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240 of 258 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 15, 2010
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
First of all, I'm a new father. Of a girl. Naturally I find myself wondering how on earth I am going to raise a confident, considerate and well adjusted girl in these complicated times. I also noticed that sometimes people's eyebrows would raise as they saw me reading this book in public. Trust me. This book is a worthwhile read for mothers AND fathers.

What this book has proven to be is an alarming expose of the numerous pitfalls our culture has created for girls. Orenstein humorously and cuttingly tackles issues such as the marketing schemes of the "disney princess brand", "pink explosion" of products marketed toward girls, the pattern of teen-icon role-models who go from "wholesome" to "whoresome" as they mature (even the seemingly incorruptible Miley Cyrus succumbed to it as she got older). AKA don't pose for Vanity Fair. The book is well researched and makes a compelling case for all parents to be concerned about the future of their daughters.

Orenstein's agenda is liberally slanted with an anti-consumer agenda, and you can tell because there's some obvious HRC/Palin comparisons in the book, but what would you expect from a lady living in Berekely, California? A Santa Cruz resident, myself, I didn't find these insertions bothersome, but to the politically conservative I advice a grain of salt.

At times the narrative seemed to get overly alarmist, raising red flags about things which I personally wouldn't worry very much. I understand why, but parts of the discussion seemed to over-stress the dangers to our nascent daughters. I just don't buy it. Meanwhile, the book offers a great amount of commentary/critique about these challenges, but provides very little of substance in terms of how to address these issues on the parental end. There are some gems scattered throughout but I found myself wishing there was more guidance for those who are struggling here. Maybe the answer is that there is no real answer, because the parenting experience is so different for everyone.
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411 of 464 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 4, 2010
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Is it just me or are nonfiction books of this type getting shorter and ending in an increasingly abrupt manner? I was startled when I hit the end of this most recent offering from Ms. Orenstein; with a good pinch of pages left I thought I had just reached the end of a chapter, only to see the rest of the bulk consisted merely of acknowledgements, notes, and so forth.

This sudden drop off only adds to my list of frustrations with this interesting, well-intentioned, yet flawed book. As the mother of three young daughters, I was at once intrigued and skeptical when I picked up the book, which claims to tell us poor befuddled mothers what to make of the supposedly new culture of "girlie girl." The author immediately strikes a very bloggy, up-to-the-minute tone, which can be fun to read but also frustratingly limited. It is odd to pick up an actual physical book and see snarky snappiness and reference after reference to things I have seen online, but have never encountered in real life. Is there truly no world outside the internet now?

It also has the downfall so common to these social critique tomes, in that the author employs what I like to call the "me and my playgroup" method of research. Rather than delving into true social scientific research even in a casual way, rather than expanding her explorations into unfamiliar neighborhoods or more solidly limiting the terms of the inquiry to well-heeled coastal progressive communities, the author lazily lopes around the park on the corner and runs back to report what she has seen there. A lot of assumptions fill in the gap. For instance, she says that since the "princess thing" is so big "even" where she lives (liberal Berkeley) it "must" be even worse elsewhere. Well no, not necessarily. And as far as any kind of material spoiling and expectations of things like "spa day," well, if you can't even afford a once-a-year "spa day" for yourself (as the millions of Americans who make less than $40,000 per year mostly cannot) then you certainly aren't going to be getting one for your 7 year old, whether you think it's immoral or not!

Orenstein gallops along at quite a clip with the false dichotomies, too. Should we encourage girls to play act being a doctor, or just let them be ballerinas? Uh, why not both? Am I damaging my daughter by letting her play with Thomas the Train toys or is it more damaging to let her play princess? Well, why should either one be damaging at all, and especially if one has the breadth of mind to enjoy both?

In Orenstein's anecdotal evidence about the excesses of "girlie girl" I did notice one common theme that carried through: she wasn't there when it happened. In one instance, her daughter had wandered off with some older kids. In most of the rest, it concerned something that happened at preschool. Over and over again with the stuff she cites I found myself thinking, "WHERE are the parents of all these kids?" So much could be remedied by parents being there and saying no as frequently as possible. Dare I say, this woman is making an excellent argument in favor of strong women staying at home to rear and shelter their daughters? Oh heavens, that cannot be! But at least if she proposed this she would be proposing SOME solution. As the book slumped forward, prematurely expired, I had already been feeling depressed and hopeless about the state of girlhood. Orenstein leaves us there with no ideas for remedy at all, save a bland last-minute exhortation that maybe moms can sorta make a difference, I guess, if we try. Woo!
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93 of 110 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon January 24, 2011
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Cinderella Ate My Daughter / 978-0-061-71152-7

For people interested in gender politics and how they play out in advertising aimed at young girls in America, this book is an absolute delight to read. Author Orenstein examines everything from Disney Princess merchandise, American Girls dolls, the "Twilight" phenomena, Miley Cyrus (and all the "innocent-but-sexy" singers and actresses that have come before her, and will come after her yet), pageant culture, and Facebook - all through the dual lens of her own experiences as a mother and her own research as a journalist.

