“Cinderella Ate My Daughter”: A Book Review

Peggy Orenstein, author of the eye opening "Cinderella Ate My Daughter"

By now, I cannot really remember how or from whom I heard about Peggy Orenstein’s new book, “Cinderella Ate My Daughter“. Maybe it was one of my colleagues? A blog comment or tweet? Or during a Google search about girlie-girl girlhood, looking for an article to post on Facebook for our Parent Community….none the less, I slept with it under my pillow last night.

Really. Right under my pillow.

Because I wanted all of it’s goodness to soak into my brain. I devoured the entire book in less than 24hours, and took so many notes in the margins I had to twice wash the ink off of my left hand as it dragged through my stars and underlining and “YES!!” comments. When I realized I had underlined 2/3 of the book, I thought I ought to go back and write down the really important stuff somewhere else, so I wouldn’t forget. So I filled the front cover with more notes and page numbers. Then I wrote Peggy a love letter.

While I’ve taught myself a thing or two about sexualization, gender stereotypes, early childhood development, commodification, and children’s marketing…..at the end of the day I’m a mom to a five year old girl and two year old boy and I know deep in my heart of hearts that what I see happening to childhood is harmful to their development and that I must not, cannot accept the status quo. I know….way down in that mommy gut that speaks to you when you need it most…I know my kids deserve better than what is being sold to them.

Peggy’s book helps to make sense of all of this. She does such an amazing job of breaking down some of the most absurd things present in girlhood that you as a parent feel validated for questioning hooker-like fashion dolls for three year olds and kindergarteners limiting their future ambitions to princess or ballerina or butterfly. She breaks down the marketing  history of children’s products revealing that before Pinkification and the Disney Princesses became the marketing story board for every girl across the land, neither pink nor princess had all that important of a role in girlhood. She questions the innocence of All Pink All the Time, of boutique-like chain stores selling teen fashion to seven year olds, and four year olds getting regular mani-pedis. Barbie, Bratz, Spice Girlz, Twilight, Britney, Miley, fairy tales, American Girl, plastic surgery, Princesses, gender identity, sexuality, sexting, and sexy play are all discussed with such casual ease you feel like you’re talking to the mommies at playgroup.

Peggy’s wit and non-preachy way of questioning a hypergendered and sexualized childhood may feel like a coffee clutch with your favorite mom pal, but she ingeniously weaves in research study after study, and interviews with major leaguers like Lise Eliot, Deb Tolman, and the Sanford Harmony Program researchers Carol Martin and Richard Fabes. She visits a toy buyers market in Times Square, a children’s high Glitz beauty pageant in the South, a Miley Cyrus concert (good lawd!), and the American Girl Place.

This book is a MUST read for anyone raising a daughter, but specifically if you have a daughter 12 years old and under. So much of our work in girl empowerment circles focuses on teens. It has always been the belief of Pigtail Pals that girl empowerment must start in the toddler years, that these concepts and messages must be present from the beginning.  This book gives the reader an amazing awareness and inside look at what really is going on with girlhood, who is in control, and who is laughing all the way to the rhinestone covered bank.

I cannot stress enough how strongly I feel every parent of a daughter needs to read this book. I’d loan you my copy, but I wrote all over it. Go grab your copy at your local bookstore, or order online. I promise, you will not be disappointed. My great hope is that this book is a catalyst to a national conversation on what is going on to our girls, and as parents what we can do to take back control.

You all know how strongly I feel about this. The last page of Peggy’s book made me teary as she talked about the roots and protection we give to our daugthers during the few short years they are ours. You’ll understand this better after you read the book, but it is my wish that every parent see themselves as their daughter’s hazel tree.

I leave you with Peggy’s stirring words: “The good news is, the choices we make for our toddlers can influence how they navigate as teens. I’m not saying we can, or will, do everything “right”, only that there is power – magic- in awareness. If we start with that, with wanting girls to see themselves from the inside out rather than the outside in, we will go a long way toward helping them find their true happily-ever-afters.” 

"Cinderella Ate My Daughter" is available on Amazon and in stores on 1/25/11