Sunday, May 1, 2011

Not Much Chance of Cinderella Eating My Daughter (Darth Vader Might Have More Luck with My Son . . . )


A week or so ago I finished reading a book called Cinderella Ate My Daughter . . . and I have been thinking about it ever since.

I thought about it when I found Janae lying in bed, teeth brushed and face washed, but somehow sporting shimmering pink lip gloss . . . and not just a little bit. When I asked her how she’d put on make-up in bed, she showed me the lipstick stashed under her pillow—so she could look dazzling even at night.


I thought about it when one-year-old Alaina picked up a doll and said “dance,” then started singing a Selena Gomez song featured in the Tinker Bell movies . . . and again when Janae asked me if we have any "booty shorts" (I was relieved to learn--as you will be, too--that she didn't actually know what they were, seeing as how she is only FOUR!)

As the mother of two young girls, and a self-declared feminist, I really related to this book . . . at least at first.

I came across Cinderella Ate My Daughter (published in 2009 by Peggy Orenstein, a journalist who is also the mother of a little girl) in a magazine that featured the book and provided a summary. I loved the title and wondered how accurately it would describe the way princesses have affected (and will affect) my own girls (especially since Alaina calls all princesses “Cinderella”!).


I was fascinated by what I learned about the Disney Corporation, the history of the Princess movement, and also today’s toy industry (the book was very well researched). I was surprised at how manipulated I have been, thinking—for example—that there were certain things my daughters had to have.


Most mothers would admit that little girls growing up today are bombarded with pink and plastic . . . and they might wonder how these little girls could possibly grow up learning that who they are and what they do/think/feel is more important than what they look like.

These issues are at the center of the book. And I was completely on board until I got about three-quarters of the way through.

After that, I got a little annoyed. The author, who really is quite witty, just seemed a little too proud of herself and her observations. She seemed a little too critical of others’ attitudes, even while sections of the book almost promoted the very products and ideals she was criticizing.

The last straw for me was when she compared The Little Mermaid to Rapunzel, and got the story lines wrong :)

After that, I found a few more problems with the book, including the author’s vision of what would be better for young girls (she was sad that the "Courtney Love era" was cut short by the introduction of Spice Girls-fashioned "girlfriend" power, because she saw real potential for a hard-core style of girl that was tough but also feminine . . . not really my ideal, I have to admit).

Anyway, in the end I felt that she was pointing the blame in the wrong place. I don’t think Cinderella is to blame, after all. Maybe it’s just me (I do happen to like Cinderella, as well as Belle, Ariel, Aurora, Snow White, Tiana, and even Pocahontas and Mulan!), but I think the Disney Corporation is no more guilty than any other corporation of corrupting our daughters.


I think the problem is with materialism in general (ah, yes, my favorite place to lay blame), closely tied with the media and peer orientation. (Don’t worry—I will not go into much more detail than that.)

I started to feel that even the entire concept of the book itself was a bit sexist, since the problem is really not limited to girls but affects boys as well--as the mother of a young son, I would say equally.

Orenstein argues, for example, that girls’ choices of toys/stories are often limited to princesses, ballerinas, butterflies, and fairies . . . but if you’ve ever looked for items with young boys’ themes, they are mostly sports, Superheros or vehicles. (And, by the way, have you ever tried to find a Father’s Day card that didn’t focus on golf? It’s not that easy!)

Anyway, this book got me thinking . . . and I did put the Thomas the Tank Engine sheets on Janae’s bed (rather than her pink flowered ones) and got out the Sesame Street coloring book for Alaina, rather than the My Little Pony one . . . but it was just for fun!

My girls do have a brother, so they play a lot more pirates, Star Wars, wrestling, and trains than my sisters and I ever did.


And, for the record, all three of them would rather watch The Muppet Show than anything else, thanks to their dad.


But in the end, I think my girls will be girls--smart girls, pretty girls, well-rounded girls of many interests--and I'm definitely okay with that.

I may just need to confiscate some of the lip gloss . . . and the booty shorts, too, if it ever comes to that :)


Anita said...

Booty shorts!! She probably got that from Tina's girls:) I think as long as your child doesn't "live in a dream" world, you're okay!!

mom said...

Most of the girls in our family are well rounded in their likes, not "always" princess! I don't think there is much to worry about :0)