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.
May Book Club selection
I enjoyed this book and liked Orenstein's style - part opinion, part research. The topic is something that all of us females can relate to. I read this book before I knew I would be having twin girls, but I don't think my opinion would change if I read the book now that I will have daughters of my own.
A few of the chapters I felt Orenstein was just ranting about pop stars and female images. My expectation for the book was that some advice based on experience would be given and be less anetedotal than it was. I found myself trying to remember my own memories of my childhood and if the marketing messages had influenced me or not. I had a bright pink room in my later teen years, but blue has always been my color of choice.
I would be curious to read more on body image and how it has changed over time. I would have liked to seen more time spent on the social media impact for girls within school. Facebook didn't exist until a few years after I was out of college.
This book is just the tip of the iceberg and one perspective. In a way I feel that parenting articles are like diet articles - there is always some ew way to do this and not that but in the end a smart and balanced approach works the best.
I hope to read more from Orenstein in the future as I appreciate her journalistic style to writing.