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Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein
Published by Harper Paperbacks
Pages: 272
Ages: Parenting/Advice
Buy It: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s Books | Indiebound | Book Depository
Publishers Summary:

The acclaimed author of the groundbreaking bestseller Schoolgirls reveals the dark side of pink and pretty: the rise of the girlie-girl, she warns, is not that innocent.

Sweet and sassy or predatory and hardened, sexualized girlhood influences our daughters from infancy onward, telling them that how a girl looks matters more than who she is. Somewhere between the exhilarating rise of Girl Power in the 1990s and today, the pursuit of physical perfection has been recast as the source of female empowerment. And commercialization has spread the message faster and farther, reaching girls at ever-younger ages. But how dangerous is pink and pretty, anyway? Being a princess is just make-believe; eventually they grow out of it . . . or do they?

In search of answers, Peggy Orenstein visited Disneyland, trolled American Girl Place, and met parents of beauty-pageant preschoolers tricked out like Vegas showgirls. The stakes turn out to be higher than she ever imagined. From premature sexualization to the risk of depression to rising rates of narcissism, the potential negative impact of this new girlie-girl culture is undeniable—yet armed with awareness and recognition, parents can effectively counterbalance its influence in their daughters’ lives.

Pink, princesses, disney, pageants, tiaras, and on and on. All of these things and more come into play at a very young age for girls growing up in today’s society. Often the introduction of these items seems to come organically without any outside intervention and other times it’s entirely based on the media & friends our children interact with on a daily basis. As a parent of a newly “crowned” princess of her own, Peggy Orenstein navigates the murky waters that nearly every parent of a daughter will encounter at one time or another in their child’s life.

Before I get into the meat of my review I need to say up front that this book was not at all what I was expecting. In many ways I was completely disappointed at the lack of helpful tools and overwhelmed by the sometimes contradictory information & statistics. Being the parent of a young daughter who has recently acquired a love of all the things author Peggy Orenstein finds wrong in the world currently (ie. pink everything & most of all Disney Princesses) I was on the lookout for helpful ways in which to counter balance this influence. Something to encourage her to become a young woman that is tolerant and accepting of others as well as comfortable with her own self-image. What I ended up with was more frustration than answers.

Both my husband and I are the first born in families where there was only one gender of children. His was a family of four boys and mine a family of three girls. Because of my situation I became quite a bit of a tomboy and helped my Dad with whatever he was doing around the house or outside. I learned to work on cars and fix stereo equipment, but was also a classically trained flutist. Even with the influence of two younger, very girly, sisters and a mom who was always dressed beautifully I never fully became a “girly girl”. Despite or perhaps because of my lack of “girliness” I still suffered from bouts of anorexia and depression as a teen, but even these experiences shaped me into a strong confident woman. Why? Primarily because of my parents and their never ending open line of communication while growing up. This leads me to my own daughter & son (who funnily enough chose pink as his favorite color until just recently) and how I can encourage & support them even when our tastes are varied, which was the primary reasoning behind picking up Cinderella Ate My Daughter.

It’s obvious to anyone who reads even a few chapters of Cinderella Ate My Daughter that Orenstein has done her homework. From spending her days monitoring the interactions between pre-schoolers to visiting the mecca of the doll world, the American Girl Place, to thoroughly researching both sides of pageants and even interviewing the man behind the marketing genius that is the Disney Princesses. For me personally I found most of this information to not only be too much but also something I was already aware of. What I didn’t appreciate was the near constant contradictions I found. Yes, it bothers me to know that the Disney Princesses were intentionally placed on marketing & packaging materials in such a way that they never “look” at each other. But what also bothered me more was that the author, who was bothered by that situation was also bothered while observing pre-schoolers who naturally separated into gender specific groups without any encouragement from adults. So it was wrong that the Disney Princesses were never allowed to seek the camaraderie & support of the other princesses, but it was also wrong that girls played and enjoyed the company of other girls? It was situations like this that left me confused and baffled at what exactly it was that the author was trying to accomplish. Instead of feeling as though I was learning from the shared experience of a fellow mother seeking solutions to help her children be the best people they can be I felt like she was more interested in carrying out her personal vendetta against all things pink, princess and girly.

In what I hoped would be a book filled with ways to counter balance the role today’s media & marketing plays into the ways our daughters grow up I found near constant negativity without many solutions. Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein is perfect for readers not familiar with today’s popular girl-driven marketing trends because it’s filled with statistics and observations of not only the author herself but many professionals. Unfortunately for me it was of little help. Yes, I hope to encourage both of my children to be strong independent thinkers that are not only tolerant but accepting of others. What I also hope to teach them is that no matter what they choose I support them in whatever their passions may be by not privately (or publicly as in this case) disparaging their decisions. There is no definitive statistic that can prove a young girl or boy who grow up loving pink and only pink will be completely depressed and disillusioned as an adult, but unfortunately that’s the opinion I gathered from the author. Oddly enough my favorite quote and perhaps my personal hope is one found on the last page:

“…our role is not to keep the world at bay but to prepare our daughters so they can thrive within it.” (p. 192 Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein)

The1stdaughter Recommends: In the dark about current marketing trends geared toward girls? This is your book. Otherwise I’m not recommending it as a parenting/advice book unfortunately.

