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Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture
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message 1: by El (new) - rated it 3 stars

El | 756 comments Mod
Our October Nonfiction selection will be Peggy Orenstein's Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture, published in 2011.

Any initial thoughts on this one? Seems people were really interested in reading it, so I hope you'll join us!

message 2: by Kay (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kay | 72 comments I am going to join on this one - if I remember correctly I nominated it, so there you go :) Will be back with thoughts when I make some progress.

message 3: by El (new) - rated it 3 stars

El | 756 comments Mod
Great! I look forward to your thoughts. I am just waiting on my library to magic up a copy.

message 4: by El (new) - rated it 3 stars

El | 756 comments Mod
I started this over the weekend, but haven't been able to spend much time with it lately. I'm finding it interesting, but very early on it seems the author references studies or research though does not really elaborate on them. They almost seem thrown in just to benefit her based on what she is saying. In other words, it's not a very academic read, but I want to try to put that aside and just focus on her thoughts.

I do not have children, nor am I going to have any, so this interests me from an easy, non-parental perspective. I've long been bugged by the prevalence of the color pink when it comes to "girl toys", but so far, anyway, it seems Orenstein has pushed her daughter away from that in an equally bad way. If you tell your child no, doesn't that make them want it all the more?

Sorry, not very articulate these days. What I mean is, if you force your girls to play with pink or feminine toys, and your boys to play with blue or masculine toys, regardless of what they want to play with, isn't that equally as damaging or troublesome?

I have a friend who has a daughter. My friend does not like the color pink, but it's her daughter's favorite color. Her daughter is also strong into science and mathematics and otherwise being a complete bad-ass, and my friend wants to foster that, even if her daughter wants to be a princess one day and a scientist the next. I find that admirable because she's letting her daughter make the choice, not dictating the choices for her.

Again, maybe that's Orenstein's point but very early on it seems she rails against everything pink/"girlie" for her daughter which makes me worry the direction this book will go.

I also see this book was discussed in 2013, and I'm not sure why that didn't come up in my search during the nomination period. Sorry if this is all a duplication for any longtime members of the group. I hope those who have read it already will still join in and share your thoughts, and that those of us who weren't around here in 2013 or couldn't read it then can at least read and discuss it together now.

message 5: by Kay (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kay | 72 comments I am also in the beginning of this, so these are my initial thoughts. I have no children right now and have not made up my mind on whether to have any, but as a good social scientist I am doing my research before any decisions - hence, my interest in this book :)
I have a niece whose parents throw all the pink and "girlie" toys at her because that is "what you do." I find this disturbing because it is limiting and does not allow this child to make up her own mind. They also live in a country that has very rigid gender roles, so societal pressure is very high. Therefore, I find Orenstein's book very alarming, if American society, which is supposedly more progressive, has already commercialized this gendered culture here.
I agree with you, El, that if you push your children in one direction, even if it is a more positive one, you are still limiting their choices. I wonder if Orenstein addresses this later on. I also wonder how much control can you actually exert over your own children if they are bombarded with princesses from all sides.

message 6: by El (new) - rated it 3 stars

El | 756 comments Mod
This is highly readable (reads quickly/accessible), but I feel like it's stuff I already know, and have known since before 2011 when this was published. Is anyone else having that experience or am I being too hard on it?

I'm on Chapter Five ("Sparkle, Sweetie!") which discusses pageants like those on Toddlers & Tiaras and the age-old questions: Is this dangerous to our girls? When is it what the girls want and when is it the girls want to do it because that's what their parents want?

So far, I haven't come across a lot of answers in this book - and maybe, again, it's much too early (not even 100 pages in), but this doesn't strike me as the sort of book to offer solutions more than to just shout about the injustices of marketing and the pageantry industries.

I'm still reading and would love to finish reading this before I go back to work on Monday, but I'm finding this frustrating. Not so much for her writing, but the topic itself is one that I feel is not new so I'm waiting for some sort of revelation that I am not convinced is going to appear.

message 7: by Kay (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kay | 72 comments I think this is supposed to be for broader consumption and therefore, not a ground-breaking work. It is likely that members of this groups will not find the material new. It might be one of these books you give to people not very familiar with feminist issues. I am still not far along, though, so we'll see.

message 8: by CD (new)

CD  | 103 comments I have just a one word commentary on this subject:


message 9: by El (new) - rated it 3 stars

El | 756 comments Mod
Kay wrote: "I think this is supposed to be for broader consumption and therefore, not a ground-breaking work. It is likely that members of this groups will not find the material new. It might be one of these b..."

