- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
The acclaimed author of the groundbreaking bestseller Schoolgirls reveals the dark side of pink and pretty: the rise of the girlie-girl, she warns, is not that innocent.
Sweet and sassy 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 the ...
The acclaimed author of the groundbreaking bestseller Schoolgirls reveals the dark side of pink and pretty: the rise of the girlie-girl, she warns, is not that innocent.
Sweet and sassy 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 the source of female empowerment. And commercialization has spread the message faster and farther, reaching girls at ever-younger ages. But how dangerous is pink and pretty, anyway? Being a princess is just make-believe; eventually they grow out of it . . . or do they?
In search of answers, Peggy Orenstein visited Disneyland, trolled American Girl Place, and met parents of beauty-pageant preschoolers tricked out like Vegas showgirls. The stakes turn out to be higher than she ever imagined. 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.
New York Times Magazine contributor Orenstein (Waiting for Daisy, 2007, etc.) investigates the impact of early sexualization on girls.
In this witty, well-documented study, the author of Schoolgirls (1994) examines the not-so-innocent side of princess culture represented by Cinderella and her sister Disney royals.Orenstein looks at the way race-based images of idealized female beauty and behavior, themselves the product of aggressive and manipulative marketing campaigns, influence preteen girls. Before they reach kindergarten, female children have already been indoctrinated in the idea that how they look is more important than who they are. Foundations have been laid for the idea that prettiness—and a narcissistic concern with the external self—is the true path to empowerment. The main issue Orenstein addresses, however, is whether Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel and Belle (and their less popular, darker-skinned counterparts, Mulan and Pocahontas) protect young girls from early sexualization or prepare them to be consumers of clothes, grooming aids, toys, music and other forms of media that seem to celebrate underage sexuality. During the course of her research, Orenstein visited the Toy Fair ("the industry's largest trade show"), specialty "girl" stores such as American Girl Palace, the Universal Royalty Beauty Pageant for preteen girls, a Miley Cyrus concert and social-networking sites such as Webkinz and Facebook. The author discovered that while girls have more role models than ever before to show them that they can become anything they wish, they are also under much greater pressure from an extraordinarily young age to prove their femininity. That Orenstein is the mother of a young, biracial daughter makes the narrative even more readable than her bestselling earlier writings on girlhood and self-esteem. Rather than writing as a concerned but detached observer, she approaches her subject as a parent seeking practical ways to negotiate a complex cultural landscape that has been as confusing for her as a mother and woman as it has been potentially damaging for the girl she is raising.
Intelligent and richly insightful.
Why I Hoped for a Boy
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. Yet, when I finally got pregnant myself, I was terrified at the thought of having a daughter. While my friends, especially those who'd already had sons, braced themselves against disappointment should the delivery room doc announce, "It's a boy," I felt like the perpetual backseat driver who freezes when handed the wheel. I was supposed to be an expert on girls' behavior. I had spouted off about it everywhere from The New York Times to the Los Angeles Times, from the Today show to FOX TV. I had been on NPR repeatedly. And that was the problem: What if, after all that, I was not up to the challenge myself?
What if I couldn't raise the ideal daughter?
With a boy, I figured, I would be off the hook.
And truly, I thought having a son was a done deal. A few years before my daughter was born, I had read about some British guy who'd discovered that two-thirds of couples in which the husband was five or more years older than the wife had a boy as their first child. Bingo. My husband, Steven, is nearly a decade older than I am. So clearly I was covered. Then I saw the incontrovertible proof on the sonogram (or what they said was incontrovertible proof; to me, it looked indistinguishable from, say, a nose) and I suddenly realized I had wanted a girl—desperately, passionately—all along. I had just been afraid to admit it. But I still fretted over how I would raise her, what kind of role model I would be, whether I would take my own smugly written advice on the complexities surrounding girls' beauty, body image, education, achievement. Would I embrace frilly dresses or ban Barbies? Push soccer cleats or tutus?
Shopping for her layette, I grumbled over the relentless color coding of babies. Who cared whether the crib sheets were pink or glen plaid? During those months, I must have started a million sentences with "My daughter will never ..."
And then I became a mother.