"Cinderella Ate My Daughter" is wonderfully written - both informative and interesting. The author has a wonderful sense of when to intersperse daily anecdotes from her own life into the meticulous studies she references and the experts she quotes. This is anything but a "fluff" book - there's so much information compiled here and it's presented in an imminently easy-to-digest format. Looking back on this book, dozens of fascinating facts leap to my mind - such as the evidence that dolls were in low vogue among girls in the late 1800's, until President Roosevelt warned the country against declining Anglo-Saxon birth rates and suddenly the race was on to prepare (certain kinds of) girls to be 'good American mothers'. Then there's the chapter about mixed-gender play and how to understand the difference between boys and girls playing WITH each other and them playing NEAR each other (and how to encourage the latter to blossom into the former). Especially impressive in this book is how the author always tries to give the opposition a fair say, even while making it clear where she falls on the spectrum - everything comes across as highly informative and extremely fair-spoken.

One thing I particularly liked about this book is how fallible-as-a-mother Orenstein is willing to be, and how kind and fair-minded she is towards the other parents in the book. She seems to really understand how difficult it is to meld high-minded principles with day-to-day parenting (for instance, in explaining WHY a Bratz doll is "inappropriate" to her 5-year-old, she's frustrated that the very CONCEPT of the inappropriateness of a "sexy" doll isn't something she wanted to get into just yet!), and I really respect that there is pretty much zero "parent bashing" here. When the author explores the "American Girls" dolls (a marketing line that she readily admits is out of the budgets of most parents and thus constitutes a minority of American girls being able to even afford the dolls), it would be easy to decry all the money "wastefully" spent on the extravagant doll clothes, but she doesn't. Even the pageant chapter is tactfully and thoughtfully written - Orenstein seems fully aware that "parent bashing" only helps to blind us to the other forms of marketing and expression that are targeted to our girls (i.e., "Sure my daughter wears a Cinderella bridal veil to kindergarten every day, but at least I don't let her dress like JonBenet!"), and so instead she uses the pageant concept to draw parallels, not to cast judgment.

I also want to note that this book struck me as very HAES-friendly and extremely insightful on how to encourage healthy body-image in young daughters - several of the experts that Orenstein quotes hit the nail on the head, I think, on the best hows-and-whens to tell your daughter that she's beautiful, and how to link that "beauty" to inner character rather than outer trappings.

For people who are interested in gender studies and girl-aimed marketing, I feel like this is a wonderful book to read. The book is easy to digest, and hard to put down - I read the whole book in two days, largely because I just didn't want to stop. Most of all, I appreciate that the author understands that the issues of gender politics and how they affect our young daughters are *complicated*, and while she tries to offer her own solutions at the end, she never sounds preachy, know-it-all, or "my way is the right way" - I think, largely because she gets that a complicated issue like this doesn't have one, pithy solution that can be easily summed up on a bumper sticker.

NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through Amazon Vine.

~ Ana Mardoll
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42 of 49 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
Pink, princesses, disney, pageants, tiaras, and on and on. All of these things and more come into play at a very young age for girls growing up in today's society. Often the introduction of these items seems to come organically without any outside intervention and other times it's entirely based on the media & friends our children interact with on a daily basis. As a parent of a newly "crowned" princess of her own, Peggy Orenstein navigates the murky waters that nearly every parent of a daughter will encounter at one time or another in their child's life.

Before I get into the meat of my review I need to say up front that this book was not at all what I was expecting. In many ways I was completely disappointed at the lack of helpful tools and overwhelmed by the sometimes contradictory information & statistics. Being the parent of a young daughter who has recently acquired a love of all the things author Peggy Orenstein finds wrong in the world currently (ie. pink everything & most of all Disney Princesses) I was on the lookout for helpful ways in which to counter balance this influence. Something to encourage her to become a young woman that is tolerant and accepting of others as well as comfortable with her own self-image. What I ended up with was more frustration than answers.

