I’m pretty sure that if my head were NOT attached, I’d loose it. I almost forgot I had an 8:30 meeting this morning – despite talking about it with the hubby last night. I was all set up to run, but when the alarm went off I realized I wouldn’t have enough time. Duh. Then, after a hectic morning, I left my phone at home. Duh again. Good thing I am staying late tonight!
The reason I am staying late tonight is BOOK CLUB! A real life book club with Jackie (this will be the 3rd week in a row that I get to hang out with her. I’m getting kind of spoiled here!).
This month’s book is Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Oreinsten.
Pink and pretty 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 a source—thesource—of female empowerment. And commercialization has spread the message faster and farther, reaching girls at ever-younger ages.
But, realistically, how many times can you say no when your daughter begs for a pint-size wedding gown or the latest Hannah Montana CD? And how dangerous is pink and pretty anyway—especially given girls’ successes in the classroom and on the playing field? Being a princess is just make-believe, after all; eventually they grow out of it. Or do they? Does playing Cinderella shield girls from early sexualization—or prime them for it? Could today’s little princess become tomorrow’s sexting teen? And what if she does? Would that make her in charge of her sexuality—or an unwitting captive to it?
Those questions hit home with Peggy Orenstein, so she went sleuthing. She visited Disneyland and the international toy fair, trolled American Girl Place and Pottery Barn Kids, and met beauty pageant parents with preschoolers tricked out like Vegas showgirls. She dissected the science, created an online avatar, and parsed the original fairy tales. The stakes turn out to be higher than she—or we—ever imagined: nothing less than the health, development, and futures of our girls. 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.
I knew a lot about this book before I started reading it, so I had expectations. The expectations were met – but my conclusions on the book surprised me.
Maybe it was the tone of the author – but I often found myself reading the book and DEFENDING girlie-princess culture. It’s not to say that some of the statistics that she presented or studies that she brought up weren’t valid and true – specifically regarding gender studies and “girl-aimed” marketing. No, they were spot on. But somehow there was a disconnect.
I did think a lot of my childhood and compared it to that of my kids while reading this book and one thing jumped out at me: We didn’t have the “Princess” phenoma but we still had Barbie, Jem, Rainbow Brite, Easy Bake Ovens, Cabbage Patch Kids, and Strawberry Shortcake. The message of MANY of these toys was the same as the message little girls receive today. It hasn’t really changed.
I loved playing dress up. I loved feeling “pretty”, and I too wanted to be a princess. Disney, Barbie, and the like did not decide this for me.
So, what gives?
What I couldn’t help thinking the entire time I was reading this book was “WHERE ARE THE PARENTS?” Sure, Princesses, Barbie, and Bratz dolls are cool and popular, but these little girls aren’t buying these items themselves. Are they? There’s nobody telling these parents they HAVE to buy these toys for their kids. There’s nobody forcing these movies and cartoon characters down their throats. Sure, they are there. Sure daycares and schools influence the gender roles our children take on – but as parents is OUR responsibility to be that other half. That voice of reason.
Unlike the author, I don’t really take a stance on princesses, Barbies, dolls, etc. While I’m not rushing out to buy anything inappropriate for my 2.5 year old to play with – I’m not going to try to shield her from these toys. I have (almost) all of the Disney movies. I will encourage both of my kids to live in a fantasy world where they can be princes and princesses. I will take my daughter to meet the princesses at Disney – if she so desires. But, I will FILTER their exposure.
That said, the one thing I AM concerned aboutis the whole “sexy” thing. I’m sorry, but a 12-year old has NO RIGHT talking about being sexy or thinking they ARE sexy. There is a HUGE push for girls AND boys to grow up so quickly these days. WHY IS THAT???? What are we rushing? AND WHO IS DOING IT?
The oversexualization of girls is very concerning to me, but I don’t think this JUST comes from toys. It comes the media and celebrities. It comes from eavsedropping and conversations said between adults. We can’t just blame ONE outlet. We need to point fingers at ourselves too.
Do I think Disney, Mattel and Co. are purposely trying to sabotage years of progress women have made in equality? Not necessarily. I think they are making a lot of money though! And I think they HAVE made strides. Trying to make the female characters more powerful. It’s hard though, Disney is still a “boys club.”
Do I think that we should stop pushing the sex appeal and “sexiness” of toys to our kids? ABSOLUTELY.
Sometimes I think it’s the PARENTS who are reaching back to THEIR childhood and their memories that are continuing to push this trend forward. And sometimes I think parents want to be “friends” with their kids. I’m sorry, while I love my kids dearly, I’m NOT aiming to be friends with them. It doesn’t work like that. I want them to respect me and at times (if necessary) fear me.
So bottom line (and now that I’ve gone on a mini-rant about parenting) – I thought this book was interesting. It has made me look at girl-aimed marketing in a different light. I will still stick to my “Anna Quindlen” approach to parenting (this, by the way is one of my favorite posts ever written on being a parent) — in which I will assert my influence, put my foot down when necessary, and pray for the best.
I CAN and WILL keep an eye out for my kids sake – and run interference. I hope while my kids are playing with princesses, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Transformers, Thundercats, and Barbie they realize it’s just play. I will emphasize the positives and try to be the best role model that I can be. While I think the toys, TV, and media play a part, I think showing my kids how to be a good person, how to work hard AND play hard, and how to make good choices is the bigger influence in their life. Let’s stop BLAMING and start DOING.
And Cinderella is more than welcome to hang out at our house any time – as long as she doesn’t mind being polite, minding her manners, cleaning up after herself, and participating in dance parties that is.