Troubled Girls

A review of Abigail Shrier's Irreversible Damage

Surely Americans today would be accepting of a teenage girl who preferred baseball to shopping, pants to dresses, or short hair to long, curled locks. Alas, says Abigail Shrier, author of Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters (Reg­nery, 2020), not so. Instead, girls who don't feel "girly" enough are in distress, and turning to online forums to diagnose what's wrong with them. Their diagnosis should scare everybody.

Shrier begins her book by highlighting the sheer magnitude of the crisis. Teens today report greater loneliness than any generation on record, suffer higher rates of mental-health and mood disorders, and also tend to be in therapy more. In short, "adolescent girls today are in a lot of pain," writes Shrier.

This pain is exacerbated—nay, largely caused—by their smart phones. Adolescence is rough, but if a girl faces it head-on, she will emerge a mature, adult woman, ready to face the world. But when girls have to compete in a 24/7 popularity contest, and experience the typical cruelty of adolescence on a ten-fold scale, they fold.

And when their parents have been rushing to get them anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication ever since they lost a kitten in childhood (this is a real example from the book), girls come to believe that every twinge of discomfort, social or physical, demands a pharmaceutical or therapeutic intervention. The solution for many of these girls who feel uncomfortable in their bodies is to label themselves "transgender."

Historically, "gender dysphoria" has affected only 0.01 percent of the population, mostly male. In the past decade, however, that has shifted. A "transgender epidemic" has exploded, almost exclusively among teenage girls—the same population that in past decades submitted to anorexia, bulimia, or other self-harm.

What Shrier discusses is so-called Rapid-Onset Gender Dysphoria, a term coined in 2018 by Lisa Littman to describe a group of teenagers (largely female) who have shown no prior sign of gender dysphoria but do have a history of mental health issues, who have peer groups in which one or more friends identify as "trans," and who experience a large uptick in social media consumption, and then suddenly announce a new "transgender" identity. But after "coming out" as trans, the majority of these teens actually get worse, not better.

The medical establishment is complicit in the mania, being all too happy to hand out hormone blockers and testosterone, or even to perform mutilating surgery—all without so much as a therapist's note. Not that a therapist's note would matter much; the current in-vogue technique is "affirmative therapy," or blindly upholding the disturbed girl's new identity.

In the closing chapter, Shrier highlights how parents can truly help their daughters, by, among other things, refusing to buy their teens a smart phone and by remembering who is in authority. But Shrier's best advice—and perhaps some of the best writing on the topic of modern womanhood—is her admonition to "stop pathologizing girlhood." Being a woman is a wonderful thing, and part of embracing womanhood is enjoying the differences in biology and preferences. Men tend to do better in STEM; women prefer literature. So the culture insists that instead of elevating literature, every last girl must learn how to code. "But behind this insistence," Shrier argues, "lies the idea that women's preferences are inferior." Similarly, she insists that women must stop allowing the culture to denigrate motherhood.

In short, teen girls need parents who will protect them, but also a culture that will learn to embrace the true, biologically rooted differences between the sexes instead of waving them away while hypocritically demanding that women conform to men's realities. And girls who like baseball and short hair need to be allowed to do so without being made to feel that those preferences make them any less feminine.

is the managing editor of The Natural Family, the quarterly publication of the International Organization for the Family.

This article originally appeared in Salvo, Issue #55, Winter 2020 Copyright © 2023 Salvo |


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