Skylar Burris's Reviews > Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture

Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein
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Mar 13, 15

bookshelves: unfinished, sociology

Since I’m planning to take my daughter to Disney World for the first time some time in the next year, it seemed like a good time to read this. Of course, even at seven, she’s still more interested in Winnie the Pooh than in princesses. But, sure, she loves to dress up in gowns and necklaces and tutus, to put on pretend makeup (allowed only on weekends, in time for washing off for school). Admittedly, I’m not concerned that Cinderella has consumed her. If anything, I’m a little relieved that she seems to have more feminine sense than I ever had or currently have, because I think it will make life generally easier for her than it has been for me. Not “getting” your own gender is not really an asset in life. But nor is being a complete gender stereotype. And I am concerned about the sexualization, if not so much the feminization, of girls. I mean, can someone please help me find a pair of shorts for my 7-year old girl that descend below the crotch? Then again, I guess it doesn’t matter since she’s only willing to wear dresses anyway. I can just buy her one or two sizes up in those to get a decent length. But, wait - should I be worried that she only wants to wear dresses? Is this going to lead to lower self esteem and subjugation one day?

I downloaded the free Kindle sample for this book and set out to discover what secret sociological dangers lurk in the depths of the dress-up box. I abandoned the book at the end of the sample and decided not to throw in my money, or, indeed, even my library card. But, as usual, that doesn’t stop me from commenting on what little I did read.

“Once more, I live in Berkeley, California: if princess had infiltrated our…hamlet, imagine what was going on in places where women actually shaved their legs?”

Yes, imagine what must be going on in that rest of the country, in that wide, unenlightened mass of land between New York and Berkeley known as “America.” I can only speculate and cringe about what the backwards inhabitants of Ohio might be allowing their daughters to do if even Californians let them wear pink.

“It is tempting, as a parent, to give the new pink-and-pretty a pass….So if a spa birthday party would make your six-year-old happy…”

Number of 6-year-old girls I personally know, outside of Berkley, who have been taken to a spa: 0.

“And even if you think the message telegraphed by a pink Scrabble set with tiles on the box top that spell F-A-S-H-I-O-N is a tad retrograde, what are you supposed to do about it?”

Umm…I don’t know…maybe buy a regular Scrabble set instead? Or write a hysterical book about it. One or the other.

“Old Dora versus New Dora?”

Old Dora, clearly. That’s an easy one. Hasn’t the market decided that already anyway?

“Do pink TinkerToys expand or contract its definition?”

Ummm…neither? It’s a color, right? Pink? A color? The toys can still be used the same way. (You know, to build houses in which to confine and subjugate women.) Not that I’ve ever seen pink tinker toys myself. My daughter’s set was pretty much wood color. But I'm willing to worry about the pink tinker toys I've never seen if it will help to empower my daughter.

“How do you instill pride and resilience in her? Reject the Disney Princess Pull-Ups for Lightning McQueen?”

Connect the dots for me on that one, because I’m not seeing how either option instills resilience. Well, if you send her to preschool in nothing but her Lightening McQueen pull ups, I suppose she’ll be mocked, and if she survives the mockery, that will instill resilience.

“What’s your policy on the latest Disney Channel “it” girl?”

Couldn’t say. We don’t have cable. Lack of television reception spares me the effort of developing policies, apparently. But I do have to develop a policy on Coyote and Road Runner, because we have the DVDs.Do you think they instill more pride and resillience than Tom and Jerry?

“Meanwhile, although Mulan (the protofeminist young woman who poses as a boy to save China) and Pocahontas are officially part of the club, I defy you to find them in stores.”

Been to Target much? Wal-Mart maybe? Do they have those near the spa in Berkley?

“I do not question that little girls like to play princes…but…it’s a little hard to say where ‘want’ ends and ‘coercion’ begins.”

