Archive | February, 2011

Cinderella Ate My Daughter, and Peggy Orenstein’s too!

26 Feb

For some women pregnancy can bring out a doe-eyed idealism of what begin a mother has in store for their future. When I was pregnant with my first child, I thought I knew everything; I had it all planned out in my head. Being an all-women’s-liberal-arts-college-educated-raised-by-a-single-mom-well-rounded-independent-woman, my child would grow up with a zen like passion for every living thing, define the stereotypes of their gender, and of course I would be the best mom ever! Well, at least I kind of got the last part right (depending on the day).

When my daughter was born I didn’t dress her in pink, shunned all things girlie, and let my feminist thinking lead the way. Hey I was the kid who loved reading A Train for Jane and William’s Doll! I had no idea I was in for the fight of my life. My daughter turned out to be a girlie-girl, and no matter how hard I tried to push her into trains, tree climbing, and getting dirty it looked like the odds were against me. I shrank in submission and reluctantly let the My Little Pony and Barbie into my life.

In walks in Peggy Orenstein and her new book Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the new Girlie-Girl Culture (Harper Collins, 2011 $25.99).

Peggy Orenstein's new book Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the new Girlie-Girl Culture

It appears that I was not alone in this struggle between the thousands of shades of bubble gum pink that run rampant in today’s girlie-girl culture. Orenstein’s book is a fantastic look into the culture of “pink” and “princesses” and what it means for todays little girls and their mothers. It is a fine line to tread between the moms who embrace Disney Princesses and beauty pageants, to parents who attempt to raise their children without the concept of gender-specific toys and clothing. Orenstein does it gracefully, even admitting that her judgement of parents who embrace the princess culture is harsh and at times clouded with contempt.

Orenstein covers every aspect of what defines a little girl in today’s multimillion dollar toy market, talking with the man who invented the Disney Princesses, visiting a toy expo, and exploring her own relationship with the toys her daughter asks for. In a eye-opening segment on American Girl dolls, Orenstein questions if these historical-themed prepubescent dolls are a great alternative to Barbie or just another way to create a greater divide between women, reinforcing the “have and have-not” division between women. While the characters are wonderful role models for little girls, at retail price of $100 or more they only are accessible to those who can afford them.

I must admit it is difficult to find the balance between my feminist ideals letting my little girl just be a little girl. Orenstein shares my frustration as a woman, a mother, and a journalist. It is hard when you want to know everything about a subject, discover the negatives and the hidden motives of others, and then attempt to put your new found knowledge into practice at home. Will I harm my daughter if I won’t let her get a Moxie girl? Wear lip gloss? Dress in a tutu everyday? Will I harm my son if I let him play with Buzz Lightyear or let him play rough with his buddies at preschool? The answer is no. But Orenstein did shed light on it is how I talk and praise my children that makes the difference. I can help build their self-esteem, so that they are able to push through the marketing and gender stereotypes to make decisions for themselves.

“The good news is, the choices we make for our toddlers can in influence how they navigate it (Big Bad Culture) as teens. I’m not saying we can, or will, do everything ‘right,’ only that there is power-magic-in awareness. If we start with that, with wanting girls to see themselves from the inside out rather than the outside in, we will go a long way toward helping them find their true happily-ever-afters.”