Book Review: Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein


You are probably all familiar with the boldly emblazoned (and often bedazzled) word “PINK” festooned across the seats of sweatpants from the ever popular Victoria’s Secret PINK collection.  “LOVE PINK” is the motto many girls’ rumps loudly proclaim as they saunter by!  And why shouldn’t we “LOVE PINK?”

Since little girls we have been told that pink is synonymous with femininity.  Pretty and pink practically go hand in hand!  Sparkles, and all things pink, bring us one step closer to becoming the princesses that many girls dream of.  So what’s the harm of living in this sugar and spice and everything nice world?  If a little girl wants to play dress-up, try on makeup, draw pictures of her prince charming – shouldn’t we just let her?  My mom never forbade me to play with Barbies or tiaras and I think I turned out mostly fine (although my Barbies were nicely counterbalanced with my Michaelangelo nunchucks – Cowabunga Dude!).
However, from Peggy Orenstein’s point of view – this girly-girl culture is teaching females that their looks are their most important assets, and what seems innocent at a young age could be harmful as girls mature.  Even I am guilty of some of the apparent faux pas Orenstein discourages in Cinderella Ate My Daughter.  For instance, when I first see another female, practically the first thing I do is tell her I like what she is wearing, or her hair looks nice, or complement some other aspect of her appearance.  I know I personally love hearing these complements about myself, but perhaps that goes to show just how important these superficial things have become to me, and many women for that matter.  And how healthy is that?

Orenstein covers a wide array of topics – from the more palpably disturbing side effects of this girly girl culture (e.g.,  child beauty pageants, or as she calls them, “preschoolers tricked out like Vegas Showgirls) to the seemingly less malevolent (e.g., Fairy Tales), and everything in between (premature sexualization, narcissism and depression, Disney Channel role models a la Hannah Montana, etc).  A provocative read to say the least, I think Orenstein definitely has some interesting points.  And despite her strong views, she admits she has had her own difficulty sticking to her guns when her daughter Daisy peers up at her with weepy eyes and begs for just one princess Barbie.  Orenstein’s personal struggles with the concepts she purports only make her that much more relatable.  After finally putting down this book, I couldn’t help but wonder how I would want to raise my own daughter… I suppose I’ll just have to cross that bridge when I come to it.

Final Rating – 3 out of 5 stars.

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