Friday, May 9, 2014

Discussion Review: Cinderella Ate My Daughter

Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture by Peggy Orenstein

Discussion Review by Lauren

copy from library; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: The rise of the girlie-girl, warns Peggy Orenstein, is no innocent phenomenon. Following her acclaimed books Flux, Schoolgirls, and the provocative New York Times bestseller Waiting for Daisy, Orenstein’s Cinderella Ate My Daughter offers a radical, timely wake-up call for parents, revealing the dark side of a pretty and pink culture confronting girls at every turn as they grow into adults.

Discussion Review: This book just screams "discuss me!" after reading it. It's one of those non-fiction books I could see book clubs reading, especially women who have kids. I don't personally have any children and I feel like this "girlie-girl" culture that Orenstein talks about came around when I was a bit older, so there are aspects of the book that don't affect me. Regardless, I found what Orenstein had to say to be very interesting and while I didn't necessarily agree with everything, I could appreciate the viewpoint. I think Orenstein does a great job at pointing out how certain thoughts can be extreme and that not everything she or other parents do is correct, but it's still important to pay attention to the way the world is changing and how that can affect your daughters.
Disney Princesses
The Disney Princesses are definitely discussed a lot in this book. In the beginning of the book, Orenstein talks to a group of mothers about the Princesses and writes-

"What gave these mothers pause, then, was the fantasy the stories promoted that a man would take care of you."

She goes on to state that having the full story does add context because many of the Princesses promote good qualities before they meet "Prince Charming" and live "happily-ever-after." However, most young girls know the basics of the Disney Princesses. They know the pretty dresses and the cute princes who whisk these girls away to a lovely life and future. Sure, the Disney Princesses can affect some young girls in the wrong way. Maybe they grow up thinking a guy has to save them, or maybe they put too much thought into their appearance. However, I personally feel that all girls are different and that having an obsession with the Princesses at a young age doesn't have to be a bad thing. Most of the issues raised in this book just seem to show me that parents need to be aware of their children and talk to them about things. If you feel they are leaning toward negative thoughts about themselves or girls, then that should be dealt with. Most young kids are just having fun though. The same goes for Barbie...which I personally played with for a long time.



One of the complaints that people make about Barbie is that she promotes an unhealthy body image. Yes, if your child is playing with Barbie and she expresses interest in wanting to look like her, you should probably talk about how she's not real and give her better role models to focus on. However, I played with Barbie for a long time growing up and it honestly did keep me young. I liked using Barbie and her friends to act out the stories in my head. I had fun dressing them up and playing with my friends. Barbie didn't make me want to dress slutty or have the "perfect" body. I just didn't think that way when I was young. Times have certainly changed in that short period of time, but I still believe that Barbie can be an innocent, fun toy for many girls. As long as your child isn't interested in becoming a "human Barbie" like this young lady (click link to see what she actually looks like), then I think she will be okay.

Human Barbie

Child Pageants and Beauty Products

I'm sure most of us are aware of the TLC show "Toddlers and Tiaras" where they follow a few different beauty pageant contests each episode. Of course, as the title says, these are all young children, often around four and five years old. Orenstein comments on this show, but she also shares her first-hand experience visiting a pageant and talking to the moms and children. Obviously, the main issue here is over-sexualized children. I personally think this can be an issue. You are parading your child around at a young age in bikinis and heavy makeup. You are telling them to wink at the male judges and that they have to look a certain way to win. It's not a great message regardless of the positives that pageants can bring. Sure, plenty of women grow up in pageants and live happy, normal lives, but what about the ones that don't? Is it really worth all the time and money to chance your daughter's ability to be well adjusted and have a good perspective on beauty when she's older?

An aspect of pageants is, of course, all the clothes and beauty products that are now being marketed toward young girls. I didn't dress like a mini teen when I was younger, so it's really strange for me to see that happening. It puts too much focus on a body that chances are hasn't been through puberty. It tells girls to show off and flirt and that they'll get attention. Orenstein writes-

"Close to half of six-to nine-year-old girls regularly use lipstick or gloss, presumably with parental approval; the percentage of eight-to-twelve-year-olds who regularly use mascara and eyeliner doubled between 2008 and 2010, to 18 and 15 percent, respectively."

I've seen young girls put on lip gloss and the like and I think it's fine for the most part. However, I do think too much makeup and tight clothes at a young age can be dangerous for a girl's self-esteem. Parents should want their children to stay young for as long as they can and enjoy being innocent. Instead, these children are dressing like older teens and pretending to be like them, when in reality, they have no idea what they are exuding.

