Mswas’ CBR-III Review #13 – Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein03/11/2011
How do you raise strong, happy daughters in this century? How do you keep them from wallowing in materialism and being sucked into the trappings of society’s belief that beauty is an accomplishment? With two daughters under 12 of my own, it’s something to think about. Will they be smart and proud to be so? Will they be happy in and of themselves? Peggy Orenstein examines those very ideas in Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture.
“I never expected, when I had a daughter, that one of the most important jobs would be to protect her childhood from becoming a marketer’s land grab.”
We all know of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, but only parents of young girls these days may know of Disney’s “Princess” line where those three princesses are bundled together with Belle from Beauty and the Beast, and Jasmine from the movie Aladdin. Until 2000, they were never shown together. 2000 is when former Nike executive, Andy Mooney, went to “Disney on Ice” and saw the girls in their homemade costumes and discovered a brilliant marketing strategy.
“It was a risky move: Disney had never marketed its characters separately from a film’s release, and old-timers like Roy Disney considered it heresy to lump together those from different films. That is why, these days, when the ladies appear on the same item, they never make eye contact. Each stares off in a slightly different direction, as if unaware of the others’ presence. Now that I have told you, you’ll always notice it. And let me tell you, it’s freaky.”
Orenstein goes on to talk about the princess culture taking over Dora the Explorer and even Barbie, but she also goes into childrearing from a psychological and sociological perspective.
“Children weren’t color coded at all until the early twentieth centry: in the era before Maytag, all babies wore white as a practical matter, since the only way of getting clothes clean was to boil them… When nursery colors were introduced, pink was actually considered a more masculine hue, a pastel version of red, which is associated with strength. Blue, with its intimations of the Virgin Mary, constancy, and faithfulness, symbolized femininity.
This viewpoint was held until fairly recently, as a poll in the 1930s still showed this view.
We learn that at the age of three children start to label people “boys” and “girls,” what makes you a boy vs. a girl? To kids it’s not genitalia, however, it’s what you wear. She also tells about monkeys given stereotypically male, female, and neutral toys – males went for boy, females for girl…Even monkeys distinguish between genders!
Orenstein went to Arizona State University to talk with Carol Martin, a professor of child development and her colleague, Richard Faber of the Sanford Harmony Project with its mission to “improve how boys and girls think of and treat the other sex in the classroom, on the playground and beyond.” They witness boys and girls not playing together but rather side by side. Girls pull away from rowdy boys, and of course there’s threat of cooties, the “us vs. them” mentality.
Along with her thorough research and entertaining writing, Orenstein gives us anecdotes of her own struggles to raise her daughter, Daisy, with the beliefs she holds. Daisy’s in pretty good hands.
“Mom?” Daisy asked. “How come in that song Mulan has to be gentle and strong but Shang is only strong?”
I looked into the rearview mirror and grinned as my eye caught hers.
Ultimately she comes to the conclusion that it’s not our role as parents to shield children from the world, but to prepare them to prosper in it. I only hope I can raise my own daughters as thoughtfully.