Thursday, February 28, 2013

Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein

Coming out of my first gift-giving season with my daughter, the heavily gender segregated world of children’s toys is in the forefront of my mind. I had been meaning to read Cinderella Ate My Daughter by sociologist Peggy Orenstein for a while, but pushed it up on my reading list now that I am navigating the pink tide of girlhood with my daughter.

Orenstein gathers the data from numerous childhood gender studies and evaluates the current crop of toys and media aimed at young girls from a sociological perspective. She interviews psychologists, sociologists, and the companies who market to little girls to find out why pink and princesses are so pervasive, even more now than ever before. The book is an interesting evaluation of whether girls are predestined to love certain toys or if they do so because of their environment.

The section on Disney princesses was particularly interesting. An executive was attending a Disney on Ice performance and noticed that girls were wearing homemade costumes of their favorite Disney heroines. Realizing this was an untapped market, the girlhood juggernaut “Disney Princess” brand was conceived. Apparently, Walt Disney never wanted the characters from different movies to appear together so the princesses never look at each other when they appear on merchandise together. As Orenstein notes, once you learn this, you will notice it always.

She goes on to evaluate Toddlers and Tiaras, Hannah Montana, Bratz, and other girl-centered toys and media. She treated the topic in a very interesting and readable manner and addressed the concerns of parents who worry that the “princess phase” has lasting consequences. Her own experiences with her daughter offer the reader a look into the reality of trying to provide a well-rounded childhood while still letting little girls have fun.

Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein is available as an OverDrive downloadable ebook and print copies are currently on order. You might also enjoy Orenstein’s Schoolgirls: Young Women, Self-Esteem, and the Confidence Gap or Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence by Rachel Simmons.

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