Oh, I know. I have a hard time with a lot of books that are filled with good material like this because it always seems like it's "preaching to the choir", and I get frustrated because the people who need the information (the misogynists, the sexists, the racists, the any-ists depending on the topic) are the ones who will not read the material.

This would be a great book to use in women's studies classes in college, I think - it's familiar information to a lot of those students too, but those who are taking the class just for the credits and may not know much about women's issues or history would benefit. At least, I hope they would.

message 10: by El (new) - rated it 3 stars

El | 756 comments Mod
CD wrote: "I have just a one word commentary on this subject:


Hah! You mean because of the amount of time that is spent talking about Disney?

I will say one of the most eye-opening parts for me in this read was the bit about the marketing of the Disney Princesses, and how they were designed specifically to never look at one another on any product if they were all posing together. I had no idea that was an actual thing. But now that I know it, I can't un-see it!

I found that fascinating. Incredibly sad, but fascinating. It's amazing how much we are manipulated without even knowing it by marketing and branding.

message 11: by Kay (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kay | 72 comments I had no idea about the princesses not looking at each other either - my mind is boggled that it is even a thing!

message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

Wow... O.o

message 13: by Kay (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kay | 72 comments I just got to the Twilight discussion (109) and it's cracking me up :)

message 14: by lori (last edited Nov 04, 2017 07:21AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

lori (lorifi) I haven't commented before - and I'm behind finishing the selected books - but had to chime in to sort out my thoughts on this one. Reading the description, I thought I'd love this book, but I'm having a similar reaction to some of you where I'm pretty divided. I actually think she addresses a lot of the early concerns some of you mentioned - avoiding the "forbidden fruit" effect, explaining the harm done when girls are funneled into pink and lilac EVERYTHING (discouraging mixed-sex and cross-sex play and greatly limiting the scope of girls' imaginations at least while they're in that phase) - but she lost me on a few points towards the end of the book. It just seemed like she has a few personal blind spots in some areas where the book isn't as thoughtful.

For example, she takes it at face value that fairy tales somehow have this inherent power to connect with children that other story types don't - fables, etc. She doesn't question it and doesn't explain the reasoning, so I thought she was being sarcastic. But then she went on to repeat the point on fairy tales and listed all the examples of the learning in action with her own daughter reading some of the original fairy tales. She doesn't address why modern fantasy and kids' stories wouldn't have the same benefits (other than pointing out the flaws in the overly preachy or sexist books on each end of the spectrum), and there was never even a superficial explanation for why this would be true. Unless she really believes there is no modern children's literature that exists in the middle of the spectrum?

Then there's Wonder Woman. So I'm definitely biased, but I really don't understand how she can be so scandalized by miniskirts and revealing tops at a Miley concert, then instantly supportive of a character in a miniskirt and strapless bustier just because the character is strong in the stories. Most Wonder Woman merchandise has all the unrealistic beauty ideals of Barbie with all the sex appeal of the Bratz. Especially separated from her background story (which the author was unfamiliar with when she encouraged her daughter's interest), why would this character be any less harmful for girls? But she somehow never even questions it.

The other point that really drove me up the wall was that she gave very limited lip service throughout the book to the fact that differences within genders are much greater than the differences between genders. She does repeat the point, but usually as a parenthetical to be ignored before she goes on to build her argument solely based on the slight differences found between genders. The whole thing is driven by the perspective of a cisgender woman raising a feminine, cisgender daughter. I really wish more of this book were written for the girls who hate pink, or transgender or gender fluid children. Though I guess those issues were a lot less mainstream in 2011. Maybe it's time for a new look at gendered children's products now that more people are aware of how young children can be when they become aware that they aren't cisgender?

I wanted to love this book; I thought I would. I liked most of it, and I liked her advice in the end to parents. But I guess I thought a lot of it wasn't necessary to support the points she was making or was somewhat contradictory or just not well-supported. I'd be interested in knowing what your impressions were after finishing the book?

message 15: by Kay (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kay | 72 comments Laurie, I agree with most of what you said. Your point about fairy tales and modern children's lit is interesting - I am not that familiar with it so it didn't cross my mind that Orenstein is not covering the whole spectrum there.

