By Yes, Virginia • April 04, 2007•Other Issues
Editor's Note: As part of Ms. JD's 5th Birthday celebration, we'll be looking back at our favorite posts over the years.
Exactly four years ago one of our founding bloggers submitted this great post. Our board easily identified it as a "Best of" that still rings true today.
I was having a great weekend (given that Ms. JD had its national launch at Yale Law School on Saturday) when I opened up my Sunday Times. Great, I thought: just as was noted in Ms. JD’s presentation at the start of Legally Female, The New York Times has gone six months without some earth-shattering revelation about women, so another pronouncement was due. (Previous hits have included the announcement that we were in the midst of an opt-out revolution, the glass ceiling still exist at top law firms, that the Supreme Court was not all that interested in female clerks, or that young girls are now going to top colleges only with the intention of obtaining their M.R.S. degrees). (H/T to Feminist Law Professors’ Caitlin Borgmann, who noticed the same phenomenon here.) My expectation that this article would join those others in the “Irksome” category was confirmed with the title: “For Girls, It’s Be Yourself, and Be Perfect, Too.” But I was surprised to find that this article did not inspire me to write a letter to the editor about how incredibly wrong the author had gotten things. In this case, I believe that Sara Rimer has captured a distinct phenomenon. One reason for my change in sentiment is this article struck much closer to home than the others. The usual caveats apply: it is discussing primarily white, middle-to-upper class girls who are already at the top. Rimer gives this group the new title “amazing girls,” defined as: “Girls by the dozen who are high achieving, ambitious and confident (if not immune to the usual adolescent insecurities and meltdowns). Girls who do everything: Varsity sports. Student government. Theater. Community service. Girls who have grown up learning they can do anything a boy can do, which is anything they want to do.” The article goes on to detail the trials and tribulations of some of these girls who attend Newton North High School, located in an affluent suburb outside Boston. And while there are plenty of holes to poke in everything (seriously: someone tell all these girls that what college you get into does not seal your fate forever! Nor is proxy for success in life! Or, as they are apparently discovering, a guarantee of happiness!), it nevertheless struck a nerve. I felt like so many women I know now are those girls, only older. Myself included (although I might characterize myself more along the lines of “crazy extracurricular girl” or “no-sleep girl”). Now that we are in law school, where some of those former “amazing girls” end up and, for most, is the last stop on our education track, you would think that we would finally sit back and not take on so much, but you would be wrong. Apparently we haven’t gotten the message. Of my peers, the crazy over-committed ones are all female. While we are driven at this point by more than a burning desire to get into college, there is still that compulsion, pressure, desire to be the best we can be, and incredible feeling of being overwhelmed most of the time. The upshot? Part of this trend is that “amazing girls” grow up to be “amazing women,” and as far as I’m concerned, the more amazing women out there, the better. But based on my own limited experience, I have to say that the downside might relate to some of the other issues women in the legal profession are struggling with (the so-called opt-out problem, or how to have a life and a job): it burns you out. I’m not that old, but I feel old, particularly after years of putting in late nights, surviving on too few hours of sleep, and feeling under constant pressure. After two years of law school, I need a long break, but that isn’t likely to happen. So perhaps we need to learn to comfortable becoming “pretty good” after being “amazing,”—as Dahlia Lithwick said in a similar context, to accept B-pluses even when know we can get As.