Cinderella didn't even bite my daughters

I recently finished reading Peggy Orenstein's Cinderella Ate My Daughter (Harper Collins, 2011). It's an interesting read that goes quite quickly. The book is dedicated to the the daughter of the title, who had, actually outgrown her princess fascination before publication. It seems the fascination with pink, pretty princess gear peaks from ages 3-5 and begins to wane at 6, the same age range that still find Barbie dolls appealing, though they were originally designed to appeal to somewhat older girls. This is due to the concept of "KGOY-Kids Getting Older Younger," which she introduces on p. 84. It's not just about toys or fashion but even procedures. Women try to look younger while teens  undergo cosmetic procedures and even Botox injections.  With the teens growing up faster and their mothers trying to look younger, you can well have a conflation of fashion and looks between 16 year olds and women of middle age (139). The author, I noticed, lives in California, where supposedly it is quite common to see mothers and teen daughters wearing the same skimpy outfits.

But let us return to the preteen child and my choice of title for the blog. My own daughters never wanted to be Cinderella. Only the older 2 made a concession once to dress up as Queens Esther or a princess (as the middle one identified her costume) for Purim. The youngest never even did that and she eschewed the Barbie dolls that her sister may have played with for a few months, hough she did play with a baby doll. Though they have a couple of princess themed things in their possession, those were gifts from people who must have assumed that all girls of 5 or 6 liked this types of of things. One daughter even received lip gloss cases for her 6th birthday from classmates whose mothers must have considered makeup appropriate for a child that age. That stuff was thrown out, not because I would not have allowed my daughter to play with it (despite the goopy mess) but because she never cared to.

 Also none of them cared for pink when they were younger and a couple seem to generally avoid the color.  No question, that if they were given a choice of blue or pink, they would opt for the former. Orenenstein devotes quite a few pages to the proliferation of pink princess items. Interestingly, the Disney princesses that she blames much of this on didn't wear pink. Though Aurora of Sleeping Beauty is shown in a pink gown, the color was never determined. Orenestein must not have reviewed the movie because a central part is the conflict between two of the fairies over whether the dress should be pink or blue. That could be very telling in light of the transition of color domination.  As Orensetin discusses the invention of pink as the feminine in the 20th century, replacing soft blue as the color associated with feminine virtue.

Notes on the fairy tales themselves: While Orenstein does offer her own critique of the violence in the Grimm version of Cinderella or the rather gruesome self-destruction of Rumpelstiltskin. She says nothing of the fact that the princess in that story gains her husband and rank as a result of a lie about her ability to spin straw into gold. She even promises to give her child away in order to keep the deception going. Orenstein does note her horror at a parent's willingness to give a child away in Rapunzel, but really glosses over the Machiavellian nature of the princess in Rumpelstiltskin. I discussed my problems with with the implied lessons of  fairy tales years ago in BTW I did not try not to allow my children to read fairy tales, but I told them exactly why I objected to Puss in Boots and Rumpelstiltskin. 

 I also did not expose children as young as 3 to Snow White, which actually has a sequence that young children could find frightening. My 13 year-old remarked that she thought The Little Mermaid would be scary for young children. I don't believe she saw it when she was as young as the children she was babysitting for who watched it. Perhaps it is this overexposure to videos from such a young age is what accounts for the sway of pink princess culture. We do not have a TV, and did not even have a way to play videos.DVDs only became a possibility once our computer graduated to DVD player status, and by then the kids were beyond preschool age.

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Orthonomics said…
Would you recommend the book? My daughter's teacher is the first person to mention the book.

Sometimes I think my girl has the bug, but then again there seems to be a variety of interests and styles in her life. Some days it is playing with baby dolls and the next day it can be a lego building session. We have not watched any Princess movies to date. I have friends who are extremely opposed at any age. I'm not, but think a more mature age is appropriate.
Ariella said…
I'd recommend it; you should be able to find a copy at your library. She writes is a very easily readable style. I enjoyed reading it and could identify with some of the author's dismay at the messages girls pick up from popular culture and even toys. She also touches briefly on the problem of adopting the identity of princess, given the JAP stereotype. But she doesn't seriously follow through on that.

She does get a bit political and politically correct at certain junctures. (Ex. Hillary Clinton is crucified as a woman while Sarah Palin is a former beauty queen who abuses her power.) She does not like "The Paperbag Princess" because the princess ends up without a princess. Though you would think she'd appreciate the lesson of independence and healthy self-esteem, she says she does not want her daughter to end up alone and she want to become a grandma (though she throws in that she would accept her choosing a princess as well).
Orthonomics said…
Book is not yet on the shelf of our library, but has been ordered. I shoul be able to read it during the summer.

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