Both my husband and I are the first born in families where there was only one gender of children. His was a family of four boys and mine a family of three girls. Because of my situation I became quite a bit of a tomboy and helped my Dad with whatever he was doing around the house or outside. I learned to work on cars and fix stereo equipment, but was also a classically trained flutist. Even with the influence of two younger, very girly, sisters and a mom who was always dressed beautifully I never fully became a "girly girl". Despite or perhaps because of my lack of "girliness" I still suffered from bouts of anorexia and depression as a teen, but even these experiences shaped me into a strong confident woman. Why? Primarily because of my parents and their never ending open line of communication while growing up. This leads me to my own daughter & son (who funnily enough chose pink as his favorite color until just recently) and how I can encourage & support them even when our tastes are varied, which was the primary reasoning behind picking up Cinderella Ate My Daughter.

It's obvious to anyone who reads even a few chapters of Cinderella Ate My Daughter that Orenstein has done her homework. From spending her days monitoring the interactions between pre-schoolers to visiting the mecca of the doll world, the American Girl Place, to thoroughly researching both sides of pageants and even interviewing the man behind the marketing genius that is the Disney Princesses. For me personally I found most of this information to not only be too much but also something I was already aware of. What I didn't appreciate was the near constant contradictions I found. Yes, it bothers me to know that the Disney Princesses were intentionally placed on marketing & packaging materials in such a way that they never "look" at each other. But what also bothered me more was that the author, who was bothered by that situation was also bothered while observing pre-schoolers who naturally separated into gender specific groups without any encouragement from adults. So it was wrong that the Disney Princesses were never allowed to seek the camaraderie & support of the other princesses, but it was also wrong that girls played and enjoyed the company of other girls? It was situations like this that left me confused and baffled at what exactly it was that the author was trying to accomplish. Instead of feeling as though I was learning from the shared experience of a fellow mother seeking solutions to help her children be the best people they can be I felt like she was more interested in carrying out her personal vendetta against all things pink, princess and girly.

In what I hoped would be a book filled with ways to counter balance the role today's media & marketing plays into the ways our daughters grow up I found near constant negativity without many solutions. Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein is perfect for readers not familiar with today's popular girl-driven marketing trends because it's filled with statistics and observations of not only the author herself but many professionals. Unfortunately for me it was of little help. Yes, I hope to encourage both of my children to be strong independent thinkers that are not only tolerant but accepting of others. What I also hope to teach them is that no matter what they choose I support them in whatever their passions may be by not privately (or publicly as in this case) disparaging their decisions. There is no definitive statistic that can prove a young girl or boy who grow up loving pink and only pink will be completely depressed and disillusioned as an adult, but unfortunately that's the opinion I gathered from the author. Oddly enough my favorite quote and perhaps my personal hope is one found on the last page:

"...our role is not to keep the world at bay but to prepare our daughters so they can thrive within it." (p. 192 Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein)

Originally reviewed and copyrighted at my site There's A Book.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon May 30, 2011
Format: Hardcover
As the father of a 5-year-old daughter (and a 2-year-old son), I can appreciate Ms. Orenstein's dilemma. She is concerned about what our consumer-driven/ Disney princess/ Facebook culture is doing to our little girls. I'm afraid I just can't get quite as worked up about everything as she does. I believe that if I let my children experience almost anything in moderation, they'll turn out fine.

It's easy to get dismayed about the girlie-girl world when you take your investigation to toy fairs and little girl beauty pageants. It's easy to blame Disney even when Snow White sells and Pocahontas doesn't. It's easy to freak out when confronted by the change in culture being wrought by online social sites and cell phones and YouTube. But, as we can see through the personal anecdotes Orenstein describes with her own daughter, we parents are the filter of culture for our young children. I like to think that my guidance has more influence than television commercials and peers, at least for now.

I respect Orenstein's passion for trying to remake girl culture into something that will always produce strong, confident women. It's a fool's errand, of course, as, no matter what we do, most girls will turn out fine (and some, as always, will not). But we need these voices of warning to keep us thinking about what we value, even as I know my children will value things differently than I do. Last year my daughter loved Dora, this year it's Ariel and Rapunzel. But she also loves Batman and Krypto the Superdog, Kung Fu Panda and the Fresh Beat Band. Not to mention riding her Razor scooter, playing in the park, coloring, and reading. Some days she wears her Cinderella dress and some days its jeans and a t-shirt (like Daddy wears). Today it's an Irish green dress with little daisies as the trim that she picked out of her closet herself.

