Monday, February 13, 2012

Book Review: Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein

Cinderella Ate My Daughter

Cinderella Ate My Daughter
Author: Peggy Orenstein
5 of 5 stars

Goodreads Review:

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.

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.

My Review:

I should preface my review by saying I am not a mother and I am nowhere close to becoming a mother anytime soon. But I am a woman and I was quite interested in what this book was all about. I grew up in the 90’s and had a collection of Barbies (Veterinarian Barbie was my favorite!), as well as an entire suitcase filled with Barbie clothes, shoes, and accessories. I was loved the Disney princesses, but especially had a soft spot for Belle and Pocahontas. I never held Barbie (or any of the Disney princesses, for that matter) up to some ideal I needed to get to. They were just toys to play with. That’s it. That’s all. I am not a feminist and I squeal over little pink baby clothes and adorable tutus.

I don’t know what I expected to get out of this book but the subject matter was intriguing. Peggy Orenstein left no stone unturned in her quest to discover the history behind this girlie-girl culture and what affect it is really having on girls today. The chapters were vast and chock-full of information and Orenstein’s own personal stories. She tells of her own struggles trying to raise a daughter in a world consumed by Hannah Montana and princesses. She dissected the pageant scene, Disney stars (such as Miley Cyrus, Hilary Duff, and Christina Aguilera in an appropriately titled chapter “From Wholesome to Whoresome”), the rise of Barbie and Bratz Dolls, and the truth behind fairy tells, just to name a few of the topics.

I thoroughly enjoyed Orenstein’s writing style and all the research she put into this book. (She went to a Miley Cyrus concert. That? Is dedication.) She was hard-hitting but backed up everything she said with honest and true facts. And she even let the reader into her own life, documenting problems that had arisen with her own daughter and how she handled them. (And she didn’t put herself on a pedestal as the way all mothers with daughters should solve problems. She had many tug-of-wars with her daughter and she freely admits she didn’t always act in the right way.) I’m not one to say a non-fiction book is a page-turner, but this one most certainly was. I couldn’t get enough of it!

What I learned most of all is that it’s not enough to keep girls away from this new rising culture, but it’s also not enough to give into their every whim to be the “cool mom”. There is a balance that takes place and discussions that need to happen. Raising daughters in this day and age can be an exhausting task, with the way the online world has exploded (“35 million kids ages three to eighteen-80 percent of kindergarteners alone-are online”, pg. 160), the way Disney princesses have now morphed into beautiful girls filling TV screens (and radios and magazines), and the way marketers are now aiming their sights on kids younger and younger these days. This is a book I think every woman needs to read because I was appalled by some of the facts represented. Orenstein is not talking simply about the “inherent evil” in just Barbie dolls and Disney princesses, but that we need to be aware of what is out there. And it’s not pretty.

I’ll finish this (extremely long!) book review with some quotes:

“ 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.” (p. 8)

“[Disney] princesses avoid female bonding. Their goals are to be saved by a prince, get married,..., and be taken care of for the rest of their lives. Their value derives largely from their appearance. They are rabid materialists.” (p. 23)

“ pink products all along the age span that urge girls to “be yourself,” “celebrate you,” “express yourself,” they define individuality entirely through appearance and consumption.” (p. 50)

“In 2009, twelve thousand Botox injections were given to children between the ages of thirteen and nineteen. In 2008, forty-three thousand children under the age of eighteen surgically altered their appearance.” (p. 206)

What is your opinion of the “girlie-girl” phenomenon? Do you think it’s harming girls today? What was your experience with Barbie and Disney princesses?

I received this book for free from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. All words and opinions, unless otherwise stated, are my own.

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