I do not question that I like to eat ice cream. But when Baskin Robins has 31 flavors, and I walk into the store, and choose a flavor, and pay for it, and eat it – is that really my choice?

“I have never seen a study proving that playing princess specifically damages girls’ self-esteem or dampens other aspirations.”

But I see you’ve written a book about how we should be afraid it might anyway.
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Reading Progress

03/13 marked as: unfinished

Comments (showing 1-29 of 29) (29 new)

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message 1: by rivka (new)

rivka Awesome review.

And I say that though I live in California. ;)

message 2: by M (new)

M Fabulous review, Skylar! I may end up reading this because it's available for library download, but I appreciate your caveat emptur.

message 3: by K (new)

K Whoops, Skylar -- my sister is visiting me and I didn't realize that the account was signed in under her name. The comment above was actually me, not her. Oh, well -- one extra vote for your review! ;)

message 4: by rivka (new)

rivka LOL!

message 5: by Skylar (new) - added it

Skylar Burris LOL. I'll take it.

message 6: by K (new)

K I loved your review; I'm happy I got to give it two votes and wasn't limited to one!

message 7: by booklady (new)

booklady Hilarious Skylar! And I join you in not 'getting' my own gender at times ... or the other one either for that matter ... or the whole thing!!! (deep sigh)

message 8: by Karen L. (new)

Karen L. I think your review is probably a lot more fun than actually reading the book! Totally hilarious.

message 9: by booklady (new)

booklady Yes Karen! ☺

message 10: by Skylar (new) - added it

Skylar Burris Thanks for the comments, all. Abigail, I don't think it's an either or question, so I'm not particularly concerned about the promotion of "girlishness" per say (and I do think marketers play into / take advantage of that girly-girl urge in girls more than they create it), but I am concerned about hypersexualization.

message 11: by Kressel (new)

Kressel Housman Interesting to read this, as the mother of all boys. Despite your bad review, I may draw my sister's attention to it, as she's the mother of little girls. And we both *hate* the princess thing, but that's because we're New York Jews, so "princess" has terribly negative connotations.

message 12: by Skylar (new) - added it

Skylar Burris The author mentions those negative associations/connotations as well.

message 13: by Kressel (new)

Kressel Housman What does she say about the American Girls? I thought they were positive - teaching girls history.

message 14: by Skylar (new) - added it

Skylar Burris That it's out of the budget of most parents...(true enough!)

message 15: by Kressel (new)

Kressel Housman I don't know if you were following the discussion this has started on my own FB page, but my sister and I have concluded that Angelina Ballerina is one of the most postive girly characters around. Does your daughter watch her?

message 16: by Skylar (new) - added it

Skylar Burris She used to a little bit but was never particularly interested. I thought Angelina seemed very whiny the few times I watched it, so I never encouraged her to watch it, and I was glad she never really got into it. I found the show annoying.The end messages were decent enough, as they are in most kid's shows - the same stuff - share, don't put yourself before others, be tolerant, etc. - but Angelina made me want to put a fork in my eye.

Kayla Perry I really like this review. It kind of sums up my feelings about the book. I read it in its entirety but I was left feeling like it was a tad too preachy and finding hidden meaning where there was none. I mean, I loved the princesses when I was a kid and I turned out generally okay.

message 18: by RD (new) - rated it 4 stars

RD Morgan I'm giving this book 4 stars, but I felt that what you've pointed out, Skylar, was the weakest part of the book. For instance, Wal-Mart is mentioned 3 times in the book (once in reference to kids' Halloween costumes, and twice in reference to Miley Cyrus), but princess goods and gear at Wal-Mart are never mentioned. Target is mention twice (once in reference to Dora, and once in reference to Barbie), and princess goods & gear in Target aren't mentioned, either.

(I should mention here that the book has a great index.)

I enjoyed CINDERELLA ATE MY DAUGHTER because it was much more in tune with popular culture than most feminist nonfiction is.

