Review: Cinderella Ate My Daughter

Non-fiction NovemberPeggy Orenstein is a renowned culture critic and expert on girls’ behavior. Her career is built on writing about girls, thinking about girls, and talking about how girls should be raised. She’s written articles and books on the subject, been interviewed by The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, and gained national attention on the Today show, FOX TV, and NPR.

So when she discovers she’s pregnant with a girl, she is of course terrified.

What if she isn’t able to raise the ideal girl? Could she take her own advice and stand strong in the face of things like rampant marketing, the virgin-whore dichotomy, and—Lord help us—pink princess dresses?

Cinderella Ate My Daughter is the result of Orenstein’s research into “girlie-girl” culture, as well as an honest and personal account of a mother who is unsure if denying her daughter those “girly” experiences is the right thing to do.

I think I’m in love

As someone who has considered the possible negative side effects of fighting against the girlie-girl culture, I found Orenstein’s book to be refreshing. It may sound strange, but I love that she doesn’t claim to have the answers, and how she doubts that what she is doing is the best thing:

“I thought back to our conversation several years before in the grocery store, when I had tried to explain my aversion to Cinderella. Had my worst fears during that episode come to pass? Rather than becoming more conscious of manipulation, had [my daughter] instead learned that the things associated with girls—and by extension being a girl itself—were bad?”

There are many instances in this book where Orenstein questions the way she’s choosing to raise her daughter. I think many readers found this so-called “waffling” annoying, and a sign of her inability to pick a side and stick with it. But the reality is that there are two sides to everything; you can’t choose to raise your child the way Orenstein is without at some point considering the implications of doing so.

Hello research!

Like any good journalist, Orenstein sets out to answer her questions with research. She interviews the marketers responsible for the “pinkification” of everything from lego sets to toy spy kits and child-sized electric pianos; picks through fairy tales looking for stories that aren’t degrading or horrifying; and attends a beauty pageant for five year-olds (and shows the contestants’ mothers to be actual humans, which is more than “Toddlers & Tiaras” has ever done). What she discovers is occasionally shocking and/or ridiculous, but always interesting.

Orenstein also includes conversations she has with her daughter, Daisy, about everything from Wonder Woman to the straight-to-DVD film “Mulan 2.” She momentarily discusses Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight saga and a compelling reason why girls might like it so much (finally, a heroine who isn’t f-ing perfect!), and points out the ridiculousness of discussing female politicians’—like Clinton and Palin—bodies and choices of clothing.

An amazing read

I really enjoyed reading Cinderella Ate My Daughter. To sum it up in a few simple words (adult language incoming):

In other words, just read it.

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