February 6, 2011

"Cinderella Ate My Daughter"

I know what you're thinking... "Oh No! She's at it again! That Nazi mom is going to spout off about the evils of Princesses....." Well, this time, it's not me!  {Oh and by the way Pheew!} I was thrilled by the positive response from my ill-fated post a few months back, since dubbed Princess-gate. I am even more thrilled to learn that more and more psychological studies are coming out and backing my concern, but I especially loved seeing this title Cinderella Ate My Daughter! I have been dying to get this book and suck all the marrow out of it since I saw it reviewed a few weeks back in Parenting Magazine. Since then it has been everywhere! I have been emailed reviews, and told "You MUST read this book!!" by friends. I've seen it on TV and in a few other magazines.... It's been slapping me upside the head with it's existence, so I pledge to read this book next week. 

Why put it off a week? Because I will be back east with my parents and my brothers. There will be people to entertain Gigi and Lula and give me some time to read something other than The Cat in the Hat or Olivia. {Not that I don't adore Dr. Seuss and Olivia, because Olivia is my Gigi ....and Dr Seuss is the reason I'm a tree-hugger!!}

This is the first review of Cinderella Ate My Daughter that included Peggy Orenstein's motivation in her own words and it was like listening to  myself!  In the spirit of full disclosure, one review I read said that Peggy Orenstien's book offers peace of mind to us left-thinking mothers that the Princess epidemic is, in fact a problem; and backs up our fears and concerns with hard, statistical data. However, while the book serves to validate our issues with this princess possessed society it does little to sway the other side.  I suppose that is a shame, but since I am only able to affect my girls' development, self image and future, I will happily glean every ounce of knowledge on this precarious subject that Peggy has to offer!

Here is one journalists review and interview.......

Why I REALLY hope my daughter doesn't get obsessed with princesses

by Erin Zammett Ruddy

As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I’m not a huge fan of the color pink. And, much to my mother’s chagrin, I try to avoid putting my daughter in anything that screams girly girl/princess/Paris Hilton. It’s just not my style and, to be honest, it kind of freaks me out. From the second I found out I was having a girl, I started stressing about how I was going to protect her from becoming one of those oversexualized, belly-baring tweens (or, um, seven year olds) I see in the news/on TV/at the mall/everywhere these days. Which is why when I got an advanced copy of Peggy Orenstein’s new book Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture I devoured it in one sitting. I couldn’t stop talking about the book to anyone who would listen. And everyone wanted to listen because it’s fascinating—and, yes, a little frightening. Peggy began researching the book after noticing her then-three year old could recite every Disney princess by name and corresponding gown color, a trick she’d picked up at pre-school. Peggy immediately began investigating what this ultra-feminine trend was telling young girls about who they are—and who they should be.

I always assumed that because I was a well-rounded girl (i.e., I grew up knowing how to shoot a gun, bait a hook and play with Barbies) that my daughter would be the same simply by osmosis. But, as they say, times have changed. And as mothers to daughters we need to be aware of how those changes can affect our kids. I recently had the opportunity to interview Peggy, and it was probably one of the most enlightening conversations I’ve had as a journalist—and a mother. Here are some snippets:

Was there a pivotal moment that made you realize you had to write this book? 

I took my daughter, Daisy, to have her teeth cleaned and the dentist said, “Do you want to get on my princess chair and I’ll sparkle your teeth?” I thought, really? Are you kidding me? What is this? I wanted to look into the princess phenomenon not because I thought it was bad or good but because I was curious about why it had become so ubiquitous and what it meant for our girls.

Some moms would say, what’s the big deal? It’s just a princess! Why does the “girlie girl” culture drive you so nuts?

