Girls in America are being marketed to at younger and younger ages, the message being that looks are everything and becoming a princess should be the ultimate goal. With a young daughter of her own, Peggy Orenstein grew very concerned about this princess phenomena and set out to understand and analyze it. Orenstein digs deep into this subject, exploring the Disney Princess empire, the Pageant circuit, the American Girl store, and she even attends a Miley Cyrus concert. What she finds might not surprise you, but will definitely empower you to make better decisions regarding your own daughters, nieces, sisters, and other young girls in your life.
I was very impressed by Orenstein’s Schoolgirls when I read it years ago, so Cinderella Ate My Daughter went on my TBR list as soon as it was published last year. With this book, I continued to appreciate Orenstein’s ability to get to the heart of an issue, to really involve herself in what she’s studying, and to write about these issues in a conversational tone that is the complete opposite or dry or boring.
One thing I loved about Cinderella Ate My Daughter is how Orenstein presents what she finds in such a balanced way. For example, when she attends a beauty pageant for young girls (babies through elementary school girls), she expects to be repulsed by the way the mothers tart up their daughters in caked-on makeup and inappropriate outfits and coach them to flirt with the judges, which, don’t get me wrong, she definitely is. However, she sees another side to these pageants, she sees the humanity in these mothers and in the young girls competing, and she is not afraid to show that side to the reader too. Instead of sensationalizing how horrific these pageants are, she makes it clear that these are real people participating and encouraging their daughters to participate, and they are not evil people or bad parents because of it. This is one example of how Orenstein illustrates that there are no easy answers to these issues.
While it is disappointing that Orenstein can’t wave a magic wand and come up with the perfect antidote to princess culture, it is reassuring to learn that there are things all parents can do and say to give their daughters a better way of understanding and interpreting the messages that they are inundated with on a daily basis. While Cinderella Ate My Daughter doesn’t come up with many answers, it is a fascinating book and at the very least, gives parents a very clear understanding of what they are up against in the attempt to raise intelligent, independent, forward-thinking, clear-headed daughters. Cinderella Ate My Daughter is a must-read for anyone with a young daughter, niece, granddaughter, sister, etc. Highly recommended.