Daisy was, of course, the most beautiful baby ever (if you don't believe me, ask my husband). I was committed to raising her without a sense of limits: I wanted her to believe neither that some behavior or toy or profession was not for her sex nor that it was mandatory for her sex. I wanted her to be able to pick and choose the pieces of her identity freely - that was supposed to be the prerogative, the privilege, of her generation. For a while, it looked as if I were succeeding. On her first day of preschool, at age two, she wore her favorite outfit - her "engineers" (a pair of pin-striped overalls) - and proudly toted her Thomas the Tank Engine lunchbox. I complained to anyone who would listen about the shortsightedness of the Learning Curve company, which pictured only boys on its Thomas packaging and had made "Lady," its shiny mauve girl engine, smaller than the rest. (The other females among Sodor's rolling stock were passenger cars - passenger cars - named Annie, Clarabel, Henrietta, and, yes, Daisy. The nerve!) Really, though, my bitching was a form of bragging. My daughter had transcended typecasting.
Oh, how the mighty fall. All it took was one boy who, while whizzing past her on the playground, yelled, "Girls don't like trains!" and Thomas was shoved to the bottom of the toy chest. Within a month, Daisy threw a tantrum when I tried to wrestle her into pants. As if by osmosis she had learned the names and gown colors of every Disney Princess - I didn't even know what a Disney Princess was. She gazed longingly into the tulle-draped windows of the local toy stores and for her third birthday begged for a "real princess dress" with matching plastic high heels. Meanwhile, one of her classmates, the one with Two Mommies, showed up to school every single day dressed in a Cinderella gown. With a bridal veil.
What was going on here? My fellow mothers, women who once swore they would never be dependent on a man, smiled indulgently at daughters who warbled "So This Is Love" or insisted on being addressed as Snow White. The supermarket checkout clerk invariably greeted Daisy with "Hi, Princess." The waitress at our local breakfast joint, a hipster with a pierced tongue and a skull tattooed on her neck, called Daisy's "funny-face pancakes" her "princess meal"; the nice lady at Longs Drugs offered us a free balloon, then said, "I bet I know your favorite color!" and handed Daisy a pink one rather than letting her choose for herself. Then, shortly after Daisy's third birthday, our high-priced pediatric dentist - the one whose practice was tricked out with comic books, DVDs, and arcade games - pointed to the exam chair and asked, "Would you like to sit in my special princess throne so I can sparkle your teeth?"
"Oh, for God's sake," I snapped. "Do you have a princess drill, too?"
She looked at me as if I were the wicked stepmother.
But honestly: since when did every little girl become a princess? It wasn't like this when I was a kid, and I was born back when feminism was still a mere twinkle in our mothers' eyes. We did not dress head to toe in pink. We did not have our own miniature high heels. What's more, I live in Berkeley, California: if princesses had infiltrated our little retro-hippie hamlet, imagine what was going on in places where women actually shaved their legs? As my little girl made her daily beeline for the dress-up corner of her preschool classroom, I fretted over what playing Little Mermaid, a character who actually gives up her voice to get a man, was teaching her.
On the other hand, I thought, maybe I should see princess mania as a sign of progress, an indication that girls could celebrate their predilection for pink without compromising strength or ambition; that at long last they could "have it all": be feminist and feminine, pretty and powerful; earn independence and male approval. Then again, maybe I should just lighten up and not read so much into it - to mangle Freud, maybe sometimes a princess is just a princess.
I ended up publishing my musings as an article called "What's Wrong with Cinderella?" which ran on Christmas Eve in The New York Times Magazine. I was entirely unprepared for the response. The piece immediately shot to the top of the site's "Most E-mailed" list, where it hovered for days, along with an article about the latest conflict in the Middle East. Hundreds of readers wrote in - or e-mailed me directly - to express relief, gratitude, and, nearly as often, outright contempt: "I have been waiting for a story like yours." "I pity Peggy Orenstein's daughter." "As a mother of three-year-old twin boys, I wonder what the land of princesses is doing to my sons." "I would hate to have a mother like Orenstein." "I honestly don't know how I survived all those hyped-up images of women that were all around me as a girl." "The genes are so powerful."
