Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cinderella Ate My Daughter

I came across an excerpt from the soon released book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture.The author, Peggy Orenstein, discusses how she vowed not gender roles on her young toddler daughter, Daisy. Daisy played with trains in preschool but then as she got older and more socialized with other children princess and pink abounded.  Below are some paragraphs I found rather interesting .

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.

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 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.
I found this excerpt rather fascinating for many reasons.

First of all I was a tomboy growing up, still am. I played sports and baled hay with the guys when I was a teenager but I wore makeup and did my hair. I never have liked the color pink and don't remember ever playing princesses but now I do like to wear dresses when the wind isn't blowing! I had a Barbie doll growing up but was jealous of my sister's Barbie because her doll took rides in the back of her toy semi. As for my appearance, I sometimes go out in public without makeup but I make sure I've changed out of my pajamas and look presentable. Even though I don't consider myself a 'girlie girl', not really in the 'feminist' movement, but I do think of myself as fairly feminine .

Now I have a daughter....who has two older brothers. Our house is full of tractors, trains, toy swords, cowboys and super heroes. Yahoo loves to pretend to put on make up with me and change her shoes a hundred times a day. She instigates sword fights with her brothers and pushes toy tractors and trucks down the slide. I'm not one to tell her what she should and shouldn't play with. There isn't much pink in our house but the pile of baby dolls is starting to grow.

Considering the role models Yahoo has, her tomboy mommy and three boys in the house, I never gave much thought to the princess thing. I always imagined she would grown up fairly feminine but hold her own with the boys and hopefully she'd avoid pink. That color makes me nauseous.

Before reading this excerpt I never realized there was any sort "princess culture" out there. I live in a small town remember? We don't get out much.

The way Orenstein presents it, feminism brought about a choice for girls. They could be tomboys or beauty queens, stay at home or working mommies, or not mommies at all. But the 'girls will be girls' philosophy has pushed the idea that every girl has to be a princess into all realms of a young girl's life and they are growing up losing a choice the feminist movement provided.
 Tell me parents. Is there a princess culture aimed at young girls? Those of you with daughters, do you see it as detrimental or a harmless phase they go through? Do you feel your daughters are bombarded with pink and left without a choice whether they should embody that role of princess? I have a almost 2 year old...what do I need to know?


  1. Very interesting! I have 2 daughters 15 and 11 - I grew up a tomboy (never owned a Barbie or babydoll) - honestly I freaked out a little when my girls became obcessed with princesses (esp. Disney since we are big Mickey Mouse fans)- my girls played dress up and baby dolls but also spent a lot of time in the barns and tractors and riding 4 wheelers - my 15 years old wouldn't touch pink now with a 10 foot pole and my 11 year old wears pink everyday - they both play fast pitch softball, show cattle, work in the hog barns and own dresses - I guess hind sight is always 20/20 but we just exposed them to all of it and let nature takes it course!
    Your daughter is adorable - and I love the fact now that there is at least pink John Deere stuff - girly but still fun for a tomboy!

  2. I'm going to try to remember to come back to this to comment. I'm just to sleepy at the moment....

  3. Before we had our daughter, a kid’s clothing store called Honeys and Heroes opened up in our town.

    Cringeworthy, eh?

    Why would you want to tell girls that they are 'honeys,' while boys get to be 'heroes'?

    As the New York Times Book Review of Cinderella Ate My Daughter also points out: to sell, of course!
    Disney is one of the main culprits, with their relentless princess products merchandising to girls, and their Princesses & Heroes On Ice shows.
    (It's not Princesses and Princes; it's Princesses and Heroes. Think about the message this sends to girls and, if you're inspired, email Disney corporate.)

    Because of our disgust with the whole 'princess-industrial complex,' my wife and I made a conscious effort not to register for anything 'princessy' for our daughter’s baby shower.

    What happened?

    A lot of princess happened.

    We don’t believe in throwing away clothes because of their color, but I am documenting this ‘occasional pink’ phase and will show it to Naomi when she’s a little older. My message is simple: there’s nothing wrong with princesses; it’s just that they’re not a great match for girls. Unlike princesses and ‘honeys,’ girls don’t need to wait to be rescued by princes and heroes. They can do great things on their own. They can be heroes.

    So, yes, princesses are a necessary part of our world. In fact, I think they're a great match for the most dependent beings of all -- babies.

    (1000 small steps toward a better life for all grown-ups, based on what I learn from my baby daughter over the next 1000 days!)

  4. MMMM, I don't know. I do know that I don't like the Disney princess movies....that being said, my Kate loves to dress up in pretty dresses, but I think it is just because she likes to twirl. I just don't know. I think people think too much sometimes. But again, I just don't know.

  5. Coming to the conversation a bit late, as I'm scrolling through old posts. And, wow, my comment got really long. I must have a lot of pent-up frustration about princesses. So, I'll post it over on my blog. Pop by if you'd like, and let me know what you think:


I'd love to hear what you have to say! I try to reply to every one of them.

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