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A disappointing and often even backwards guide to empowering your daughter.
on August 2, 2016
While I agree with the basic premise of this book (that negative and harmful media and social pressures on girls should be actively counteracted by parents), I found myself profoundly disappointed in Princess Recovery as a resource for achieving this. Not because there isn't *any* good advice in this book--there is some--but because it's accompanied by and even couched in backwards and outright harmful views of girls and women.
In spite of having the best of intentions, Dr. Hartstein, in her condemnation of the sexualization of girls in and through media, still ultimately blames girls (and their parents) for their "bad choices" rather than society for objectifying (or allowing the objectification of) even very young children. And while she advises parents to talk to their children about media and social pressures, the language she herself uses is still couched in sexism.
For example, in chapter two there is a section on "helping your child learn to dress in appropriate ways." Ignoring the fact that we don't feel the need to police boys' clothing as much as we do girls', the advice focuses on how young children should not be wearing "sexy" clothing, and that parents should help their daughter to make "good choices." Then later, in a section about valuing brains over beauty, Dr. Hartstein highlights Lady Gaga as a potentially negative role model (in comparison to someone like Hillary Clinton) because "[Lady Gaga's] choice to push the envelope and wear crazy outfits means her smarts and accomplishments often get overlooked. There are many popular culture stars who fall into this trap. Their appearance becomes the topic of conversation, not their brains or their abilities."
But the problem here is not your five year old's or even Lady Gaga's clothing choices. The problem is that we live in a society that objectifies the bodies of young girls and grown women so strongly that even a five year old in a short skirt or a bikini can be considered "sexy." The problem is that we as a society would focus on Lady Gaga's outward appearance even if she dressed in "normal" clothing all of the time. In fact it can easily be argued that her clothing choices are actually *empowering*, because she has pushed the envelope beyond her everyday appearance--expressing her individuality every day on her own terms. For a book that is continually pushing the concept of "looking beyond the surface," Dr. Hartstein's analysis of these issues is profoundly shallow.
There are also several "princess symptoms" posited in the book that have little to nothing to do with being female. Materialism and Entitlement aren't girl problems--they're problems for everyone. I admit I didn't even get into the sections on romance, but I've been so underwhelmed by Dr. Hartstein's advice and outlook in the first quarter of this book that I'm not particularly interested in what she has to say about women and love.
While I admire that Dr. Hartstein has tried to tackle the issue of raising empowered girls in an exceedingly misogynistic society, she has failed to realize that the answer cannot be found in simply teaching girls to make different or better choices in their lives. It can only be found in creating a culture that views women as more than just objects, a culture that values women *as a given.* And that can only be accomplished by having much deeper conversations on these issues--not just with our daughters, but also our sons and our friends and families and ourselves.