The New Girlie Girlhood: By the Numbers

Girlie Girl culture starts well before girls enter kindergarten.*

My hope is that with the huge amount of press and fan fare that author Peggy Orenstein is receiving for her amazing book “Cinderella Ate My Daughter”, we will refresh a national conversation about what is going on with our girls and the bigger picture of marketing to kids. It is my firm belief that parents will soon start to see sexualization and limiting gender stereotypes as a social justice issue, and we will work together to turn this ship around.

Parent driven initiatives changed the way our nation thinks about and uses smoke detectors, seat belts, toxic toys, and flammable children’s apparel. The changes are now mainstays in our culture. 
Parents of my generation grew up with the massive national efforts in the 1980’s of MADD – Mothers Against Drunk Driving. I think with a little more education on the subject, and direction on what to do once we know the facts, parents will join together and start to fight back against the marketers and media.
Childhood is at stake.
A quick note to you mothers of sons who think you are off the hook — pause and think about who your sons will (most likely) be dating and marrying. These daughters that are sexualized from birth – from birth – will be the women whom our sons marry, have children with, raise the next generation of girls….This affects ALL of us.
By the numbers:
Global revenue generated by the Disney Princess products increased from $300 million in 2000 to $4 billion in 2009.
Percentage of 8-12 year old girls who regularly used eyeliner doubled between 2008 and 2010.
Nearly half of girls between the ages of 6-9yo regularly use lipstick or lip gloss.
$40 million a month: Amount of money 8-12yo girls spend on beauty products. A month. Biggest influence on their purchases is not peers or media. It is their mothers.
Barbie was introduced in 1959 with a target audience of 9-12yo girls. Today’s target audience is 3-7yo.
Age at which children express “brand consciousness”: 24 months.
25% of teen girls have posted nude or semi-nude photos of themselves online.
41% of 15-17yo girls and 29% of boys say they have participated in bullying someone online.
12,000 Botox injections were given to teens aged 13-19yo in 2009.
43,000 teens under the age of 18 had their appearance surgically altered in 2008.
48% of girls in grades 3-12 polled in 2000 asserted the most popular girls in school were “very thin”. By 2006 that number had risen to 60%.
60% of girls in grades 9-12 surveyed in 2006 were attempting to lose weight; only 10% of these same girls were considered medically overweight.
Only 15% of students taking the AP computer science exam are female.
Stats are from Peggy Orenstein’s “Cinderella Ate My Daughter”. READ this book!
*Photo image is from Cozy’s Cuts For Kids.


  1. We must stop trying to segregate these issues. This is an issue for childhood not girls. As you astutely state: Mothers of boys you are not off the hook. I would add, neither are the dads! For any progress to be made we must look at issues holistically otherwise we are simply treating the symptom and not the root of the problem.

    I had the exact same response and candidly there is not a day that passes where someone post something that has been created which infects the minds and bodies of our children. Botox and plastic surgery for children? Wrinkle cream for young girls? Seriously the world has gone mad. Narcissism is alive and well…imagine the good that would be created taking all the dollars spent on this self-obsessed garbage and placing it into real issues.

  2. Dawn Bertuca says:

    The earlier posts this morning about the “skincare” for 8 – 12 yr olds made me want to scream. $40 million spent on beauty products for 8 – 12 year olds each month? As the mother of a 7 yr old who uses soap and toothpaste, I cannot even fathom what this means. Will tweet about this momentarily…

  3. The one and only thing I disagree with on this post would be the cosmetic procedures thing. How many of those procedures are things that are classed as cosmetic but are actually more for general quality of life (ie, breast reduction- I wish I had had mine in high school when the doctor first mentioned it rather than waiting 12 years and having it at 30- all the athletic stuff that hurt before is do-able now, but the rest of my body slows me down.)

    • Hi Cait –
      The Dove Self-Esteem Fund reports that 7 in 10 girls believe that when it comes to beauty and body image they do not measure up, and only 10 percent (of 1,000 girls) thought they were “pretty enough”.