In the end, I worry about so much when I think about my little girl, but I don't worry too much about what Orenstein worries about in this book, interesting though her investigation is. I worry about getting her into a good Kindergarten and what kind of boys she's going to want to date someday. I worry that I'm spending enough time with her because of my busy work schedule. I worry that I'm giving her the right kind of discipline to mould her character. So much more seems more important to me than toys, beauty pageants and Disney. I could be wrong, but I'm doing the best I can.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture by Peggy Orenstein is an eye opening study for anyone raising girls in today's society. When I saw the book on the options list for Amazon Vine review, I was fascinated by the title and the concept, which turned out to offer a great deal more than the cover suggests. The Disney-instigated princess phenomenon has ceased being new and novel and is simply the backdrop of our daughter's lives, at least in America. Don't get me wrong, modern children have always played princess, but Orentstein's book exposes how the culture of strategically-cultivated consumerism that is behind toys and dolls is troubling and the many manifestations of "princess" are cause for concern.

Orentstein's book is broken up into sections, some that I was expecting and some that were a surprise. She opens the book with the birth of her daughter and her immersion into the world of princess, starting even before birth. In "What's Wrong With Cinderella," Orentstein explores the changing nature of the Disney princesses over time, how they turned from being a few characters in old animated movies to the enormous money-making franchise of today. Peggy explores how this phenomenon was not an accident, but a strategic marketing decision to turn young girls (and their mothers) into marketing targets. She also touches on the contradiction of the American Girl line, which offers more depth in message but mixed with material consumerism in purchase options.

In "Pinked," Orenstein explores the rise of the color pink to define girls (less than 100 years ago, believe it or not, that color was associated with boys and blue with girls!). She also discusses the rise of the doll in American society and the path from baby dolls to Barbies to what she calls today's "doll wars" - lines of dolls, replete with accessories, competing for market share. She also, in these first chapters, begins a book-long exploration of the resulting early sexualization of young girls that, disturbingly, rears its head in nearly every subsequent chapter.

Orenstein delves more into the academic nature of "What Makes Girls Girls," exploring the developmental path of discovering gender and sex for young children, before moving into what she calls the extreme of expressing girl culture - the children's pageant circuit. She then spends some time exploring not the merchandising, but the stories themselves that our children are reading - the Grimm fairy tales vs. the sanitized Disney versions as well as modern fairy tales like the Twilight series.

In my opinion, the most interesting chapter in the book was "Wholesome to Whoresome." Personally, I'd like to see Orenstein expand this chapter into a book of its own. She deals with the "live" Disney princesses - Brittany Spears, Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana, Hilary Duff, Selena Gomez and others in the Disney constellation of girl stars. Over and over these girls seem to transition from a role model to young girls into a tabloid cautionary tale. Orenstein makes the point that is not the "good girl gone bad" that is the problem, but that the fetishism of their "goodness" that is the problem to begin with. There is simply nowhere else for them to go, potentially taking their young fans with them, to the horror of the mothers who pinned their hopes on the artificially sweet role model they were promised.

Orenstein then spends some time talking about alternate role models and body type awareness, as well as the online world of social networking. She is concerned about the way girls "package themselves" as a brand in the online world, and the permanence and rapidity of information exchanged by kids on the web. As a facebook fan, I am concerned about this as well, while like Orenstein, also challenged by these very notions myself.

Overall, Orenstein's book asks more questions than provides answers, partly because some of these issues, while academically interesting, are so very ingrained in how we raise girls today that it is easy to acknowledge her concerns, but shrug them off for lack of any hint of how to do things differently. Orenstein does a great job acknowledging these tensions throughout the book - the princess thing is over the top, yes, but it's so CUTE! Facebook is problematic, but they'll have an online presence through their friends whether they want to or not. Alternate play is a great idea, but will any friends play with them.

But each of these issues and questions are important ones for parents to be asking themselves as their daughters grow. The primary message I drew from this book is the importance of protecting our daughters from the tentacles of consumeristic marketing. Life cannot simply be about having stuff, buying stuff and conforming to the need for the right stuff. This has always been true, but the "stuff" has become so much more intrusive in our everyday lives. The other message I found was continuously finding ways to challenge our girls to develop their inner selves rather than just packaging their outer selves. Ideally, this is the sort of book that should be revisited every year or so by parents of daughters, and eventually by the daughters themselves.

