Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cinderella Ate My Daughter

As I handed out vitamins over breakfast this morning, a debate ensued over who got Belle and who got Ariel.  As I walked out of the house, after handing over pink lunchboxes and backpacks, I tripped over a pair of rhinestone-encrusted pink shoes while looking at the 3-story pink doll house.  As I pulled out of the garage, I glanced at the lavender and pink princess-adorned bikes in the corner.  And as I read Peggy Orenstein's new book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture, I read it not as a dispassionate book reviewer, but as the mother of two young daughters.  By page 20, I was ready to do a sweep of the toys in my house.  But, the further I read into the book, the more I realized Orenstein wasn't advocating an end to the pink, frilly culture so much as she was using her investigative skills to try to resolve a personal dilemma: how do I parent my young daughter in today's culture?  She was writing it with the same questions I had as I read it. 

As a journalist, Orenstein's spent the past 20 years writing about issues that affect girls and women.  Clearly, she was coming at the princess brigade with a slightly jaundiced eye.  However, she approaches the question of the impact of the hyper-sexualized images and toys that we present young girls in a fairly open, questioning manner.  She is forthright with her ambivalence, which I found refreshing both as a reader and as a parent.  She doesn't provide any clear answers, but neither does she shy away from more controversial topics.  As she said in an interview on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, she can't point to a clear-cut causality that exposing little girls to everything pink is going to turn them into overly sexualized, depressed teenagers.  However, there are trends and patterns of which we should be aware.  She raises some points similar to Cecelia Rivenbark's Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank: And Other Words of Delicate Southern Wisdom (Best. Title. Ever.). 

I once pledged to have a princess-free household (clearly, this was before the girls were old enough to express opinions), but have since played various roles from the queen, to the fairy godmother, to the evil stepmother.  Cinderella Ate My Daughter raised interesting questions about the implications of the various things to which my daughters are exposed in a way that both comforted me and cautioned me to consider thinking about the implications.

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