      I just spent 20 mintues searching the internet for numbers on the number of teens girls needing breast reduction for medical reasons. I couldn’t find any. Certainly I see that as a valid medical surgery, as opposed to cosmetic, but instead I found article after article of teens getting surgery to boost self-esteem, smooth out appearance, to fit in, to please a boyfriend, and even to avoid bullying.

      The three most common teen procedures are breast implants, liposuctions, and rhinoplasty. Unless this is necessary reconstruction, we’ve got problems. It is important to remember that teens bodies are not done growing, we don’t know all of the long term effects of these kinds of surgeries, and many times, teens are having surgery for the wrong reasons.

      It sounds like your surgery really helped you and that is great! I hope you continue to enjoy your healthy body.

    • Like Cait, I’m wondering about teens who are getting plastic/reconstructive surgeries for things like cleft palates, burns, congenital defects or as the result of accident or injury and how they separate those statistics out from the non-necessary truly cosmetic kinds of surgeries.
      Additionally, on the botox injections, I have a 10 year niece with cerebral palsy. Because of the palsy which makes her muscles extremely rigid, she gets botox injections, which are somehow supposed to work to make her loosen up (which is weird since they seem to make the face so rigid it doesn’t move, so I don’t really understand how it works the opposite way in the joints). Anyway, I know it’s now becoming a more common procedure for those with cerebral palsy…although I doubt it accounts for the 12,000 2009 injections.

      • Yep – there are definitely valid reasons for plastic surgery. My own little brother was born with a cleft palate and lip and has had multiple upon multiple procedures to correct his birth defect. But…..

        the most common procedures on teens are breast implants, liposuctions, and rhinoplasty. I think it is fair to reason that the giant majority of those are cosmetic. I spoke with a parent from California who said girls are given boob jobs as high school graduation presents by the parents. I got a suitcase.

        That is really interesting how Botox helps your neice’s muscles. I don’t know much about that either, but it is an excellent example of how this field of medicine has very valid uses. I’m glad they help her. And you are right, I don’t think that accounts for all 12,000 injections.

  4. Thanks again for another great article. Will be sharing this in next week’s Sunday Surf.
    I think boys are just as gendered by toys and society at large, and it is just as harmful. We push them towards aggressive toys, towards gendered play. We tell them not to do things because they are for girls.
    We leave no room for different sexual orientations and tell them they’ll find a girl to marry, secretly stressing at night that they might be gay, because they liked the pink T-shirt at the market. We shrug and say “well he’s a boy” when they engage in aggressive behavior.
    Boys are not out of the loop when it comes to harmful gendering at all… and the fact that this problem is often forgotten, that we tend to focus on the girls, makes it even worse. It points out that we haven’t even diagnosed it as a problem.

    • Hi there –
      I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and I appreciate you sharing my work. You are absolutely correct that boys toys are gendered and carry stereotypes just as girls are, though I would argue without such sexual overtones and not right from birth. I have a two year old, almost three year old son and I don’t nearly see the tidal wave coming towards him as I do my daughter.

      I do need to correct your statement about not diagnosing the problem with boys. I feel that statement is incorrect. My work here focuses on girls, but there are several groups doing this very same work for boys. I highly recommend the work of Achilles Effect (, Targeting Teens, The Good Men Project, Marketing Childhood, Media Choices, and the Mediatrician. Also, a good read for you would be “Packaging Boyhood”, which dissects and educates on all of the topics you discussed above.

      My focus is on girls, but that doesn’t mean I don’t see boys. I care deeply about how all of this will affect my son. But by keeping my focus on girls, I allow room for someone like Achilles Effect to focus solely on boys. When our work parallels each other, the message is that much stronger.

  5. Read a article that a mother in the UK has spent £30000 on entering her 5 year old daughter in some beauty contest in the US. YUK


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