Monday, January 30, 2012
Cinderella Ate My Daughter - Peggy Orenstein
Title: Cinderella Ate My Daughter
Author: Peggy Orenstein
Publisher: HarperCollins, 2011 (Hardcover), 2012 (Paperback)
Length: 245 pages
Genre: Adult; Nonfiction
Started: January 28, 2012
Finished: January 30, 2012
The acclaimed author of the groundbreaking bestseller Schoolgirls reveals the dark side of pink and pretty: the rise of the girlie-girl, she warns, is not that innocent.
Pink and pretty or predatory and hardened, sexualized girlhood influences our daughters from infancy onward, telling them that how a girl looks matters more than who she is. Somewhere between the exhilarating rise of Girl Power in the 1990s and today, the pursuit of physical perfection has been recast as a source—the source—of female empowerment. And commercialization has spread the message faster and farther, reaching girls at ever-younger ages.
But, realistically, how many times can you say no when your daughter begs for a pint-size wedding gown or the latest Hannah Montana CD? And how dangerous is pink and pretty anyway—especially given girls' successes in the classroom and on the playing field? Being a princess is just make-believe, after all; eventually they grow out of it. Or do they? Does playing Cinderella shield girls from early sexualization—or prime them for it? Could today's little princess become tomorrow's sexting teen? And what if she does? Would that make her in charge of her sexuality—or an unwitting captive to it?
Those questions hit home with Peggy Orenstein, so she went sleuthing. She visited Disneyland and the international toy fair, trolled American Girl Place and Pottery Barn Kids, and met beauty pageant parents with preschoolers tricked out like Vegas showgirls. She dissected the science, created an online avatar, and parsed the original fairy tales. The stakes turn out to be higher than she—or we—ever imagined: nothing less than the health, development, and futures of our girls. From premature sexualization to the risk of depression to rising rates of narcissism, the potential negative impact of this new girlie-girl culture is undeniable—yet armed with awareness and recognition, parents can effectively counterbalance its influence in their daughters' lives.
Cinderella Ate My Daughter is a must-read for anyone who cares about girls, and for parents helping their daughters navigate the rocky road to adulthood.
Now that I have a daughter I find myself a little worried over how good a job I'll do to help her grow up a well-rounded woman. When I started teaching, I paid attention to the little girls (and eventually older ones) in my classes and noticed that the tv shows and toys they admired and adored were a lot different than the ones I had as a child...and not necessarily in a good way. The girls in their tv shows were ditzy and dumb and seemed to be proud of it, and their toys looked like something you'd find on a street corner at night than in a little girl's toy chest. This book speaks to adults who are a little disturbed by the trends found in marketing towards girls that leads to the early sexualization of said girls, starting with Disney Princesses through Bratz and Monster High dolls to Disney's television shows. From the onslaught of the colour pink (that I called the pink hoarde when my daughter was born), to the limited options girls are offered in toys geared specifically towards them (kitchens, flowers, jewelry, clothes), this book addresses the current state of raising a girl and makes a person aware of these things that sometimes go unnoticed.
Although the observations are quite entertaining and sometimes insightful, one thing I noticed was that the author doesn't really offer any solutions to this problem, no scripts to instigate teachable moments (good thing I have quite a few on hand from encountering this stuff in my teaching). So I was kind of expecting that...even examples of how she combats this with her own daughter, which she didn't really offer either. The things she addresses and anecdotes about her own daughter were quite entertaining though, which really is the point of the book it seems, just a person reporting things she's observed, sometimes quite wittily.
The paperback version of this book is out this week, so rather than spend the money on the hardcover, you'd be better off with the cheaper paperback or borrowing it from the library first to see if it floats your boat.
If you've been around young girls frequently in the past few years, either as a parent or an educator, there's not much here you won't already have figured out for yourself. If you suddenly find yourself the parent of a daughter and have had no exposure to children since you were one, you might want to give this a read. Don't expect any solutions to the observations being made here, but it is an entertaining ride nonetheless.
Thoughts on the cover:
Very appropriate considering the subject matter. I love the swirl of sparkles leading from the girl's wand to the little text bubble at the bottom.