I get into this argument a lot. I’m not against girls playing princess but that that has become the only thing they’ll play and the definition of girlhood is troublesome. Since 2000 when Disney first branded its Princess line, sales have reached four billion. But these movies are not about the character or morality of princesses, they’re about having the most stuff. And finding the guy. Ariel gives up her voice for a man! A lot of the girl culture that seems benign or protective is actually putting girls on a path to see femininity as sexualized, as narcissistic, as commercial. I’m not saying wearing a Cinderella dress at three is going to lead to texting nude shots of yourself to random boys, but the emphasis on the external as opposed to the internal is a connecting thread there.

What surprised you most in your research?

I discovered that there is a pink boutique edition of monopoly. The game claims to be all about the things girls love: “buy boutiques and malls, go on a shopping spree, pay your cell phone bill and get text and instant messages.” And instead of hotels and houses you buy shops and malls. You have to start wondering when this stuff is so ubiquitous, what girls are learning about who they’re supposed to be.

Apart from becoming Amish, is there an antidote to this girlie-girl culture?

I wish! It’s an ongoing discussion you need to get on top of earlier than you think. You can start asking them questions about the movies they watch: “Why do you think this woman is portrayed this way?” “Why do you think they always have the women wearing teeny tiny clothing?” They need to know that you don’t think it’s OK. If you understand what this stuff is, what the trajectory is, what the research says about girls and body and sexuality and beauty, then you’ll think more smartly about what you let in when you have a choice and how you’ll talk about it with your kids. But it won’t be easy.

Your daughter, Daisy, is seven now. Any princess stuff in your house?

She had two princess dresses, but neither was Disney. If kids are basing their play on existing characters that they’ve seen on television 400 times they tend to act out the script. Psychologists all say that fantasy play is so important for a child’s development but it doesn’t work when they’re playing a character that has a script. If she’s wearing a Cinderella dress she’ll only do Cinderella. That’s a problem about what girls learn about girls, but it’s also a problem with how kids today play in general, both girls and boys.

How has the information you uncovered changed you as a mom?

Well, it’s tough convincing your daughter that you’re offering her more choices by telling her no all the time. And I still blow it a lot. I had a meltdown in Target over a Barbie and both Daisy and I wound up in tears and my husband ended up fuming. But we’ve found so many wonderful alternatives—they’re not the first things you’re going to come across and they won’t be in Toys R Us but they’re out there. We watch Miyazaki’s animated cartoons that are girl-positive in the most casual, non-didactic way. We read bible stories about women and Greek myths and legends. And Daisy dresses up and plays all kinds of fantastical castle games. She really has a sense of herself both as female and as powerful because she’s had the opportunity to see femininity as being an internal idea rather than something you buy.

So, what do you guys think? Do any of you with girls ever worry about this stuff? Any thoughts for how to keep the girly-girl culture in check? The kids and I were playing the other day and Alex said he was going to be a superman and Nora and I could be princesses. I said, "I don't want to be a princess, can I be something else?" He said, "Sure mom, you can be Batman. And Nora can be Darth Vader." Baby steps....



Wendy said...


Princess don't bug me. Guess I never really thought about it in this much depth, though.

My daughters love to play dress up. They have a ton of dresses -- have no idea if they're Disney or not, because most of them are hand-me-downs. I can recognize Cinderella and Belle, but, honestly, they don't necessarily play "those" characters when wearing them. They're usually playing "fancy school"...whatever that is.

Of my 3 girls:

The oldest just wants to read, color, draw, and play imaginary games such as school, vet, hair salon, or nurse (I have no idea why that would be, btw).

The second is as girly as they come. She loves cute shoes, doesn't leave earrings off a self portrait (never mind that she doesn't have her ears pierced -- a totally different tangent that I could go off on), and wants to carry a purse everywhere we go.

The third loves to play with cars, trains, and helicopters. Almost every day, she asks to sit in the driver's seat of the car so she can pretend to be driving, she'll tinker with toys until they break because she's interested in figuring out how things work.

Three girls. One playroom that contains a plethora of princess dresses and the like.

I'm thinking they'll all be fine. I won't be stressing too much about this stuff. Life is too short.

Wendy said...

