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Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from…

Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New… (2011)

by Peggy Orenstein

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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7334121,078 (3.67)30
The author explores her own conflicting feelings as a mother as she protects her offspring and probes the roots and tendrils of the girlie-girl movement and concludes that parents who think through their values early on and set reasonable limits, encourage dialogue and skepticism, and are canny about the consumer culture can combat the 24/7 "media machine" aimed at girls and hold off the focus on beauty, materialism, and the color pink somewhat.… (more)

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» See also 30 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 41 (next | show all)
"How did you get through the princess stage?" That is in the top 5 questions I get asked by other moms, especially those I truly believe are turning to me as a feminist to guide them through the forest of pink. So it intrigued me to learn that even the famed Peggy Orenstein struggles with the princess phase.

Orenstein's book School Girls was pivotal in my growth as a young feminist. It detailed the trials of being a middle school girl with such genius that if she was a mom at my daughter's school, I would have totally turned to her for guidance.

So why is the princess phase such a challenge for moms today? If it's a phase, can't we just sit back and wait it out? In her new book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture, Orenstein reveals why this phase isn't as innocent as the glitter makes it appear.

Orenstein talks to the moms of her daughter's classmates to find that they also have rules about princesses in their homes. Only costumes - for imagination/play sake. No movies though. Yet the girls still know the plots and have their favorite princesses. She attends toys trade shows to talk to the toys peddlers themselves. "Pink is what girls want," is the official line. But how much choice do girls have in the first place if everyone buys into the "If it's not pink, it won't sell" line? Orenstein even gives us a quick historical view of how baby dolls became a girl toy -- let's say that the feminist movement seems older than the baby doll conspiracy.

As parents we are told to expect our girls to want to play with just girls and our boys to play with just boys after the age of about two or three. "It's natural," they say, "Watch." Orenstein talks with an expert who explains why allowing our kids to self-select into single-sex groups is not something to encourage. If we allow our kids to "naturally" only know how to play with the same sex at 4 and all the way up, how the hell do we expect them to communicate with each other as teens who are dating? Working together? Leading Student Council? We shouldn't. And the princess thing helps to divide our kids into BOY and GIRL buckets. Which is why experts say if you see the same sex play divide happen, force interaction.

Orenstein points out our hypocrisies, such as gasping in horror when we see young girls dancing to suggestive music, but not thinking twice when we take them to children's movies that include those songs. Are "not too skanky" dolls really worthy to be in our daughters' rooms? Do we really need to buy hundred dollar dolls so our girls can play with a doll that looks like a girl and not a college student?

At one point of the book, Orenstein reflects on the challenge of buying a gift for another girl. Not just a friend's daughter, but a princess-loving-pinkified girl. Oh, I know that feeling. You want to buy her something she'll love, but loathe the idea of buying something you would never buy your own daughter. And your feminist credentials are TOTALLY on the line too. If you select a bad toy, it will reflect on the whole community. This by the way, would make an excellent game show.

Orenstein doesn't get it all right. She misses the mark on 1990s feminism or "girlie feminism" by fusing the reclamation of feminine trades like sewing and knitting to women who feel that being sexy is empowering. They emerged at the same time, but are from two different camps.

Early in the book Orenstein talks about the evolution of girlhood and how 2/3 of women today classified themselves as being tomboys as children. Yet only 1/3 of girls today would classify themselves as tomboys. This confuses her. Are women today over emphasizing their tomboy status? Rather I contend that tomboy is a label from the past. My daughter asked me what a tomboy was about a year ago. "Tomboy was a name people use to use for girls who were sporty, liked to climb trees because not a lot of girls did those things. Now we don't need to use it because so many girls are athletic." So if you asked my daughter, she might say she's not a tomboy. I even got her a shirt that said, "I'm not a tomboy, I'm an athlete." It's not a bad word to use, but I think it's a relic of a time long gone, pre-Mia, pre-Williams sisters.

And that's where we are. In a world where girls can look up to Mia Hamm and the Williams sisters. They can go out every morning and practice their sport. Yet the media will still take time to evaluate who looked the best during the opening rounds of a Grand Slam tournament or ponder who is pregnant. That's the world our girls are growing up in and we not only need to figure our own way through this forest of pink princesses, but we need to guide them through it too.

Not only are our girls faced with being girly and sporty, but Orenstein takes a moment to link the academic pressure our children, girls and boys, are under. The pressure to be super academic early on can and often does alienate them from the joy of learning. Friends know that I fear this for my own smartypants daughter.

Orenstein offers few solid solutions, but what she does is walk herself through the challenges and asks us to come with her. She does answer the "How did we get here?" question in respect to dolls, clothes, sexiness and pink. There is also a MUST READ section on children's websites/social networks. While they may be safe from dirty old men, they are NOT safe from the pressure of commercialization. I know some of you poo-poo my anti-commercialization rants, but please, please, if you read this book, you will know why the intense commercialization our children are living in is robbing them of the childhood we experienced.

