Slaying the Mermaid: Women and the Culture of Sacrifice
Slaying the Mermaidaddresses the great numbers of women, of all ages, who find themselves constantly disregarding their own well-being to put the needs of others first–even against their will and contrary to their principles–because they cannot face the guilt they would feel if they didn’t. Mothers subordinate their smallest needs to their children’s; daughters assume the burden of caring for elderly parents; wives sacrifice their careers for their husband’s; in the office, women put in extra effort for their coworkers or the boss without making demands for themselves. Despite the great changes over the past thirty years in our ideas about women’s role in society and their potential for achievement, many continue to sabotage their own interests, stunt their emotional and intellectual growth, and deny themselves the full richness of life due to excessive self-sacrifice. Drawing on conversations with experts and a diverse array of women, Stephanie Golden examines the dichotomy between selfhood and sacrifice. Using the image of Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid, the ultimate ideal of the self-sacrificing woman who gave up her voice and her life for an unrequited love, Golden offers a new paradigm for women: in order to run with the wolves, you must first slay the mermaid. Golden helps women become conscious of self-defeating behavior that they may have been blind to or simply ignored. This book will help them reclaim their energy, creativity, and identity, while rediscovering the original, empowering meaning of sacrifice as an expansive and self-fulfilling act.