Cinderella Ate My Daughter - RTW

This week, YA Highway want to know your best book of the month.  Mine's not YA.  It's not even fiction, but I really think you should all consider reading it.

I want to share Peggy Orenstein's amazing Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture with you all.  It explores the troublesome "pretty and pink" culture being forced upon little girls, from how awful the Disney Princesses (except Mulan!) are as role models to the incredibly limited concept of beauty now dominating girlhood.  

Written by a mother determined to avoid narrowing her daughter's choices without turning her against her femininity, much of it set off alarm bells - and I'm not a mother! The idea that young girls are boxed into such narrow concepts of womanhood horrifies me.

Buy it, read it, be slightly scared by it

The book made me want to challenge the emphasis on outward appearance.  I mean, what happened to inner growth? If you don't have children or don't work with them, check out the kinds of toys, books and clothes on offer to girls.  Once you start to look, you'll lose yourself in a sea of pink and/or pretty (pretty being whatever's currently in fashion).  Orenstein argues that the emphasis toy manufacturers have placed on princess/fairy/fashion dolls are having a massively negative effect on girls' imaginative play by narrowing what the toys can be interpreted as and used for.  Even today at work I had a little girl tell me she couldn't borrow a book out of the library "because it was for boys".  NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!


Can YA and MG writers do anything to turn back the pink tide? I certainly think so, and lots of books already are. We can create strong female leads who don't base their self-worth on their appearance or, as the Disney Princesses would have us believe, the One True Love there to sweep girls off their feet (because girls can't save themselves, right, CINDERELLA?! Oh, and I'm looking at you too, Belle!).  We can create intelligent and powerful female characters, capable of changing their world, who prove there's more to being a girl than outer beauty and the colour pink.

And they don't have to lose their femininity in order to stand on their own two feet.

Oh, and take a look at those Disney Princesses.  Notice how they smile prettily at... nothing? Orenstein points it out, and now I can't stop noticing it. Why don't they smile at each other or hold hands? You'll have to read the book to find out!

So, what did you all read in April?

And there's still time to enter my Great British Giveaway!

Comments

  1. Interesting choice, Cole. I have 5 daughters, and they all seem to go through a Barbie/Princess phase at some point. But they are all very different, and have strong personalities. As parents we've tried to balance letting them develop their own interests without losing sight of their femininity. We've not pushed them into frilly frocks and tiaras, and for the most part they're not consumed by that. They also enjoy Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. :)

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  2. This sounds like an interesting read. I don't have kids, but I have neices--one is really into the whole girly-girl thing and one is not as much. It's a little sad though, because the one who is less traditionally girly seems to half-heartedly copycat the girlier one sometimes, like that's how she's SUPPOSED to be, and she's just doing it wrong.

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    1. Definitely give it a read! I hope your little niece can hold onto her identity.

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  3. This sounds fascinating. I did really love a few Disney princesses--notably, the redhead and the brunette. After reading the Little House books in kindergarten, I got the blonde-brunette hierarchy stuck in my head BAD: adults liked Mary because she was blonde and docile, and they were annoyed with Laura, because she had brown hair and was inquisitive (both like me). So I liked Ariel because she was a singer and a collector, and Belle because she was a reader. At six or seven, it didn't occur to me how crummy it was that Belle let the Beast treat her badly, or that Ariel gave up her voice for Eric. I just saw that they had so much more personality than Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty--the docile blondes. Now, they break my brain a little, but part of me can't not love them.

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    1. That's what makes the Disney Princesses so insidious - little children don't get that Belle is in an abusive relationship, Ariel gives up part of herself for a man who's attention is easily diverted and Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty all rely on their appearance to attract men. Those are horrible lessons!

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    2. The thing that I find encouraging is that the Disney princesses are getting better and better in this regard!

      The early ones (Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora) are just terrible. And then it's interesting to see what I guess I'd call the middle ones (Ariel, Belle, Jasmine), who are in this weird place where they're portrayed as fairly intelligent and independent, but it's still basically all about some guy in the end. And then you have the most recent three (Mulan, Tiana, and Rapunzel), who are definitely headed in the right direction!

      So I guess the change is happening much slower than it probably should, but at least it's changing! There is hope for the future! :O

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    3. As you've probably guessed, Mulan is by far my favourite of the Disney princesses - even though she isn't one... Huh, probably why I like her so much ;)

      I've only seen Tiana's and Rapunzel's films once. Neither entertained me as much as I wanted them too. However, Tiana definitely beats Rapunzel. Hard work and self-reliance is the way to go! I'm really hoping Brave will be better.

      Basically, Disney need to remember Mulan and make more awesome characters like her ;) And NO MORE PINK! You should see some of the girls I've worked with fight over the princess dresses. It's terrifying.

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  4. Okay, I really need to read this book! It sounds awesome! And while it's somewhat true, I still love Disney and its princesses.

    And yes, agree with you about YA creating strong female leads who don't worry or rely on looks - Katniss definitely comes to mind.

    Great post!

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    1. I really enjoyed it. And as much as I enjoy Disney, the princess stories (except Mulan) never appealed to me, not even in childhood. I wanted to be like my brothers, so I watched Transformers instead XD

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  5. This makes me think of this little girl... she's not happy about the whole girls = pink princesses and boys = superheroes thing. ;) http://youtu.be/tyUFnQlaN7Q

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    1. I love that video was posted on my birthday last year.

      SMART KID IS SMART!

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  6. Wow, sounds like a really interesting book, but thankfully I haven't noticed that trend in the younger girls I know. I adore most of the Disney princesses, but my favorite parts were always when they were in "tough girl" mode. :)

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    1. I think my problem with the princesses (except Mulan XD) is their "tough girl" mode didn't fit my expectations. Their adventures couldn't compare to Aladdin or The Lion King.

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  7. Really like the sound of that book... and I can't agree more on making teenage protags strong, and totally not based on flaky princesses... I also like the stronger / tougher princesses / heroines..:)

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    1. If you get the chance to read it, do. It's so interesting.

      Flaky princesses are a no-no!

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  8. I've been meaning to read this for so long. Gots to get on it. It really makes me wonder what I'll do when I have kids. When I was growing up we didn't have TV, so I wasn't exposed to that at an early age and I'm so grateful of it. However, we were sort of living in an awesome hippie homeschool bubble world that I don't think I can recreate for my girls when and if I have them. So, hmm. Lots to think about!

    New Follower BTW!

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    1. Thanks for following!!!!

      Definitely read it. It offers ways around the pink culture :)

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