I hope it's not a surprise that I'm highly recommending this book. Seriously go get this book, read it and let's get back to raising our daughters instead of the marketers doing it.
  roniweb | May 30, 2019 |
An amazing book, and much more intelligent than the vapid cover art and subtitle suggest. Orenstein discusses the impact of cultural and media influences on today's girls - everything from Disney Princesses to the color pink to social networking sites. The author asks questions like, Is the new emphasis of femininity and girlishness empowering to girls or does it teach them that looks and fashion are the only things that matter? This book constantly dropped bombshells on me about the marketing industry and their crafty ways. Did you know that babies weren't always color-coded by gender - that white used to be the standard baby color until the 1930s, when a marketing scheme decided that children should be separated by pink and blue, in order to double clothing sales? And that the term "tween" was also coined by clothing companies? (I could have guessed that.) I recommend this book to any woman, mother or not.
  aratiel | Sep 5, 2018 |
I'm going to be really picky here, but how do I trust someone who is supposed to have "read the research" and gets major points wrong? In the chapter entitled "It's All About the Cape" she calls Big Barda's husband Mr. Miracle a milquetoast - she is stronger than him and very protective of him, but that does not mean he is weak. She also asserts that Wonder Woman's mother is Hera - the queen of the Amazons. sigh. That would be Hippolyta. Hera is the wife of Zeus - a goddess and considered the queen of the Greek gods.

That said, while the book was interesting I don't understand the angst about raising a daughter. I think I've done a pretty good job with my daughter (who will be 15 this year) without beating myself up about her toy/movie/literature choices. She went through a pink and purple faze - waving a wand and wearing a tiara. She moved on to horses - because the movie Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron captured her imagination more than the straight to DVD Cinderella II release. It didn't hurt that Lilo and Stitch was Disney's offering that year...

Becka had Barbies. So did her big brother Daniel. But I didn't worry that playing with Barbie would give her unreal expectations about herself. Honestly, I don't remember ever having the same kind of worries Ms. Orenstein has about her daughter. I just did what felt right and offered my daughter many options to choose from. She learned early on that I usually wouldn't succumb to her requests for a toy, but I could always be talked into buying her a book or kid's magazine. While I didn't always love her choices, unless they were too mature for her, I let her pick what she wanted.

She has grown into a mature young woman with a strong sense of herself and isn't obsessed with her looks or boys. Okay, this has turned more into a story about my daughter than a book review. I guess I could have summed it up with one word - meh.

Update on review: My daughter made it through high school unscathed and is now a college sophomore. She still does not buy into some people's expectations of how she should behave because of her gender. And I still believe blaming the princess culture for your daughter being a girly-girl who limits her own choices is too simplistic. ( )
  AWahle | Jun 1, 2018 |
Growing up as a grrl, I have been dismayed to watch subsequent generations of young women embrace stilettos and gone-wild-self-objectification. It's difficult to understand. Orenstein, being of my generation, explores the girlie-girl territory with brave skepticism. The title, I think is unfortunate, as it sounds like light-weight cynicism, but the book is much smarter than that. It ranges across the terrain of girls' role models, touching on princesses, Miley, Barbie, Wonder Woman and more, citing sales figures and statistics that sometimes alarm. This book should be basic reading for anyone trying to understand womanhood and feminism as it looks today. ( )
  DFratini | Apr 23, 2018 |
Recommended to me by the sister of a friend (or rather, recommended for my brother and I read it while he put it off) because of the Sarkeesian uproar. The author, who has previously written on girl culture at the adolescent level, finds herself face-to-face with girlie-girl culture after the birth of her daughter. She then examines the rise of princesses/pinkification/sparkles/etc. that has grown over the last 20 years or so. Makes it very apparent that navigating the fluff'nstuff is hard for today's mom- give in to what your child wants, or avoid princesses at the risk of marking 'feminine' as 'bad'? ( )
  Daumari | Dec 30, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 41 (next | show all)
Orenstein skillfully integrates extensive research that demonstrates the pitfalls of "the girlie-girl culture's emphasis on beauty and play-sexiness," which can increase girls' vulnerability to depression, distorted body images and eating disorders, and sexual risks. It's the personal anecdotes, though, which are delivered with wry, self-deprecating, highly quotable humor, that offer the greatest invitation to parents to consider their daughters' worlds and how they can help to shape a healthier, soul-nurturing environment
added by sduff222 | editBooklist, Gillian Engberg (Jan 1, 2011)

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Peggy Orensteinprimary authorall editionscalculated
King, DavidCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ruoto, WilliamDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Van Bree, ChristineCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Here is my dirty little secret: as a journalist, I have spent nearly two decades writing about girls, thinking about girls, talking about how girls should be raised.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Portions of this book appeared in altered form in The New York Times Magazine.
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