Monday, July 18, 2011
Non-Fiction Book Review: Cinderella Ate my Daughter by Peggy Orenstein
Cinderella Ate My Daughter got me thinking. what would I do if I had daughters? How would I raise them to be healthy, happy and courageous people in this consumer, internet and celebrity obsessed culture? No matter how much you love and protect a child, the world is still out there, and it can be big, and bad and scary, as well as lovely and inspiring. You shelter them too much and you screw them up. You let them be free to discover their own way and they can get screwed up. Striking a balance is difficult to do, but not impossible, right?
Peggy Orenstein chronicles the ups and downs of raising her own young daughter, while researching and commenting on what it's like out there for girls today. She hits upon the princess identity, and how Disney has made billions off of telling our daughters that they are princesses in expensive, yet cheaply made costume dresses with tiaras and fake plastic heels. Are we doing a disservice by telling little girls that they're a princess? What does it even mean to be a princess? Is it about accessories? The right hair? The perfect complexion? Can we make girls feel beautiful on the inside without hinting at all to the external shell that they inhabit?
Orenstein balances her objective and subjective voice throughout the book. She isn't afraid to reveal her own downfalls in motherhood, succumbing to doll buying sometimes. Her happiness at her daughter liking Wonder Woman, but the irony that although she's a superhero and not Cinderella, she is, in fact, still an Amazonian Princess. She can't win, can she? Her writing style is accessible to all, and isn't preachy. She observes mothers who enroll their daughters in toddler pageants, but doesn't poke fun at them. She can see the damage such a childhood can do to a child, but she can glimpse a good thing about it too.
Girls love the colour pink. I do too. I liked it when I was little, but I remember for a while that I even hated it. I thought it was too babyish at one time. I made my way toward loving blue, all shades except royal (decades later, I now love royal blue, but still enjoy my hot pink pillows). When did pink become synonymous with girls? Orenstein wants to know how to avoid pink, but how can we when it's everywhere in girl's clothing and toys. There are pink baseball bats that ensure consumers will buy two bats, one regular one for a boy, and a pink one for a girl. But pink was once a man's colour. It is interesting to note that Orenstein's cover for this book is pink.
The book touches upon the Miley Cryus of the world. The cyberbully. The oversexualization of pre-teens and so on and so forth. It's kind of scary out there for girls and for their parents. Because no matter how much we protect our daughters, we can't close off the media. The media's influence is powerful and everywhere. I guess the only thing parents can do, and aunts and uncles, and grandparents, who help to raise little girls, is to be the bigger and more loving influence.
If you have daughters, or nieces, or goddaughters in your life, give this book a read. It could prove to be interesting, and might make you rethink that Ariel costume (after all, she is a 16 year old princess who gives up her voice for a man and gets married much too young) (oh, how I do love The Little Mermaid. But this book has made me rethink some parts of it)