I just finished reading Cinderella Ate my Daughter by Peggy Orenstein. It gave me a lot to think about (therefore the blog post so I can move on to thinking about other things...like what to make for dinner).
The book was fascinating to me and ridiculous and surprising all at once. (Our children were also intrigued by the title. Mark said, "What are you reading?" Emma, as my daughter that Cinderella presumably ate, said, "She's not as lovely on the inside as the outside."
I'm glad I read this book. The author made some very valid points. The book is subtitled "Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture". There was a lot of information about the insidious and damaging consumerism that's targeted at young girls.
I wondered how Emma sort of missed it. She did have dress-up clothes but was never obsessed with princesses. She hardly liked dolls (although I did and tried to get her a little interested). She never played with the few Barbies she had (although I did--but then, I had Olivia to play Barbies with and there's nothing that compares to that). She went through stages of pink being her favorite color, then red, then blue, then purple, and now, who knows? I may be partial as her mother, but Emma's practically perfect in every way.
Then I thought about the lens the author was looking through. She has one child, a daughter, and is raising her very purposefully. She's not just letting things just happen. Oh, no.
I thought several times that someone should say to her what my dad tells me occasionally. Settle down.
From the book:
I flashed on a trip to the grocery store--the O.K. Corral of our Disney Princess showdowns. Daisy [the author's daughter, who was three at the time] pointed to a Cinderella sippy cup. "There's that princess you don't like, Mama!" she had shouted.
"Mmm-hmm," I'd said noncommittally.
"Why don't you like her, Mama?" she had asked. "Don't you like her blue dress?"
I'd had to admit I did.
She had thought about that. "Then don't you like her face?"
"Her face is all right," I'd said, though I was not thrilled to have my Japanese-Jewish child in thrall to those Teutonic features. (And what the heck are those blue things covering her ears?) "It's just, honey, Cinderella doesn't really do anything."
Over the next forty-five minutes, we would run through that conversation, verbatim, approximately thirty-seven million times as Daisy pointed our Cinderella Band-Aids, Cinderella paper cups, Cinderella cereal, Cinderella pens, Cinderella crayons, and Cinderella notebooks...
First of all, what exactly is wrong with Teutonic features? Can you imagine the backlash if someone who was blue-eyed and blonde said they didn't like their daughter in thrall to olive skin and brown eyes?
Also, what kind of crazy lady spends forty-five minutes in a grocery store with a three-year old hashing out what is wrong with Cinderella?
If that had been Emma and me and I didn't want to buy Emma all that Cinderella gear (which I didn't), she would have said, "Can I have this?"
I would have said, "No."
If she had pointed out other Cinderella things over and over again, I would have said, "Remember the answer I gave you before?"
It wouldn't have taken 45 minutes.
Perhaps it was easier because Emma is sandwiched between two brothers. Perhaps it was easier because we were rather poor when Emma was that age. Consumerism is easy to avoid when you can't afford it.
Perhaps it was easier because I, more often than not, just said no and moved on. (I'm not saying I'm always a stellar mother, just ask my kids. I'm just saying, it's not that hard.) You don't need to involve small children in your parenting decisions all the time.
Besides all of that, I agreed with a lot of the book. It is better for girls to just be and not be swayed, compartmentalized, and instructed by the pink, pink, pink packaging designed for them. I concur that Twilight is drivel. I agreed whole-heartedly with her objection to the early sexualization of little girls (it's sad to see little girls in bikinis and mini skirts...it's just sad).
This blew me away though (and made me truly question Peggy Orenstein):
I expect and want my daughter to have a healthy, joyous erotic life before marriage. Long, long, long before marriage.
Three longs and the last one italicized?
Suddenly a Cinderella sippy cup doesn't seem all that bad.