Apparently, I had tapped into something larger than a few dime-store tiaras. Princesses are just a phase, after all. It's not as though girls are still swanning about in their Sleeping Beauty gowns when they leave for college (at least most are not). But they did mark my daughter's first foray into the mainstream culture, the first time the influences on her extended beyond the family. And what was the first thing that culture told her about being a girl? Not that she was competent, strong, creative, or smart but that every little girl wants - or should want - to be the Fairest of Them All.
It was confusing: images of girls' successes abounded - they were flooding the playing field, excelling in school, outnumbering boys in college. At the same time, the push to make their appearance the epicenter of their identities did not seem to have abated one whit. If anything, it had intensified, extending younger (and, as the unnaturally smooth brows of midlife women attest, stretching far later). I had read stacks of books devoted to girls' adolescence, but but where was I to turn to understand the new culture of little girls, from toddler to "tween," to help decipher the potential impact - if any - of the images and ideas they were absorbing about who they should be, what they should buy, what made them girls? Did playing Cinderella shield them from early sexualization or prime them for it? Was walking around town dressed as Jasmine harmless fun, or did it instill an unhealthy fixation on appearance? Was there a direct line from Prince Charming to Twilight's Edward Cullen to distorted expectations of intimate relationships?
It is tempting, as a parent, to give the new pink-and-pretty a pass. There is already so much to be vigilant about, and the limits of our tolerance, along with our energy, slip a little with each child we have. So if a spa birthday party would make your six-year-old happy (and get her to leave you alone), really, what is the big deal? After all, girls will be girls, right? I agree, they will - and that is exactly why we need to pay more, rather than less, attention to what is happening in their world. According to the American Psychological Association, the girlie-girl culture's emphasis on beauty and play-sexiness can increase girls' vulnerability to the pitfalls that most concern parents: depression, eating disorders, distorted body image, risky sexual behavior. In one study of eighth-grade girls, for instance, self-objectification - judging your body by how you think it looks to others - accounted for half the differential in girls' reports of depression and more than two-thirds of the variance in their self-esteem. Another linked the focus on appearance among girls that age to heightened shame and anxiety about their bodies. Even brief exposure to the typical, idealized images of women that we all see every day has been shown to lower girls' opinion of themselves, both physically and academically. Nor, as they get older, does the new sexiness lead to greater sexual entitlement. According to Deborah Tolman, a professor at Hunter College who studies teenage girls' desire, "They respond to questions about how their bodies feel - questions about sexuality or arousal - by describing how they think they look. I have to remind them that looking good is not a feeling."
All of that does not suddenly kick in when a girl blows out the candles on her thirteenth birthday cake. From the time she is born - in truth, well before - parents are bombarded with zillions of little decisions, made consciously or not, that will shape their daughter's ideas and understanding of her femininity, her sexuality, her self. How do you instill pride and resilience in her? Do you shower her with pink heart-strewn onesies? Reject the Disney Princess Pull-Ups for Lightning McQueen? Should you let your three-year-old wear her child-friendly nail polish to pre-school? What's your policy on the latest Disney Channel "it" girl? Old Dora versus New Dora? Does a pink soccer ball celebrate girlhood? Do pink TinkerToys expand or contract its definition? And even if you think the message telegraphed by a pink Scrabble set with tiles on the box top that spell "F-A-S-H-I-O-N" is a tad retrograde, what are you supposed to do about it? Lock your daughter in a tower? Rely on the tedious "teachable moment" in which Mom natters on about how if Barbie were life-sized she'd pitch forward smack onto her bowling ball boobs (cue the eye rolling, please)?
Answering such questions has, surprisingly, become more complicated since the mid-1990s, when the war whoop of "Girl Power" celebrated ability over body. Somewhere along the line, that message became its own opposite. The pursuit of physical perfection was recast as a source - often the source - of young women's "empowerment." Rather than freedom from traditional constraints, then, girls were now free to "choose" them. Yet the line between "get to" and "have to" blurs awfully fast. Even as new educational and professional opportunities unfurl before my daughter and her peers, so does the path that encourages them to equate identity with image, self-expression with appearance, femininity with performance, pleasure with pleasing, and sexuality with sexualization. It feels both easier and harder to raise a girl in that new reality - and easier and harder to be one.
