The LA Times: “Breaking Pointe” and the price of perfection

The LA Times: “Breaking Pointe” and the price of perfection

I’m beyond proud to share this byline in The Los Angeles Times with my friend and mentor, the remarkable Courtney E. Martin. Courtney and I write about what the new CW “reality” show about ballerinas, “Breaking Pointe,” can teach us about life as a high-achieving young woman in America.

Anything done well looks easier than it really is. But in ballet, apparent effortlessness is required. Most women who have taken ballet classes will remember being chastised for landing jumps “like a herd of elephants!” (or cows, or rhinoceroses ā€” the anecdotes vary, but it’s always herd animals). Ballerinas are expected to jump high, their legs split at a 180 degrees ā€” and then float back to earth like a feather. It’s an awful lot to ask.

And yet, there are myriad equivalents facing women who haven’t chosen the rarefied world of ballet. In fact, when Duke University surveyed its undergraduate women, it found that one phrase echoed dangerously throughout the interviews: “effortless perfection.” These young women wanted to make life look as if the struggle didn’t exist. They not only aspired to achieve at the highest levels but to make that aspiration invisible. Their grades, their beauty, their talents, their pitch-perfect sense of humor ā€” all performed like a perfect, light-as-air pirouette.

You can read the rest here.

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