It's trains, blocks and super heroes for the boys, and for our girls, we buy wands, princess dresses, and loads of pink tutus. And it doesn't end with toys and clothing. What little girl doesn't have at least one Disney princess movie practically committed to memory? That is, before they leave behind the princess gowns to obsess after the pop princesses of our day like Hannah Montana, who sports a much sexier but just as blinged out look.
When did our culture adopt this princess mentality and start dressing girls in head to toe fluff? How did the obsession with Disney princesses begin? And, are we parents (especially moms) undermining the very principles we hope our daughters will adopt in regards to their individuality and self worth by allowing and even encouraging this early emphasis on beauty, bling and royalty? Or, is the princess trend just that, a passing fad that will have no long lasting impact on our daughters or their self-esteems? Author Peggy Orenstein explores these questions and more in her "Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture," Cinderella Ate My Daughter.
About Cinderella Ate my Daughter:
Years of experience and loads of research went into this thought-provoking book by Peggy Orenstein, author of Schoolgirls and contributing writer to New York Times Magazine. Peggy has written thousands of words about girls and their unique strengths and challenges before, but in Cinderella Ate My Daughter, she grapples with making the correct decisions for her own daughter, Daisy, as she navigates the girlie-girl world, because as even she has found out, it is impossible to steer clear of it.
Peggy explores the beginnings of the princess trend, and its pinkifying effect on everything from toys and clothing to TV and Movies. She scours the research and talks to the experts in an effort to get to the heart of the issue and sort out the conflicting messages that society sends to girls about having it all and being everything they want to be in a world that tells them "that the surest way to get there is to look like, well, Cinderella."
Is Cinderella Ate my Daughter worth the read?
Well-written and cleverly crafted, Cinderella Ate My Daughter is as fun and interesting to read as it is informative. Peggy leaves no blinged out stone unturned in her relentless endeavor to capture the full view of the girlie-girl culture and analyze what effect all of the magic wands and pink frills might be having on our daughters and their sense of self worth.
Orenstein goes back and forth on the issues so much that it's dizzying -- which is exactly what makes the book such an authentic read. She points out that as parents, we are "bombarded with zillions of little decisions, made consciously or not, that will shape our daughter's ideas and understanding of her femininity, her sexuality, her self." But, the effects of each of those decisions are not always clear. Are we going overboard, over-analyzing everything? Or, are we not doing enough?
While Peggy admits that it is tempting to give the new pink-and-pretty a pass (I mean, how bad can it be really, it's just a phase, right?), she emphasizes that "According to the American Psychological Association, the girlie-girl culture’s emphasis on beauty and play-sexiness can increase girls’ vulnerability to the pitfalls that most concern parents: depression, eating disorders, distorted body images, risky sexual behavior." Not only that, but both girls and their parents are easily falling into carefully laid marketing ploys that have everyone thinking it's all just a normal rite of passage from girlhood to womanhood.
Girls are also blasted with images on commercials, TV shows, movies, and even at concerts that not so subtly convey the message that sexy is cool and will make you popular. Of course, I think Orenstein could have spent even more time weighing the costs of letting our daughters watch hours and hours of princesses, and pop princesses on the TV, computer, movie screens, phones, and so on -- although that's really a whole other book in itself, isn't it? She does bring up some stern points about those Disney princess movies, and her worst disdain seems to be for Ariel, who "gives up her voice to get a guy." And it doesn't end with the cartoon princesses, Peggy also discusses how girls throw aside their princess gowns for the more sexy, pop princess style like Miley Cyrus and others wear, and she wonders about what the impact is for girls who watch their squeaky clean teen idols turn from "wholesome to whoresome."
I may not agree with every single thing Peggy Orenstein says or every implication made in Cinderella Ate My Daughter, but I appreciate the author's thorough attempt to analyze the issues, study the research, and lay it out there for parents to ponder on. When we are aware of the marketing tactics, the way the products could be effecting our children, and our role and responsibility as a parent, it can make a big difference in the outcome of those zillions of decisions we make for our precious daughters every day.