I congratulate Peggy on an excellent exploration of the challenges of young girls today and for deconstructing the significant role consumer marketing impacts the daily inner and outer life of our girls. I also would direct my readers to Peggy's excellent Facebook fan page, on which she expands these themes through discussion of the current events of the day.
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32 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2014
Format: Paperback
I used Orenstein’s “Schoolgirls” as a reading in my psychology class. So perhaps readers will forgive me for going into some detail as to why I think “Cinderella” is a disturbing step backwards.

Did we really need another book recycling the usual complaints about pop culture, floggings of troubled celebrities, baseless alarmisms, self-superior grownup quips, and sweeping, often ugly vilifications toward “youth today”?

You’d think commentators like Orenstein would be proudly celebrating modern girls and young women who, as a generation, represent a stunning confirmation of long-held feminist precepts that educated, assertive, in-public girls are both more personally fulfilled and safer from violent and other victimizations stemming from their traditional dependency and seclusion.

Yet, bizarrely, many calling themselves “feminists” seem terrified of modern young women. In dozens of books—Reviving Ophelia, Queen Bee, Lolita Effect, Perfect Girls, Sugar & Spice, So Sexy So Soon, and now Cinderella Ate My Daughter—they’ve joined conservatives in an ultra-puritanical “culture war” panic to slut-shame girls (including their own daughters) back into traditional female subservience.

Despite her vague rhetoric for “authentic feminism/femininity,” Orenstein, like other culture warriors, openly yearns for the bygone days of girly passivity and demureness. In a thesis statement on p. 172, Orenstein waxes “nostalgic” for the 1970s, back when (she says) few girls “competed on the sports field, raised our hands during math class, or graduated from college” or “spoke the word ‘vagina.’”

Orenstein’s nostalgia (to borrow her own emphatic words from another context) is A LOAD OF CRAP. Is she so upset at modern girls’ diverse expressions that she would restore a world for her daughter in which virtually every REAL danger—rape, sexual assault, murder, unwanted pregnancy, violent death, suicide and self-destructive lethalities, criminality, truncated education, drug and alcohol abuse, sexist attitudes, etc.—were FAR worse among girls (especially at younger ages) than they are today? That was the 1970s.

What explains this mystery? Aside from nostalgesia (nostalgic amnesia), these authors fret that today’s girls are just too outfront, too “sexualized.” Orenstein may describe herself as tolerant, but she (like other culture warriors) is overwrought at any expression of sexuality by any young female, even by pop stars well past adolescence. (When will it finally be okay for Miley Cyrus to have sex?)

For all of Orenstein’s panic over commercial and pop-culture “premature sexualization,” an array of solid measures show today’s freer, more education- and career-oriented young women are experiencing serious relationships and sexual risks at OLDER ages. For examples, pregnancy rates among girls under age 15 are now less than half as high, and rape and other violence have declined dramatically among young people, compared to back when Orenstein was a teenager.

I know… for culture warriors, it’s not what those "damned statistics” and "lying studies” say; it’s HOW I FEEL. Far fewer girls getting pregnant, raped, killed, or dropping out and marrying at 16? Irrelevant. The problem, basically, is that girls now express femininity in a wider variety of ways (some of which various commentators don't approve of) than we remember.

THIS is what Orenstein and peers obsess over: Hannah Montana, Disney cartoon princesses’ bare shoulders, pinkish wardrobe ads, anecdotes, and media offenses, all used as platforms to praise themselves while hurling sarcasms at their kids.

What’s driving this craziness? Here’s my guess: we can’t face the reality that it’s older, not younger, generations that are going to hell.

Solid indexes show rates of middle-aged drug abuse, crime, suicide, psychological troubles, chaotic relationships, widespread divorce, and callous, reactionary, racist political attitudes are all rising. Today’s mom (age 40-49) is three times more likely to commit suicide and 10 times more likely to die from an illicit-drug overdose than her teenaged daughter.

When Orenstein was growing up, daughters were far more likely to be arrested for serious violence than mothers; today, many more moms than daughters are arrested for violence. Criminal arrests among grownups in their 40s and 50s—the parents of teens—have soared to nearly 3 million per year, with a record half million imprisoned. Hundreds of thousands of children and teenagers, including nearly 1,000 murdered, are substantiated victims of violent household abuses every year, overwhelmingly inflicted by parents.