I didn't know whether Disney Princesses would be the first salvo in a Hundred Years' War of dieting, plucking, and painting (and perpetual dissatisfaction with the results). But for me they became a trigger for the larger question of how to help our daughters with the contradictions they will inevitably face as girls, the dissonance that is as endemic as ever to growing up female. It seemed, then, that I was not done, not only with the princesses but with the whole culture of little girlhood: what it had become, how it had changed in the decades since I was a child, what those changes meant, and how to navigate them as a parent. 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 believed it was important to lay out the context - the marketing, science, history, culture - in which we make our choices, to provide information that would help parents to approach their decisions more wisely.
So I returned to the land of Disney, but I also traveled to American Girl Place and the American International Toy Fair (the industry's largest trade show, where all the hot new products are introduced). I trolled Pottery Barn Kids and Toys "R" Us. I talked to historians, marketers, psychologists, neuroscientists, parents, and children themselves. I considered the value of the original fairy tales; pondered the meaning of child beauty pageants; went online as a "virtual" girl; even attended a Miley Cyrus concert (so you know I was dedicated). And I faced down my own confusion as a mother, as a woman, about the issues that raising a girl raises in me about my own femininity.
Excerpted from Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein. Copyright © 2012 by Peggy Orenstein. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted January 22, 2011
Peggy Orenstein, an award-winning writer, author, and speaker concerning issues affecting girls and women, is set to come out with a new book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter, this week. As an author with reportedly over 20 years of writing about women's issues, I expected more from the book. Written in a blog-like manner, it tends to be more fluff, containing more anecdotal evidence than scientific research. The concepts, while not new, still hold merit. However, I believe Orenstein would have been better off condensing the topics to the pertinent matter and writing a series of articles rather than compiling them into a book.
After the first few chapters, I began to think I never wanted to read nor hear the word pink again. More depressing is the fact that she is correct in her descriptions of our consumerist run society. Market campaigns play a much larger role in our daughters' self-views than ever before. As the author states, rather than giving girls freedom from the traditional stereotyped constraints, companies are merely packaging those constraints in a way that is geared to convince girls to chose them.
In a world where every little girl is expected to idolize packages princesses and where our home, free of the typical character royalty, is unique even among more progressive thinkers, the concepts are thought provoking for some and old hat to others. The book had potential but fell short. Readers would be better off checking out Packaging Girlhood.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of Cinderella Ate My Daughter from Harper Collins Publishers.
9 out of 11 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 5, 2011
This woman gives feminists a bad name. Her ideals and ideas about feminity and womanhood ate antiquated at best. Quit whining about having to raise your kid and explain life to them. The woman is a pseudo intellectual with an axe to grind against Disney and that's it! She really is missing the bigger picture, it took her 51 pages to make a coherent point and keeps rambling on about being worried about sending her daughter mixed signals about feminity yet denies her girlhood and feminity at every turn. You can dress like a princess and even have the doll without buying into the whole consumer culture, parents have done it foryears. She's not even a therapist so she's hardly an expert on children or childrearing.
6 out of 14 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 15, 2011
Every little girl is a princess and pink has pervaded our culture. Peggy Orenstein's newest book "Cinderella Ate My Daughter" is a interesting look into the so-called "girlie girl" culture. I'm very interested in reading about sneaky marketer tactics and their effects on children, and this was a new perspective.
Are we limiting our daughters by giving into their princess fantasies? Why do girls need pink baseball bats, pink camo, pink everything? Is it feminist to discourage girls toys when that just shows them that being a girl is bad or some how worth less? Orenstein tries to answer these questions and more.
Let me just say, I really enjoyed this book. I agree with some of the other reviewers that it was a bit fluffy, but for someone who is not an expert in the subject, I liked the highly personal, blogger-esque feel to it. Because of this I think it is a book that many people can read enjoyably without it being too academic. I also enjoyed that Orenstein herself seemed so relatable as a human. I was afraid that it would be preachy, talking about the wonderful things she does. Instead, she seemed very sincere and admitted her failings. I really appreciated that.
