It’s been awhile since I’ve reviewed anything (probably shows how much I’ve read lately!), but this book was so compelling I wanted to document my thoughts on it…
My husband and I have had on-going conversations over the course of our parenting about the impact of American cultural realities like the Disney princesses, Hannah Montana, and the ever-present marketing monster of materialism. At first, I didn’t fully follow his thinking on why these entities might not be the best role models for our impressionable daughter. He felt that they painted a weak picture of women, encouraged women to form their identity around a man, and sucked innocent children into the never-ceasing macine of American consumption. Because I’d grown up with Disney, I hadn’t put much thought into its underlying message before, but his opinions made sense, and I could support his point. Over the years, though, I’d occasionally wonder if he was really right. I mean, don’t all little girls like princesses? What’s so wrong with wanting to dress cute and act like a rock star? Are beauty pageants really that bad or are they just harmless fun for little girls? Is pink really the only color my little girl can wear?
In her book Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Peggy Orenstein addresses my questions in detail, giving specific examples about how beloved mainstream media female characters like Hannah, Cinderella, and yes, even my beloved Dora send very mixed messages to our daughters. She cites studies, analyzes cultural trends, and digs into marketing tactics regarding the messages being sent to our girls through popular mainstream characters and cultural trends like pink and sparkly girl-oriented toys, pop-star role models turned pole dancers, and failed Disney princesses.
And while I never really disagreed with him, I now have the details to back up what my husband’s intuitive sense was. Throughout the book, Peggy repeatedly examines a few ideas:
- What messages do our daughters receive about who they should be from what they see on TV?
- What do positive role models look like for girls?
- How aware are parents of the impact culture has on what our children believe about themselves and the world?
While I don’t fully agree with all of her conclusions, I wholeheartedly concur with her basic premise that we shouldn’t thoughtlessly allow our daughters to form their female identity on characters whose deepest aspiration is to catch a man or wear a cute outfit. I also deeply appreciate her conclusion that, in the end, our highest priority is to teach our daughters to “see themselves from the inside out rather than the outside in”.