Denying girls knowledge about their anatomy, she said, impairs their self-worth; daughters lose faith in their mothers; and distance is created between mothers and daughters that can last throughout their lifetimes.
McFadden, who lives in the Northwest Woods, and more this Saturday at the when she reads from her book Your Daughter's Bedroom: Insights for Raising Confident Women.
The book developed from a “Women’s Realities Study” McFadden conducted. She had collected data from women of all ages through a series of anonymous questionnaires posted on her website womensrealities.com, and weighed those results with concerns expressed by women in her practice.
“I wanted to hear the things women felt shame over,” McFadden said, “and the things that made them happy.” She recounted a story of a 105 year old woman who had never before discussed her husband’s infidelity or what she described as “the finest moment of their marriage,” the night they reconciled after two years of not being intimate.
Interpreting data from 1,300 participants, McFadden learned that the three most important topics women want to discuss are menstruation, their relationship with their mothers, and masturbation. “The book is an analysis of what these three things have in common,” she said. “Women are starving for this information from each other. They want to know what is normal and they want to feel a sense of community.”
A common theme that emerged was the ignorance, shame, and guilt many women felt about their sexuality. McFadden believes that mothers need to establish an open dialogue with their daughters about their sexuality in order to break this cycle. Parents may be reluctant to approach the topic because they are uncomfortable, or they don’t know how to begin. Some may believe they will scare their daughter, or give them so much information that they will drive them into having sex.
“Gradually, over time, making sexuality part of your dialogue, beginning when they are toddlers by teaching them the names of body parts,” she said, nothing that preschool girls are more likely to have been taught the word “penis” than any specific name for their own genitals. “Our culture is wallpapered with images of sex,” she said, “but we won’t teach our daughters about menstruation.”
According to McFadden, denying girls knowledge about their anatomy teaches them that there is something shameful about the very essence of who they are. One participant admitted to being reluctant to raise her hand in class because she didn’t want to draw attention to herself. McFadden goes on to say that if mothers don’t have an open dialogue with their daughters, girls may lose faith that their mothers will be there for them in other ways.
This can create distance, leaving women unable to turn to their mothers on any matter. She related an instance in which a rape victim was too ashamed to confide in her mother. On a less dramatic scale, a young woman may be unable to use her mom as a sounding board for relationship or even financial advice.
Your Daughter's Bedroom will be used to teach Intro to Women’s Studies this fall at McFadden’s alma mater Colgate University. Blogging about the book for Ms. Magazine, Colgate Professor Meika Loe wrote, “As a mother, I found this to be an insightful, courageous book full of practical advice… And as a professor teaching courses on gender and sexuality, I believe McFadden’s interviews and survey data can also help to model candid conversation in the classroom.”
Charline Spektor, owner of said that “Our community of BookHampton readers have embraced Joyce's book as original and thought-provoking; written in a forthright manner it has opened both door and conversations and continues to be a strong seller.”
McFadden will be at The East Hampton Library on Saturday from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Reserve a seat with Steven Spataro at the library.