I interpreted the issue with Wonder Woman as a sex-positive model for children - she is scantily dressed because of choice (easier to fight :) than girls in a Miley Cyrus concert, whose bodies are for consumption. I might be putting my own ideas about WW here, though.

message 16: by lori (new) - rated it 3 stars

lori (lorifi) Um… what? Sorry to devolve into WW nerd rants here, but this is the main reason I can’t get on board with WW. No one could fight in that. Before the movie came out, there had already been plenty of good discussion of female “armor” in games and comics. (Yes, I’m delving pretty deep into nerddom here – I run in circles where “cosplay” isn’t a dirty word :P )

2011 – everything wrong with depictions of women’s armor:
2013 – extra discussion on ‘boob plates’ which is needed because they are extra fatal:
2016 - Probably my favorite episode from Feminist Frequency’s Tropes vs Women in Video Games – even though she’s specifically discussing video games, every point applies directly to characters created for comics and movies:

There is also the historical example of exactly zero warriors, soldiers, or fighters for sport (boxers/MMA – WWE doesn’t count :P ) choosing to fight in anything strapless or heels. There were of course many societies who wore much more revealing clothing in daily life and combat, but it’s important to note that these were societies that could not shape metal, meaning it was a very different type of combat. In any society where you had swords, metal shields and helmets, you had heavy armor.

The movie armor seems derived from the design of old Roman armor, but they left out everything that actually made it work as armor – padding, coverage, weight (and a flat shoe):
And then, if any room for debate was left, there was the actual use of the design during the movie. During filming, Gal Gadot said she couldn’t breathe when she put on that corset. If an actress can barely pretend to fight in it, why would an actual warrior choose to use it in combat?

Given all this, the armor in the movie was actually a vast improvement over the classic comic and TV designs. There are comics with WW in realistic clothing, but the merchandise the author would’ve been buying would have had the designs that essentially use a swimsuit or corset. Going back to the points made in the Feminist Frequency video, even if we say this is some magic material that really can stop bullets and doesn’t risk wardrobe malfunctions, it’s important to note the context that there isn’t actually a woman choosing to wear this. There isn’t actually a magic material; these are rationales given by the men who chose to draw her this way because they like the way it looks. Even more specifically, in WW’s case, William Moulton Marston was into bondage and incorporated a lot of those elements in his creation and evolution of the character. While bondage can be an element in healthy sexual relationships, I think the first requirement for a feminist superhero should be that she is drawn in a way that would actually suit a female superhero, not to suit the sexual preferences of a man. And all the same unrealistic beauty ideals are just as harmful, if not more so, when they are packaged with images of strong women for young girls.

I do love the idea of WW, and I get that she’s still one of the best representations of female strength that we have. I’m not trying to argue that there’s nothing to like about the character and the new movie – but we can do so much better. Hopefully, someone will soon.

message 17: by Kay (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kay | 72 comments Sure, but that doesn't change what the representation of Wonder Woman is compared with Miley Cyrus.

message 18: by lori (new) - rated it 3 stars

lori (lorifi) I think the difference in the representations between those two is precisely what makes WW dangerous. They both wear outfits that are designed to be sexually pleasing to men. In Miley's case, she is a young woman navigating the path between expressing her own desires and maturity and doing what is required of female celebrities in our society. She is a real woman who does get to choose her clothing and chooses her sexual poses, marketing and choreography. There is a real debate to be had on what factors make sexual representations sex-positive or objectifying, but the primary issue that makes it problematic here is the target age for Miley's fans.

In WW's case, she is held up as an image of strength for young girls; she is supposed to represent so much more than Miley. Theaters were packed for the WW movie with young girls brought to see this by parents and schools. So when that is packaged in a sexy outfit - designed by men and evolved to heterosexual teenage male preferences over the decades - it sends the message that sexiness is important, even when you are the strongest woman in the world fighting for the fate of the world.

message 19: by El (new) - rated it 3 stars

El | 756 comments Mod
Hi Laurie, thanks for your thoughts. I think we had discussed the armor of the new Wonder Woman in a different thread (perhaps the Feminist Movies thread? meh, can't remember now).

The discussions I had read about the armor was that it was realistic in that a warrior wouldn't want anything that is extremely heavy or unwieldy in battle. But I also agree with your perspective that it still seems exceptionally limited even in those terms.

The difference for me between Wonder Woman and, to continue the example, Miley Cyrus, as Kay pointed out, is that I believe the intended outcome is different. Maybe I'm being naive in that belief, but ultimately I felt WW's outfit in the movie was meant to be functional, though yes, it is also sexually pleasing to men. Whereas I feel with Miley Cyrus, she was/is/whatever setting out to be sexually pleasing to men, and is not as concerned about functionality as appealing.

