Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein

I picked up this book after reading a brief review of it on a fellow blogger’s page.

I have to say, although this is non-fiction, based on observations and facts, it was a fast paced read, witty and informative. Peggy Orenstein, describes herself as first and foremost: a journalist. And the style in which she writes this book certainly reflects a journalist’s knack for sharing information in such a way that a reader is pulled in and wants to keep reading.

“Cinderella Ate My Daughter” is essentially, a critical observation of ‘girly girl’ pop culture that is being pushed onto girls at an extremely young age. Orenstein deconstructs how pop culture has been successful at infiltrating what ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ be ok for girls to play with, to look like, to like and dis-like; in other words: What a girl should be. She goes through the recent explosion of the Disney Princess line, which although based on classic Disney characters, has only come to be, very recent years. She also tells her readers about children’s pageants (which I personally think should be ban), the rise of the Bratz, child-to-teen stars such as Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus, as well as other tid-bits of culture that have been successfully marketed to the malleable minds of the very young to the point where it really could be all consuming.

Although she attacks the issue head on, I feel as though Orenstein has tried to balance her argument by opening a window to show a glimpse of the other side of the argument. In other words: the positive side of the pink culture. She asks the question: “Why has girlhood become so monochromatic?” then ponders the question: Does the “pink factor” open of limit girl play? For example: Would girls be actively involved in sports if sports equipment did not come in ‘girl colours’ such as pink baseball bats and pastel soccer balls? Some pageant girls seem to really want to be there.

Other sides of the issue are also explored and explained such as: the socially constructed meaning of colours regarding either gender; the history of the Disney Princesses and the early sexualization of girls.

Strawberry Shortcake, then and now

As I read on I kept reflecting back to my own childhood. My toys, my colour choices my exposure to girl culture in the 80’s and 90’s and the choices I’ve made based on this exposure. I remember being completely in love with the colours pink and purple but I know this was not pushed on me (at least not by my parents). My toys were of every colour under the sun and were mostly gender neutral in terms of interest. I’ve always rejected the Barbie doll despite having so many of them given to me as gifts and loved the Ninja Turtles. I was never told I couldn’t do or achieve anything because of my gender and have become livid on several occasions when a family friend had implied just that.

We all know that times are changing and they always will be. But are they changing for he better? And which elements of this change are not proving to be fruitful in the long run? Do we want an entire generation of girls to be so overly worried about their looks and weight that they completely forget about nurturing what’s on the inside, be it knowledge or spirit?

As much as I enjoyed this read the only disappointment was that Orenstein had left out any commentary and very little substance in terms of the best ways to address these issues. A good balance is a good way to go but how does a parent achieve this balance in today’s world and how would a teacher take this information and create a positive environment for his/her students that would address these matters?

Having said that, I still highly recommend this book for it’s eye-opening content, the many “ah ha!” moments and the amount of information that has been packed into its pages.