Just perused that other post. Some very interesting perspectives. Kinda feeling like I missed an important mommy lesson or something since I haven't given the princess thing that much thought. Food for thought!

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with Wendy!!!! Life is way too short. Let kids have fun!

mwr2sbr said...

As the mother of 3 girls, I also feel like Wendy. It's nothing to fret over! We shape our children in many ways. If they like to "pretend" to be princesses I don't see the harm. It is only one facet of a diverse, imaginative, childhood! :)

mwr2sbr said...

We need to give our children just a little bit more credit, as people. They will not necessarily turn into little Paris Hiltons simply because they like to dress up in sparkly dresses and act out Disney movies!

Anonymous said...

I think this topic is crazy!!! I have 2 boys and a girl-both just fabulous as ever. My boys are "all boy." My daugther is very well rounded-tries a bit of everything. She loves to dress up as Rapunzel and wait for one of her brothers to rescue her. After being rescued she'll join them in the mud while playing in her Rapunzel dress mind you and dig in the dirt with trucks, barbies-anything.

As their mother I will always support any interest they may have. So long as it doesn't intefere with our beliefs in God or affect or morals.

I love Disney and just because my daughter loves to play princess doesn't worry me in the least. I'm very confident in my decisions as a parent and trust that my guidance will get them through life. In my eyes my daughter is a princess along with my boys being my princes....

Shelbi said...

Hey all! Thanks for your comments! It seems that many of us agree and children's play should be diverse. I really did not want to debate the topic again. I allow princess play and we do have a few Disney dresses. But we also have trucks and blocks and a sandbox. We have a large aray of toys and games and use our imaginations to be and do LOTS of things... and YES that sometimes means we pretend to be princesses.

I did not post this review to sway anyone to "my" side and it seems {though I haven't read it yet} that Peggy doesn't try to sway anyone either. I just thought maybe some of the mommies and daddies who might share my concern and are taking steps to diversify our daughters play might like to know that we are not alone. While it seems {to me} that there is an army of princesses out there and I {we} may well be out numbered. My {our} concerns are valid and it's okay to do what I {we} feel is right for my {our} daughters.

Anonymous said...

I think food for thaught as a parent is great!! I have 3 sons and a daughter. ALL individuals BUT boy energy for the most part is different from girl energy...that is not a bad thing. The point to me is lets not stick our princesses in towers and have our princes save them. Because there are ALWAYS exceptions to the rule. The Princess can ABSOLUTLEY save the prince!!! My left handed middle son is 10 and VERY smart. His favorite color is pink. He stopped wearing it for being made fun of. He loved to play dress up as a preschooler. Society has subdued him somewhat. Other kids saying this is what boys do, and this is what girls do. It is truly about being well rounded. He also speaks of Princesses and Princes in actual literal form. Thats how his brain works. My youngest son is "all boy" I believe its genetic and how they are just made. My oldest at 13 is my rocker and will wear pink if someone tells him not to. He likes to go against the grain. ALWAYS has had a mohawk at 8. My daughter is only 19 months but I see the PINK section in the store and cringe. BUT let her choose what section she is drawn to. People are not saying lets BAN all princess stuff, its lets explore ALL areas of life with an open mind. And to say certain things dont shape our kids and that WE have control is naive. We certainly have influence and a strong one. But seeing OVER AND OVER the Princess is saved by the Prince and only then does she live happily ever after is setting up a life that just does not exist. Its give and take. Why not have a few movies where the Prince is saved by a Princess. I get it and actualy want to read the book as well. How my daughter and sons view themselves when they look in the mirror is VERY important to me. And yes since ALOT of the pink section is princess it deffinatley concerns me. MEGAN

Like what you just read??
Then VOTE for A Mother's Musings, Mishaps and Milestones on 'Top Mommy Blogs', 'Top 100 Mommy Bloggers' and 'Picket Fence Blogs' by clicking the buttons below. {votes can be cast daily}
      Top Mommy Blogs - Mom Blog Directory The Top 100 Mommy Blogs