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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.
As a mom, I admit, I was initially tempted to give the new culture of pink and pretty a pass. There are already so many things to be vigilant about as a parent; my energy was stretched to its limit. So my daughter slept in a Cinderella gown for a few years. Girls will be girls, right?
They will—and that is exactly why we need to pay more, rather than less, attention to what’s happening in their world. According to the American Psychological Association, the emphasis on beauty and play-sexiness at ever-younger ages is increasing girls’ vulnerability to the pitfalls that most concern parents: eating disorders, negative body image, depression, risky sexual behavior. Yet here we are with nearly half of six-year-old girls regularly using lipstick or lip gloss. The percentage of eight- to twelve-year-old girls wearing eyeliner or mascara has doubled in the last TWO years (I ask you: shouldn’t the percentage of eight-year-olds wearing eyeliner be zero?). A researcher told me that when she asks teenage girls how a sexual experience felt to them they respond by telling her how they think they looked. Meanwhile, the marketing of pink, pretty, and “sassy” has become a gigantic business: the Disney Princesses alone are pulling in four BILLION dollars in revenue annually.
As I immersed myself in the research for this book, I began to trace a line from the innocence of Cinderella to the struggles Miley Cyrus has faced in trying to “age up,” which in turn was connected to how regular girls present themselves on Facebook (where identity itself becomes a performance, crafted in response to your audience of 322 BFFs). It seemed that even as new educational and professional opportunities unfurled before my daughter and her peers, so did the path that encouraged them to equate identity with image, self-expression with appearance, femininity with performance, pleasure with pleasing, and sexuality with sexualization.
So much is at stake, for mothers with girls of all ages: How do we define girlhood? What about femininity? Beauty? Sexuality? Our choices will tell our girls how we see them, who we want them to be, our values, expectations, hopes, and dreams. Do we want them to be judged by the content of their character or the color of their lip gloss?
I’m the first to admit that I do not have all the answers. Who could? But as a mother who also happens to be a journalist (or perhaps vice versa), I wanted to lay out the context—the marketing, science, history, culture—in which we make our choices, to provide information and insight that might help parents, educators, and all of us who care about girls guide them toward their true happily-ever-afters.
Part anecdotal, part research and a lot of humor makes this book very enjoyable and informative.
Essentially, Peggy Orenstein dedicates sections of her book to pop culture, marketing that targets girls, social networks, and beauty pageants.
There was also plenty I need to think about more, and some things I would say I just don't agree with.
It's a good starting analysis, however, it's very centered around cishet children. Queer children need representation too.Published 11 days ago by R.Binns
I was assigned this book in a college course on Girl Studies. While it is good introductory material, I found the book to be redundant. Read morePublished 23 days ago by CatLady22
A great book about the new generation of little girls being bombarded by all the overly idealized images of a perfect young girl/woman generated by the massive spawn of doe-eyed... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Banshee
At first I thought I would disagree with everything that Orenstein wrote because I am not anti princess or Barbie. However, once I began reading I couldn't stop. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Melanie
I loved this book! I highly recommend it to any parent. She lays out great information and has research and sources to back herself up. Read morePublished 2 months ago by angela
As a princess hater, having a daughter is definitely a challenge with all the intense marketing to kids. Read morePublished 2 months ago by A. Bauer
I have two daughters who are very into princesses and very girly. I thought this book would be a very interesting read, even if I didn't agree with the author. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Angela Borchert
You don't have to buy into everything Orenstein writes but I see the results of princess culture in society and the Significant number of young adult women in therapy and high use... Read morePublished 4 months ago by JD
Peggy Orenstein shows the difficulties of raising strong independent girls in today's consumer culture. She shows how this works in general and in her own household. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Loves the View