Friday Reads: Cinderella Ate My Daughter

When I found out I was pregnant for the first time, I wanted a boy soooo badly. Mainly because growing up I always thought it would be nice to have an older brother, but also for the small fact that I am terrified of girls. Ok, not girls, but what girls can become from ages, oh, say 11 to 18. Once I had my boy, I decided it would be fun to have a girl, too. And 22 months later, we did! Funny how life works out.

When Jasper was born, I bought the book Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys by Dan Kindlon. I have yet to read it. Didn’t seem urgent to do so. However, three months after sweet little Marguerite was born, I immediately put Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture by Peggy Orenstein on hold at the library, received it, and read it in a few nights, while taking notes and sharing them with everyone I could.

Why so urgent? Because I feel like there’s a crisis right now amongst girls, and it’s called PINK PINK SEXY PINK PINK. I grew up a tomboy, I’m still a bit on the…tomboyish side, and though I don’t *hate* the color pink, dresses, or princess fantasies, I also don’t think it’s necessary to be quite so gender specific in their toys and playthings. Let a girl grow up choosing what she wants to play with, I say! Let her be as comfortable with Transformers as with Barbie! Let her play sports as well as take gymnastics! Let her wear the ruffles and tutus (which, you have to admit, are stinkin’ adorable), but don’t discourage her from putting on a conductor’s hat and overalls. So what if she beats up boys (me). Or wants to dress as a he-devil for Halloween (me). Or choose big yellow construction boots over feminine flats in 8th grade (me). Or go to Lillith Fair (me). Or never date a boy seriously until college (me). Or only play golf as a competitive sport (me). There could be worse things. Like growing up a conservative Republican (hahahahahahaha).

Cinderella Ate My Daughter was a fascinating read for me. I think the author and I would be great friends. Her big question was will this overkill of princess culture hurt our daughters in the long run? To find the answer she researched the history of toys, talked to Disney marketers, cited numerous gender studies, and participated in the (stereotypically, but is it really?) ultimate female pasttime: she went shopping.

Her answer isn’t an easy yes or no. What she found was that if we aren’t careful, and if girls start dressing older than they are (ahem, Miley Cyrus), they won’t have the chance to understand *why* they’re dressing that way. They need to (in her words) “feel the heat without the need to look hot (pg 112).” If girls have a chance to understand that, then it will lead to better body image, stronger relationships (less abuse, cheating, etc), and a stronger self esteem. Orenstein worries that Princesses are kind of like the gateway drug to the Miley’s of the world: if we start them too young, they’ll outgrow the Princess phase quickly and on to the next before they’re emotionally AND physically ready.

I could seriously go on and on and on about this book. I’m really glad I read it because it makes me more confident as a Mom of a daughter. I was terrified of MJ growing up in our world with iPhones and Facebook, and the giant pink aisle at Target, but the author wrote that our goals as mothers “is not to keep the world at bay, but prepare our daughters so they can thrive in it.”

As long as thriving means they have no phones with cameras on it…

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