Thanks for this review -- I enjoyed it!

message 19: by Skylar (new) - added it

Skylar Burris Thanks for the comments, RD.

message 20: by The Holy Terror (last edited Jul 08, 2011 11:59PM) (new)

The Holy Terror "“Do pink TinkerToys expand or contract its definition?”

Ummm…neither? It’s a color, right? Pink? A color? The toys can still be used the same way. (You know, to build houses in which to confine and subjugate women.) Not that I’ve ever seen pink tinker toys myself. My daughter’s set was pretty much wood color. But I'm willing to worry about the pink tinker toys I've never seen if it will help to empower my daughter. "

The author should read this.

Regina I thought this book was a very interesting dissection of popular culture and the emphasis on girls to be attrractive. Later on in the book she analyzes several very interesting studies that look at the corrleation between focus on appearance, self-esteem and interest level in school, performance on tests, etc. The book really isn't just about pink and cinderella, but it is a catchy title it is more about the focus on girls to be everything -- strong, smart, beautiful, sexually appealing. A very interesting discussion.

She does talk about American Girl, but more so from the perspective on purchasing and buying and the cost -- much of the book is also focused on consumerism and spending money as a way to mollify children and make parents feel better. She praises the creater of American Girl and then she does go to a trip to the NY store.

Regina The Holy Terror wrote: ""“Do pink TinkerToys expand or contract its definition?”

Ummm…neither? It’s a color, right? Pink? A color? The toys can still be used the same way. (You know, to build houses in which to confine ..."

Isn't that interesting? I have long known that, but I still love to read about it. The author likes it too, she does a long discussion on the historical origins of when pink is identified with girls, etc. How gender identification in western culture was done historically, etc. Her point is not that pink is evil, but the compulsion to differentiate at such young ages and to do so by color and by numerous products we purchase has been increasing, does harm to kids (both boys and girls), and is unique to our time period. She then contrasts this with what happened historically. I thought it was pretty interesting stuff. :) I can see how the intro may not give you a full flavor of her analysis, I also think the title makes it seem like the book is sillier than it is.

Sylvied Your review makes some very good points. I found the book interesting and likely useful to those who are fighting to navigate pop culture (and I chuckled out loud at her analysis of the Brothers Grimm versions of fairy tales) but, you're right, she does seem to express a helplessness that is probably not necessary. Parents do get to say "no" and shop elsewhere - or barely shop at all.
Of course I grew up, like your children are, without cable; and my mother still views with great triumph, the day she took my brother to Toys R Us at the height of the Barney craze and he wandered past the Barney toys without a second glance. He had no idea who the purple dinosaur was.

message 24: by Nadine (new) - added it

Nadine Jones haha I am the mother of 5yo & 8 yo girls - Peggy Orenstein annoys the crap out of me and I LOVED your review!!!! haven't read the book, just excerpts, and yeah this was pretty much my reaction too

message 25: by Daniel (new) - added it

Daniel Regina, I think yr comments on the review are insightful, well-supported, and fair.

Regina Daniel wrote: "Regina, I think yr comments on the review are insightful, well-supported, and fair."

Thanks Daniel.

message 27: by Jenn (new)

Jenn I haven't read the book, nor do I have any desire to based on what I've read about it, but your review is hilarious. :)

Itsneversimple As a teenage girl I guess I have a completely different perspective on this topic. As a little girl I
idolized the Disney Princess yet hated the color pink. I would only wear dresses (and still prefer them), but that wouldnt stop me from scaring the sh*t out of any guy who bullied my brother.
I think that this book completely over analyed being a girl. When i see Emma Watson on TV i cant help but say how pretty she is. But just because shes pretty doesnt mean shes not a great actress.
What Princesses represent beauty, charm, courage, and kindness aren't bad attributes. When I have a daughter I would rather have her play princess than on an ipad like most modern children.

message 29: by Skylar (new) - added it

Skylar Burris Thanks to all for the varied and insightful comments.

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