But instead of honestly confronting middle-aged troubles, many aging Americans are hiding behind the avalanche of distracting commentaries like this one that pretend the older folks are perfect; it’s just those damn kids and their “culture.”

Well, if getting upset at Barbie’s twigginess, Miley’s sheet-draping, some rude tweet, or whatever Lindsay did this week are you or your daughter’s worst problems, count yourselves lucky.

The youths I worked with for years, like millions across the country, had real problems: severe poverty, homelessness, addicted and mentally disturbed parents, being sexually assaulted by mom’s third live-in boyfriend, beatings, constant family turmoil, crumbling neighborhoods, bleak schools, zero job prospects. The biggest, proven factors in premature sexuality among children are poverty, sexual abuse, and severe family problems in childhood.

But Orenstein is explicitly uninterested in anything real. Her index barely references “violence,” and then only in “fantasy,” “media,” and “play.” She promises high-stakes revelations on “nothing less than the health, development and futures of our girls,” then delivers 23 pages on the “pink-and-pretty trend” compared to one oblique reference to domestic violence and nothing on crushing youth poverty.

Orenstein wants us to be alarmed at things like, “in 2007, we spent a whopping $11.5 billion on clothing for our seven-to-fourteen year-olds, up from $10.5 billion in 2004.” Worry not; that “increase” was just normal inflation, and the clothing for 7-14-year-olds consumes around 4% of the nation’s quarter-trillion dollar annual clothing outlay. If Americans spend too much on clothes, it’s for grownups.

Orenstein also cites those phony “surveys” that self-interested lobbies peddle to wildly exaggerate teen problems by including routine behaviors (any disagreement or disapproval is “bullying,” any “sexual word” is “sexting,” etc.). When examined, these surveys actually show that while teenagers aren’t puritans, truly risky personal behaviors are rare.

Yuppie frettings over f-words and racy pixels aside, the best evidence indicates that with the usual ups and downs, modern girls are negotiating today’s complex multicultures and emerging as the most diverse, brazenly successful female generation ever. In fact, manufactured panics and obsolete prejudices represent the biggest risk of sabotaging young people, particularly girls, whose very diversity—from the girliest girl to the toughest tomboy—is their biggest strength.

From 25 years of working directly in families and communities and studying generational trends, I’ve seen the fearful, gut-level reaction by elders—despite pretensions to feminism and equality—against girls invading once-male academic and professional arenas, often outcompeting men, and (most terrifying of all) publicly addressing sexuality.

Since they can’t cite serious problems factually (obesity is up, for example, but it’s heavily concentrated among older and poorer populations), they’re retreating into exclaiming that this or that pop-culture offense, like the pool hall in River City, must be corrupting fragile upscale girls to sin and ruin (evidence of actual corruption not needed).

If this review seems long and harsh, it’s because I think the real danger is that grownups are abusing our power over books and commentaries to flatter ourselves, transfer blame to the young, and deny any reality it suits us to ignore. In every era we see identical books raising dire alarms that jazz, comics, rock’n’roll, commercial advertising, sexy films, etc., were leading the young to ruin—Vance Packard said it all 40 years ago—when what they really mean is, “I’m offended.” As fun and entertaining as these are, it’s long past time to get past scapegoating fashions, ads, and Miley.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book has become a flash point for many reviewers. In my opinion, this is a very fine book. It is a well written, well researched and thoughtful study of how the minds and bodies of little girls are manipulated by societal influences and mainstream culture, both bad and good. This is not a doctrinaire tract. This is an entertaining and easy read. Advertisers and marketers are not portrayed as devils, parents want the best for their children and little girls are, well, little girls.

Peggy Orenstein, an author and journalist known for her insightful work on girl's behavior and emotional health becomes a mother of a little girl. As a parent, she finds herself torn between theory and fact, myth and observation. She wants her daughter to grow up strong, happy and secure with a positive body image, while her toddler daughter, Daisy wants to be Cinderella. Orenstein doesn't ever say this is necessarily bad but she is concerned with the ever increasing volume of mainstream marketing that envelops little girls from the age of 3 onward.

And, what is wrong with Princesses? Princesses are, princesses, especially as envisioned by Disney. They look good, they are virginal and they wait for the prince to arrive. Then they ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after. A lovely fairy tale but what does it teach the little girl of real life? Of self realization? Of happiness?