Find Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s Books | Indiebound | Book Depository | Goodreads

Thank you so much to the publisher, Harper Paperbacks, for providing a copy of this book via TLC Book Tours for review! Connect with them on Twitter and on Facebook!
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14 Responses to Book Review: Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein

  1. Great review and I other thought with this book too, was how was I combat all of the media attention to the princesses to the dolls. Yes I loved all the information about companies , but there wasn’t much in the way to help parents …

    I think what I doing is okay with as much as I can do , and mY biggest pet with Disney is the lack parental units or the dumbing down of the parents. That was also part of my review I think …But yes I have issues with Disney and Nick

  2. Raquel says:

    Bravo to you for writing this! You were very thorough and honest in your review and I really appreciate that. I’m not a parent so I can’t speak to the parenting aspect, however when I was a child, I went through girly and tomboy phases. My parents were strict about somethings but for the most part they just let me be who I wanted to be. I didn’t grow up thinking I could only do certain things because I was a girl and couldn’t do others because they were for boys. My dad was opposed to some things but my mom plainly told him to butt out. Thanks mom!

    I find non-fiction help books to be a bit troublesome. It’s a lot of opinion and a lot of room for brainwashing. I think reviews, positive, negative and in-between are great for a balanced perspective. I hope people who want to read this book check out your review first!

  3. Sounds frustrating. But you did a great review. I liked your recommendation and quote.

  4. s'mee says:

    Ms. Orenstein is an expert at pointing out the pendulum has indeed swung in the opposite direction and seems to be hanging there a tad too long before finding a middle ground. Yet she lacks solutions that will work for the general population.

    Children will learn preferences and dislike as they learn anything else, via their parents examples at an extremely early age. If mommy is gaga for Gaga instead of Yo-yo Ma, the child will learn to love Gaga as well. Same goes for pink, Disney, Dinosaurs or robots. What infant has designed their own nursery? After a certain age children will delve out into uncharted waters, even rebel against their parents, but as *toddlers*, who holds the wallet?

    I do not blame parents for the lack of choice nor for the consumerism that is U.S. society. However we still do have choice and if enough parents decided that green eyed penguins were what define a little girl, they would demand them, and the princess would die.

  5. Jenny says:

    I have mixed feelings about reading this book. The topic is really interesting to me, but I read an article Peggy Orenstein wrote on this subject, and it irritated the hell out of me. She talked about fussing at a dental assistant for mentioning princesses to her daughter, and for heaven’s sake! The dental assistant didn’t make the world! And, I don’t know, the anecdote just set me against this book. :/

  6. Great review! I really want to read this book. I’m planning to check it out from the library soon.

  7. Great review! You might want to try a book called Packaging Girlhood. I admit I didn’t read it word for word, but I found it chock full of great information on how to balance the marketing messages girls are influenced by every day.

  8. Joanna says:

    Excellent review, Danielle, and not what I was expecting. There has to be some healthy balance to be found here.

  9. Cathe Olson says:

    Disappointing that the book you reviewed didn’t have more answers . . . but this is a problem that the media really exasperates with our girls and something we as parents need to be aware of.

    When my first daughter was little, she was obsessed with the Disney princesses and looking pretty — I became a little worried about her thinking beautiful was more important than character so I looked for books to balance this out. One of my favorite’s was a picture book called “Stand Tall. Molly Lou Melon”–great message and very fun story.

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  11. Being a parent is a true challenge – trying to balance what our children want (or think they want) with what they actually need (or we think they need) with what their friends get, and so on. I’m sorry that this book didn’t give you the solid advice that you were hoping for, but it does sound like a good resource for parents who are just realizing the dangers facing their daughters.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book for the tour.

  12. PragmaticMom says:

    I don’t think pink is the enemy or even the Disney princesses. Maybe it’s time to look inward as well and see what we, as parents, project onto our little girls. My girls were pink loving, Disney princess loving little girls but there is more to them than just that. It’s not life defining nor should it be. This is JUST A PHASE!

  13. carol says:

    Great review. I have to admit though that when my daughter was little, I wanted to play with princesses and dolls with her, have tea parties, paint her nails. My daughter, however, was not and is not a girly girl, and it had nothing to do with me or with the media. She is who she is.

  14. Scotty says:

    I disagree about Disney. The new princesses are all very different – Brave, Ariel, Tiana, etc

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