Thursday, August 23, 2012

Review: Cinderella Ate My Daughter (Audio)

Summary: 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. -- HarperAudio

I've had a few friends that told me I needed to read CINDERELLA ATE MY DAUGHTER by Peggy Orenstein. In fact, they insisted that this book is a must-read for every woman who has a daughter. I was worried that I was a little late to the game since my daughter is now a teenager, but I decided better late than never, right? Now, I'm not so sure!

I decided to listen to CINDERELLA ATE MY DAUGHTER during my morning runs. So every day at 6:00, I started my workout and listed to Peggy Orenstein talk about how much damage we are doing to our young daughters. I found much of what she had to say fascinating and I thought she made some excellent points; and as a result, I came back from my run feeling very inadequate. The first few days I listened to this book, I'd come home and tell my husband all of the things I'd done wrong with our daughter -- allowing her to play dress-up in Disney Princess clothes, letting her watch the Disney Princess movies, buying toys that were pink and girly, etc. I was actually kind of depressed because I believed that I permanently damaged my girl and there wasn't much I could do to change it. She could end up with feelings of inadequacy, get an eating disorder, become promiscuous, and much worse!

And then after a few days of beating myself up, I began to get a little frustrated... maybe even angry. First of all, it was a little late to be beating myself up for what I did when she was a preschooler. I did the best I could do and I believe that she's a good kid and will turn out okay. And secondly, I love Disney and princesses and pink and I don't think that makes me a bad person or less of a strong woman. I understand where the author was coming from, and I do think much of what she said is true.. just not all of it!

I think she might have gone overboard with some of her extreme examples, and as a result, I began questioning a few of her points. For example, I was a little surprised by some of her statements about the Disney princess movies and their overall messages. I never even considered some of her ideas (and actually chuckled at a few of them), and I do think there are valid counterarguments that could be made about her analysis of princesses and their motives.

Having said that, much of what Ms. Orenstein talks about in this book is very true. She makes some excellent points about the merchandising and marketing to our girls. I also think her insights into the potential problems that teen girls can face was spot on. There are many other very serious issues that she addressed,  and her research seemed to be very thorough. I commend her for bringing these concerns to the surface and generating awareness and discussion. And basically, that's what I've taken away from this book. It's important for me to be aware of how "things" might affect my daughter and be on the lookout for pitfalls, so I can protect her (or at least try!)

Ms. Orenstein was the narrator of CINDERELLA ATE MY DAUGHTER and it honestly was the natural choice. Because she is so knowledgeable about this subject matter, it would have been strange for anyone to read her words. In addition, she brought to the book her passion (and her sarcasm); and I think she did a great job.

I am sure Ms. Orenstein would have issues with my parenting style, but there are all different ways to bring up a daughter. I have always told my daughter she can be whatever she wants to be and I've encouraged her to embrace her beauty... both inner and outer. I've also encouraged her to embrace her girliness... if that's what she wants. You see, I think it's cool to be a girl because we have so many options -- if you want to wear pink and ruffles, wear pink and ruffles; if you want to be a tomboy, be a tomboy; if you want to be a doctor or lawyer (or anything!), be that; if you want to be a working mom, be a working mom; and if you want to be a stay-at-home mom, be a stay-at-home mom!

Needless to say, CINDERELLA ATE MY DAUGHTER was an emotional read for me, but I think that says a great deal about the power of this book. I can't remember the last time I talked about and thought about a book this much. Definitely recommended for mothers and fathers of young girls!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this audiobook.


bermudaonion said...

This does sound like a great discussion book. I don't have a daughter but do hope to read it one day. Another interesting book on marketing to kids is Branded: The Buying and Selling of Teenagers.

Serena said...

I think this would be an interesting book club pick, especially for a club of women or at least parents. Branded that Kathy mentions also sounds like another book that would generate discussion.

As a new mom, do you think I NEED to read this or even should?

Julie P. said...


I think the author makes some excellent points and you should read it. It can never hurt to at least be informed about these things and then make your own decisions.

Jesser said...

I had mixed feelings on this one, but overall I decided it was good food for thought. The author is a bit "out there" for my taste, but even she dismisses lots of her own crazy ideas within the book and it's even reasonably balanced compared to what I'd expected. I thought it was a great read for moms of girls and boys alike.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I too had mixed feelings about this. She brings a lot of academic research into an entertaining format for lay people but I do think she concentrates too much on white, middle and upper class girls.

Sandy Nawrot said...

You know, my daughter was the freaking QUEEN of Disney Princess dress up, she had all the movies, blah blah. But she is the furthest thing from that now. She has grown into her own person, she almost never wears a dress even, and because of cross country goes to class with her HAIR WET!!! Hell, I wouldn't have even done that. I do agree that marketing towards young girls is not a real good influence but they are always going to have somebody in their face trying to make them think a certain way, so the sooner they can think for themselves the better.

Beth F said...

These kinds of books have many valid points, but parental influence is always strong. And just because you love dresses and pink doesn't mean you are some kind of lesser woman/girl.

Carol said...

Sounds like it has a lot of good points for thought and discussion, but I think my daughter's a little too old for it to matter much to me now.