Personally, I wanted to be a princess-fireman. A princess with a back-up plan. I didn't know it at the time, but this made very good sense. Sometimes life doesn't work out the way you would hope, sometimes the prince leaves the princess with kids and a mortgage on the castle and there she is a 40 year old former princess with no interests, education or way to make a living. What parent would want that for their daughter? What daughter would want that for herself?

Little girls eventually grow out of this princess stage but they retain the message that perfection, and appearance is what is important. That it is better to look good than to feel or to think positively about their actions and activities. In fact, Orenstein points to studies that show that when this is reinforced, girls eventually equate how they look with how they feel; they only feel positive about themselves when they think they are pretty and stylish and thin enough. This is encouraged by the massive marketing industry that starts with movies and TV and then moves on to toys, cosmetics, and clothing. It is everywhere. And it is overwhelming. How do you convince girls that "fat is not a feeling" when Kate Moss says "Nothing tastes better than skinny feels"? (Edited to correct quote)

We have all seen little "Sesame Street Walkers" wearing nail polish, makeup, curled hair, and midriff bearing tops. Is this harmless or is this harmful? Children's marketers use the code "KGOY" for "kids getting older, younger". Yesterday's 12 is the new 6. Is this an organic move or is it artificially created? Orenstein poses multiple opinions all of them thoughtful and some of them terrifying.

A particularly interesting thread through the book was Orenstein's deconstruction of traditional Grimms Brothers fairy tales so rarely read to children these days. How these fantasy, instructional stories were written originally and how Disney and others have re-written the characters and plots to mesh with more "modern values". Are these re-formed fairy tales better for the child? It certainly is worth the investigation of Bruno Bettelheim's writings on the subject.

On a personal note, it was gratifying to see that Daisy selected Wonder Woman as a favorite character. Orenstein devotes a part of a chapter to super heroines. I had to laugh uncomfortably when she describes Wonder Woman's invisible airplane as "lame when compared to the gleam of the Batmobile", and finally admit after all these years that it might be true.

Orenstein ends her book with a chapter that gracefully ties everything together. "No wonder my kid is confused," she writes "so am I". There are no easy answers. This must be worked through by each parent and by each child.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Peggy Orenstein has researched every nook and cranny of the "little feminine mystique." She has harbored every doubt that parents of girl children have had. From pink, to Barbie, to child pageants and beyond, Orenstein discusses it all. In the midst of her research, she has her own reversals: one particularly revealing scene takes place in a toy store, when she and her husband play tug of war with a Barbie as her hapless daughter Daisy looks on.

But her analysis of the Disney Princesses and their sway over girls is fascinating. Are we all the pawns of marketing? Do we really need to hear that same princess message over and over again? From twitter to texting to Alexis Pilkington, Orenstein considers it all. This is a wonderful book for any parent who has wondered what is the "right way" to bring up a girl.

My conclusion? Daisy Orenstein is a lucky child.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 27, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
People say boys are more difficult when they are young and girls are more difficult as they get older. Agreed. Little boys don't like to sit still. Or follow rules. Or use toilets. But raising girls to become the type of women that they should be (that we need them to be) requires great effort. I want to teach my girls to rise above worldly expectations (and acceptances) and be virtuous, confident, independent, pleasant, balanced, remarkable, noble.

And that is why so many quotes and ideas from this book have been on my mind. It was not a fast read, but it has influenced me as a mother. I don't agree with everything. But there are plenty of valid points. . . points I wish I would have had on my mind eight years ago when I started this parenting thing.

A couple of my favorite quotes:

". . . After twenty years of writing and talking about girls, I know what to say: I have delivered the script hundreds of times at colleges and high schools, in churches and temples, to parent groups, teachers, Girls Scout leaders. So, for the record, here is what you are Officially Supposed To Do: stress what your daughter's body can do over how it is decorated. Praise her for her accomplishments over her looks. Make sure Dad is on board--a father's loving regard and interest in a girl, as the first man in her life, is crucial. Involve her in team sports. . . Volunteerism can give girls greater perspective and purpose, reducing body obsession. Media literacy can raise consciousness about marketers' manipulations."

"The phases of our lives have become strangely blurred, as girls try to look like adult women and adult women primp and preen and work out like crazy in order to look like girls."

"Our role is not to keep the world at bay but to prepare our daughters so they can thrive within it. That involves staying close but not crowding them, standing firm in one's values while remaining flexible."
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