Overall, I found Cinderella Ate My Daughter to be very interesting. There were certainly aspects that I didn't necessarily agree with and whenever I have my own daughter, I won't worry about all the same things. However, I like the various points that Orenstein made and I do believe it's important to keep track of what your daughter is doing and make sure that the things they love are not giving them the wrong message. If they are just having fun and "being a kid", that's okay. But it's important to think about the affects things can have and to be cautious about what you have your daughter do and wear. Obviously this book is about girls, but these are all things parents should keep in mind for young boys too.

So there you have first discussion review! I hope you'll share your thoughts in the comments about the issues above or anything else you want to talk about!


Melanie said...

Hmm, this doesn't seem like something I'd read. But omg, I do not understand people's want to become human barbies. I do think that barbies can promote the wrong message but little kids don't really think those kinds of things, like you said.

Lovely discussion review! <33

Erika Sorocco said...

I've always been aggravated when people hate on Barbie. I think that people are viewing her in the wrong light. This is a woman who can be anything she wants to be - from a fashion designer to a pediatrician to a veterinarian. To me, that promotes something healthy in young girls - the feeling that they can be anything they want to be in adulthood.


Kindlemom said...

I can see how this one wouldn't be a read for everyone. I do love the title though, it made me giggle.

I have girls so..I am not sure how I would feel about this read. Like you I am sure there are so things I would find interesting and others I would disagree with wholeheartedly.

Cascia Talbert said...

I have two daughters and fortunately, I don't think this "princess" culture has affected them too much, but maybe I need to read this book. Interesting review! Thanks for sharing this. Have a terrific weekend.

Candace said...

This is a book I may have to look into.
Every time my daughter wants me to read a princess book I figured it's an opportunity to discuss things with her. That life doesn't really work that way.
The human Barbie girl creeps me out! That is SO gross! My click to check her out led me to more and more clicking. Yeah, not a fan!
My daughter is 9 and I definitely would not let her wear skimpy clothes or makeup. She has a lip gloss but it's barely tinted at all and you can't really tell. I'm dreading her growing into a teenager, it's going to be stressful!

Liviania said...

I've been curious about this book. My niece is 6 and likes princesses and Barbie. She also likes cars and art. I just try to encourage her to like whatever she likes.

Heidi@Rainy Day Ramblings said...

You are right this book screams discussion. I guess it is all about perception. My daughter is five and has no interest in girlie girl things and Disney princesses so I don't have any issues with them, but I can see how it could be a problem.

Zoe N. said...

Lauren, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on this! It definitely sounds like a thought-provoking and intriguing read. I don't read a lot of nonfiction, but this sounds absolutely fascinating. I love how the author discusses so many different aspects about childhood and how the media / press / etc makes children feel the need to be "perfect." The statistic about children wearing mascara and how it has increased so much in the past few years almost saddens me in a way. Why would 8-12 year old children feel the need to war mascara? Just my opinion, but really...

Thanks for sharing this Lauren. It is absolutely thought-provoking and I feel you did a fabulous job discussing your thoughts!

~ Zoe @ The Infinite To-Read Shelf

Lauren D. said...

I agree with you, I don't necessarily think it's the princesses and Barbie that do the emotional damage, as long as parents have open dialogues with their daughters and make sure they are keeping an open mind. This sounds like such a thought-provoking read, and your discussion of it is excellent, thank you for sharing!

kimbacaffeinate said...

I think providing your child with a balance of strong female role models along with fairy tales will ensure they don't grow up to be human barbies *shivers*

Alise said...

I grew up surrounded by Disney Princesses and Barbies so I'm with you, they are just toys and fairytales. At that age they aren't looking at Barbie's waistline. But yeah, pageants... That show is kind of disturbing.

Keertana said...

I don't read much non-fiction, so I'm not sure this is quite for me, but this is a really interesting and thought-provoking review, so thanks for sharing! :)

Giselle said...

I played with barbies too and so did all my friends I don't think any of us used her as a role model haha. We just liked to give her pretty clothes and cut her hair >.< And omg I read about the human barbie - and there's a Ken too!!! and WOW that freaking blew my mind!! I guess she does a lot with her makeup though she looks really different without makeup but still O_O

Sophia Lin said...

For a minute I actually thought Cinderella literally became a zombie and ate someone's kid...

Yeah, I must be a nutcase. x) I don't watch Toddlers and Tiaras or reality shows. :p

Christy @ Love of Books said...

Cinderella was my favorite, but the whole marrying the prince thing wasn't what I loved. I loved that karma bit her step-mom and sisters. And my Barbies ... I shaved their heads and gave them tattoos. Sooo ....


L-Diggitty said...

I want to read this! I liked "Frozen" specifically because it kicked the Disney princess archetype to the curb.

It's funny, when I was on maternity leave I watch a weird amount of Toddlers and Tiaras. I just can't imagine doing that to a kid!