A friend of mine has a six-year-old who did get to go see Wonder Woman. She walked out of the theater feeling empowered, not by what WW was wearing, but by her attitude and strength and what she accomplished in the movie. Miley, I think, is not as popular now as she was when this book was first written, but I'm sure we could fill the blank with really any other pop culture icon - no one, I think, is looking up to Miley or the Kardashians as being strong, empowering women. They are into them for the music, or their shows, or their Instagram feeds.

There's a difference between just being eye candy (for male consumption, as Kay pointed out) and being the woman that men want to be with, yes, but that other women also want to be - not because they are desired by men, but because they love seeing a kick-ass woman.

I certainly see both sides to this argument, and also continue to wait for a less-sexualized version of Wonder Woman.

People have probably already seen this article about the fashion choices in the movie, but I'll leave it here just in case anyone else is interested.

All that being said, I think we're closer now to what Wonder Woman should be (as an empowering feminist character) than she has ever been in history through the comics (though admittedly I haven't read the more recent issues/versions) or the original television show.

I would love it if Orenstein would do an updated version of her book, including her thoughts on the new movie. I feel bad that a lot of us are responding here to her thoughts on WW with the recent movie in mind, but I still believe it's a better representation than what she had to work with in 2011 when the book was first published.

message 20: by lori (last edited Nov 07, 2017 01:26PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

lori (lorifi) I think we’re conflating two different things here. It is possible, and I think the case here, for the movie to be empowering while also having problematic elements. Whether the movie is “good” or empowering or objectifying are all matters of opinion – and I mostly agree with the opinions presented here. The functionality of the costume is a matter of physics, and I think we do ourselves a disservice to think that we need to defend the costume in order to accept the movie as a whole.

Setting aside the armor aspects for a moment, strapless tops and heels are not functional for physical activity. This doesn’t take historical research or testing. No soldier or athlete is going to vastly increase the risk of a wardrobe malfunction to improve their performance, and heels produce well-documented medical issues in women’s backs and feet just in daily use. Considering the context in real life, would you ever consider purchasing wedge sneakers and a strapless running top? Would it ever be reasonable to see a female soldier in combat boots with heels, or in a strapless uniform and body armor? Unless our esteemed president gets involved in military uniform design, this is never going to be a realistic possibility.

On the armor design, the information saying the design is problematic is from men who actually make armor. The problems cited with the lack of padding and the indentation in the middle of the breastplate deal with basic physics. The Fashionista article deals with visual aspects – not the function of the armor. The costume designer researched athletic wear and “periods pre-dating ancient Greece” – which would predate WW’s sword and shield. Yes, metal armor is heavy and difficult to move in. It wasn’t designed for mobility; it was designed to stop swords and other Bronze Age weapons.

This information is not a personal perspective; it’s physics. But we don’t need to argue against the laws of physics to argue for the value of this movie. (For what it’s worth, I wholeheartedly love the representation of Black Widow in the Marvel movies. She’s complex, leaves the moral sermonizing to Captain America, a romantic aggressor rather than object of desire, and only gets ogled by men who are about to learn their lesson the hard way. AND I wholeheartedly hate her wedge boots. We can do both. The value of the characteristics I love and her sexual empowerment vs objectification is all debatable – the functionality of wedges for combat is not.)

I think this point is worth rehashing because we don’t make further progress for female representation by demanding less of female characters. I also think it’s worth demanding our female characters have similar design priorities and plausibility as male characters. The differences in design send a message to girls even if we pretend like it’s not there. I’m not holding my breath to see unsexy action stars; I know that’s always going to be part of it. But if our response to problematic elements is to rationalize things that would be ludicrous in daily life, production teams have no reason to make these things any less ludicrous. I’m glad my teenage cousins got to see a movie that sends the message that women can be strong. Yes, they enjoyed seeing a kick-ass woman – but I know they noticed the cleavage, heels, thigh gap, and scripted ogling of this kick-ass woman by most of the men in the movie (including the good guys). Both messages were received loud and clear. Orenstein’s book makes a strong case for the impact that sexy imaging has on girls even with much more fleeting exposure. We have to be able to acknowledge the messaging on both sides to be able to impact which message has a more lasting effect on the young women in our lives, and hopefully to impact the messaging they receive in the future.

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