums it up nicely by saying, "Girls were told that they could be anything, and instead heard they had to be everything."

Her argument here is that the feminist nature of our mother's led us to be the "starving daughters." Anyway, I'm definitely not giving the argument the justice it deserves…. but let me know what you think when you read it!


I had heard about both the book and the Dove ad through social media, but never really looked into either. I am grateful that I took the time to watch the commercial – it was beautiful and really inspiring. What a difference there is between how we see ourselves versus how we are perceived by others! I will definitely be picking up the book now as well.



I read this book a couple years ago, I couldn't put it down. There are a couple pages in the front where she talkes about the perfect daughter and the starving daughter and the words are just so powerful!

Megan Jessen

I saw a quote from this on tumblr a while back and it is next on my reading list – even just from the one quote, I was like "this is it, this is my life". I can't wait!


I've been wanting to read this book for a long time! I think it's a really important subject for young women, especially those who are heading to college and learning to keep track of their own health. I'm glad it talks a lot about the desire for perfection. The idea reminds me of the film "Race to Nowhere" that highlights the pressures on high school kids to reach perfection.

Personally I know I've felt the pressure from myself and others to perfect myself and my work, but I know that this "perfection" is never reached. It's tough to find that balance between pushing yourself to that next level, and being happy with who you are and what you do.
I think we need to focus on the difference from being YOUR best and being THE best.


I'm generally not perceived as a perfectionist because I'm lazy and disorganized, but I am in a way not visible. I have extremely high standards of what I expect from people and what I expect will happen to me in life. It's a not a good method of perfectionism because I spend all my time sitting around, thinking about the future, and waiting for all these miracles to happen. Meanwhile, I'm not living in the present and can't enjoy what I already have.


I saw this video and was very touched. Woman (and men) are extremely hard on themselves and I do think it's detrimental to their happiness and well-being. However, it's easy to say this to someone then to be like that yourself. I know I struggle with trying to be "better" every day, in every way (looks definitely included), and sometimes it can be such a let down. But we all need to empower each other and you definitely do that on your blog! I'm going to check out this book– seems like a good read.


Anna H

I loved that video – there really is such a huge chasm between the way we perceive others and the way we perceive ourselves. We look straight to the flaws when we look at ourselves, but we look for the good in others. Being a larger girl, I was always so surprised in college to find out what sizes people really were. I realized I was equating myself size-wise with girls who were actually much larger than myself. And the kicker is, I was able to see that these bigger girls were beautiful regardless of their size. College can be both one of the worst places for self-esteem and one of the best.


I read Prefect Girls, Starving Daughters last year. As someone who has struggled deeply with the issues Martin discusses, I was so moved by her words. Her book, her research, her interviews with women and girls just like me have given me more than I can describe. I have always been an avid reader of your blog, but in bringing up this issue, you have really used your platform for something worthwhile. Your message, Martin's message and Dove's message are all the same: we are not alone, we are strong and powerful and beautiful women.

Jessica Randall

Brain twins again Carly! I just shared about the Dove sketches on my facebook today XD They really are powerful reminders to consider how much more critical we are of ourselves than others are.

Julia D.

I'll have to give the book a shot because a feminist perspective is SO valuable when examining the root causes of disordered eating. My problem with the Dove video is one that a lot of feminist bloggers have pointed out: it places importance on (conventional) physical beauty. These women all found themselves to be unattractive and were pleasantly surprised to find that the outside world sees them in a more positive light. I think that's awesome because it calls attention to the problem of being overly-self critical, but the point of it is "I'm pretty!" and associates value with appearance rather than personal characteristics. Food for thought.