As for the content, I felt myself torn between my own experiences and the things I might want for my future children. I personally loved Disney princesses, American Girl dolls and fairy tales as a child (still do!) and don't believe that I was damaged. I want my children to be able to enjoy these things too, does this make me a bad (future) mother? But I found myself agreeing that brand name toys limit the range of play. It seems that a lot of children these days are unable to make something up themselves; could the children be stuck in the stories of the characters? I also agreed a lot with the section on the usage of the internet by children. As we see time and time again, children have been getting themselves in trouble by putting themselves on stage on the internet. How do we protect them without overprotecting them? I felt that though most of these questions remain unanswered, Orenstein is trying to open the dialogue.
All in all, I felt that this was a great introduction to thinking about how girl power could be making our daughters powerless. I believe I will read Orenstein's other works as well.
6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 29, 2012
As a grandfather of three young girls, I was looking forward to sharing Disney princess movies, etc. with them; but after reading this and realizing the pervasive channeling of 'pink princess' material towards very young girls, I'm resigned to giving that up. Even though I was aware of lots of the trends, seeing how overwhelming the influences are was an eye-opening experience.
3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 2, 2013
Seriously the worst book I have ever read. She goes against her own thesis so many times it's quite frustrating actually. Highly recommend NOT reading this. She can't even take her own advice and has no clue how to raise her own kid, let alone trying to help raise others.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 19, 2012
Posted April 24, 2012
Posted March 13, 2012
I am a 25 year old jewelry store manager so i understand the girly girl culture! This book answers questions you never even thought to ask. Its fabulous, funny and informative. I've read it at least three times and bought copies for all my friends. Its a gift to girls everywhere. Wheather you love pink frilly cinderella dresses or work boots its a perfect read! She doewny put anyone down, just gives the facts and science behind what makes girls tick!
1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 17, 2011
Disney princesses are are a passing whimsy for little girls. The scary step-monsters are the Britney Spears' and the girls of "reality TV"
1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 20, 2011
Posted February 8, 2011
"Cinderella ate my Daughter" is a look at how consumer culture and hyper-sexuality affects young girls, as told by a self-proclaimed expert (I'm not doubting Orenstein's credentials, I'm just too lazy to double-check them up for the purposes of reviewing this book) on raising girls, and as a mother of a young daughter (her daughter, Daisy's age is never explicitly stated [or if it is, I missed it] but it can be inferred that in the stories told, Daisy was between the ages of 3 and 8.) It is an expansion of an article written by the author for the New York Times Magazine, to which she refers within the first few pages of the book. (honestly, said article is a good place to start--if I had read it first, I wouldn't have bought this book.) Confession time--I don't have kids, and very rarely have contact with little girls. I downloaded this book because I thought it would be a good place to start for a paper I'm writing. That being said, this is the first book I've downloaded (that I don't also have a paper copy of) solely for the purpose of research. The Nook isn't really designed for research--for instance, rather than being able to click back and forth between text and notes and the bibliography, I had to bookmark, highlight and note (then on a piece of paper, re-write my notes, because, frankly, the annotation system for the Nook sucks) then look up Orenstein's notes or bibliography, and hope that I hadn't lost my place in the mean time. Suffice it to say, I wish I'd either a) got the paper version, or b) waited until I saw this book in the library. Actually, c) both. That being said...this was a thought provoking book. With only about 160 pages of actual text, it was a fairly quick read. While apparently well researched (again, problems with the Nook, I had a hard time connecting Orenstein's notes and bibliography to the actual text itself) it was written in a popular enough style to be easily accessible and understood. This is a book for a concerned parent, not, as I've discovered, an English major with an interest in childhood development. I wish there was more talk about boys and boy culture in this book--though, I do understand that Orenstien is writing from the position as an expert on raising girls, and as the mother of a daughter. And while the points she brings up about girls are thought provoking and at times terrifying, the information mentioned almost in passing about boys is equally so.
1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 26, 2015
I found that this book was hard to finish, and the only reason I had to finish it was being this book is being used in my Women and Genders class and is 25% of my grade. However, I found that Orenstein's arguments were extremely contradictive as she was not only able to stop from contradicting her arguments, she also could back her "facts" up with proof. Orenstein gives feminism a bad name as she often writes about slut and fat shaming 6-12 year old girls. Not a good book to read and I do not recommendWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 21, 2013
Posted April 22, 2013
Posted October 22, 2012
Posted June 26, 2012
Posted April 26, 2012
Posted April 19, 2012
Posted April 16, 2012
Posted April 16, 2012