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Slaying the Mermaid:
Ah, the nobility--or is it futility?--of sacrifice. Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid willingly traded her voice and sensual, seagoing tail for feet that bled pitifully as she trailed her oblivious, beloved Prince. French philosopher Simone Weil was literally consumed by her fervid wish to be one with all suffering souls. And ordinary women sacrifice piece after piece of their bodies, dreams, and lives every day in search of acceptance or in service of others.
The fluid, engaging prose and high-mindedness of Slaying the Mermaid is a welcome approach to subject matter that could have been the centerpiece of a talk-show trauma fest ("Women Who Give Too Much and Keep Too Little for Themselves"). Stephanie Golden sheds light on the roots of sacrifice and the pleasures reaped from denial while shuttling between myths and religious mysticism, popular culture, and psychology. The women she interviews speak more often of selfless, often depressingly pointless, sacrificial acts than of feminist--or, rather, human--desires for self-realization. The ideal, Golden suggests, is to live mindfully, as in the teachings of Buddhism, walking away from sacrifices that leave one utterly empty and choosing those that connect us to a larger world through a replenishing cycle of nurturance. --Francesca Coltrera [via]