Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture

From Publishers Weekly:
Orenstein, who has written about girls for nearly two decades (Schoolgirls), finds today's pink and princess-obsessed girl culture grating when it threatens to lure her own young daughter, Daisy. In her quest to determine whether princess mania is merely a passing phase or a more sinister marketing plot with long-term negative impact, Orenstein travels to Disneyland, American Girl Place, the American International Toy Fair; visits a children's beauty pageant; attends a Miley Cyrus concert; tools around the Internet; and interviews parents, historians, psychologists, marketers, and others. While she uncovers some disturbing news (such as the American Psychological Association's assertion that the "girlie-girl" culture's emphasis on beauty and play-sexiness can increase girls' susceptibility to depression, eating disorders, distorted body image, and risky sexual behavior), she also finds that locking one's daughter away in a tower like a modern-day Rapunzel may not be necessary. Orenstein 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. With insight and biting humor, 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.

I am fortunate to get early review copies of books and when I heard about Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture, I knew I had to read it. I mean, come on. Best title of all time #1 and #2 it's written by Peggy Orenstein, the brilliant writer behind Schoolgirls: Young Women, Self Esteem, and the Confidence Gap

I devoured this book in about two days (keep in mind I have a full-time job, work freelance, have a part-time blogging job, two kids, a husband, a house, a 70 mile a day commute, and a dog who unfortunately had a bad spell of puking her guts out while I was trying to read). I just could not put this book down.

See, I was one of the mom's that said "I will NEVER let MY daughter do XYZ". My daughter was not going to wear pink. My daughter was not going to participate in Beauty Pageants (okay, I have kept to that one thus far) and my daughter was going to play with gender neutral toys and never, ever feel like she was anything less than her brother. I put the kibosh on her having shirts that said things like "Girlz rule, Boys drool!" She had a brother. It wasn't appropriate.

And yet, somehow, I ended up with a child who wore a skirt every single day to kindergarten. I've had conversations many times with my friend Al, decidedly a "tomboy" about her daughter who wears pink sparkly EVERYTHING.

Were we failing our daughters? Of course not. But the drastic extremes in today's culture sometimes make the lines really blurry. Are Disney Princesses okay? Does American Girl really set the example we think it does? Are girls just ACTUALLY wired differently than boys?

Having a son and a daughter who just happen to be twins, I've seen both sides. Ironically, I have a very sensitive son and a very proactive daughter. My daughter is already fighting the good fight in her own way...she frequently says things like "I can adopt children with no husband" or "I don't care if I ever get married". Then, of course, I worry I've taken it too far and she's going to grow up a man hater.

It's a tough line to walk.

I came away from this book feeling a bit better about how I'm doing though. I learned it is normal (and okay!) to be a bit conflicted in dealing with girls. It's also normal (and okay!) to struggle with my own thoughts and perceptions on femininity and how my child is growing up. At what lessons I'm teaching her.

I'd highly recommend this book for anyone who has a daughter. Orenstein is a gifted writer and I'm sure you'll be able to relate, as I did, to what she has to say.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting. Subscribe-ka I'm on the RCC perhaps. :)