Cinderella Ate My Daughter
Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture
A New York Times Best Seller!
“Intelligent and richly insightful” —Kirkus, starred review
When journalist Peggy Orenstein published an essay in The New York Times Magazine about the “princess-mania” that has overtaken a new generation of little girls, she was not prepared for a firestorm. But “What’s Wrong with Cinderella?” swiftly shot to the top of the Times’ website’s “most emailed” list and elicited hundreds of reader responses. Orenstein, who had garnered a reputation as an expert on girls’ development with her groundbreaking bestseller, Schoolgirls: Young Women, Self Esteem and the Confidence Gap, thought she was simply musing about her own observations and reactions to her young daughter’s obsession with Disney princesses and predilection for the color pink. Clearly, though, she had touched a cultural nerve: many parents, she discovered, shared her concerns about the significance of this seemingly-retro trend toward the ultra-feminine, and the role the ubiquitous marketing machine plays in packaging and promoting it.
In Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture Orenstein sets out to discover the origins and ramifications of this cultural shift. “I didn’t know whether Disney Princesses would be the first salvo in a Hundred Years’ War of dieting, plucking, painting (and perpetual dissatisfaction with the results),” she writes. “But, for me they became a trigger for the larger question of how to help our daughters, with the contradictions they will inevitably face as girls, the dissonance that is as endemic as ever to growing up female. It seemed, then, that I was not done, not only with the princesses, but with the whole culture of little girlhood: what it had become, how it had changed in the decades since I was a child, what those changes meant and how to navigate them as a parent.” With the keen perceptions of a seasoned journalist, the emotional investment of a mother, and a wittiness that’s all her own, Orenstein ventures to the land of Disney and American Girl Place, visits the toy industry’s largest trade show, even braves a Miley Cyrus concert. She talks with historians, marketers, psychologists, neuroscientists, parents, and children themselves. She returns to the original fairy tales, seeks out girls’ virtual presence online, and ponders the meaning of child beauty pageants. In the process, she faces down her own confusion as a mother and woman about issues that rearing a girl raise about her own femininity.
An intelligent, candid, and often personal work, Cinderella Ate My Daughter offers an important exploration of the burgeoning girlie-girl culture and what it could mean for our daughters’ identities and their futures.