Book Review: Cinderella Ate My Daughter

Cinderella Ate My Daughter
Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture

Peggy Orenstein

From goodreads:
The acclaimed author of the groundbreaking bestseller Schoolgirls reveals the dark side of pink and pretty: the rise of the girlie-girl, she warns, is not that innocent. Pink and pretty or predatory and hardened, sexualized girlhood influences our daughters from infancy onward, telling them that how a girl looks matters more than who she is. Somewhere between the exhilarating rise of Girl Power in the 1990s and today, the pursuit of physical perfection has been recast as a source, the source of female empowerment. And commercialization has spread the message faster and farther, reaching girls at ever-younger ages. 

But, realistically, how many times can you say no when your daughter begs for a pint-size wedding gown or the latest Hannah Montana CD? And how dangerous is pink and pretty anyway, especially given girls' successes in the classroom and on the playing field? Being a princess is just make-believe, after all; eventually they grow out of it. Or do they? Does playing Cinderella shield girls from early sexualization, or prime them for it? Could today's little princess become tomorrow's sexting teen? And what if she does? Would that make her in charge of her sexuality, or an unwitting captive to it?

Those questions hit home with Peggy Orenstein, so she went sleuthing. She visited Disneyland and the international toy fair, trolled American Girl Place and Pottery Barn Kids, and met beauty pageant parents with preschoolers tricked out like Vegas showgirls. She dissected the science, created an online avatar, and parsed the original fairy tales. The stakes turn out to be higher than she - or we - ever imagined: nothing less than the health, development, and futures of our girls. From premature sexualization to the risk of depression to rising rates of narcissism, the potential negative impact of this new girlie-girl culture is undeniable; yet armed with awareness and recognition, parents can effectively counterbalance its influence in their daughters' lives.
Cinderella Ate My Daughter is a must-read for anyone who cares about girls, and for parents helping their daughters navigate the rocky road to adulthood.

My Thoughts:
I loved reading this book and it made me think about things that I've never thought of before. However, it left me feeling very conflicted. Peggy Orenstein is a bit "too much" of a feminist for me. It's just that she finds faults in literally every single thing, and really has a way of sucking the joy out of things. She thinks pink is the devil. She thinks playing with dolls and kitchen sets affects our girls in a negative way. She's disheartened to visit a pre-school and see that the boys tend to play with boys and the girls with girls. She's officially ruined The Little Mermaid for me (a story she refuses to let her daughter read or watch because it's about a girl who literally gives up her voice to be with a man). I can tell you, The Little Mermaid was my favorite Disney movie growing up, and never once did I walk away with that as the message. Ariel wanted to explore the world "out there" before she even met Eric, and who can't fall in love with "Under the Sea"?!?! I digress...

It was interesting to me that this whole "princess, girly-girl culture" has only become a marketing goldmine since around the year 2000. Since then, Disney has grown their "princess line" into a multi-billion dollar franchise and marketing has gotten much more targeted, specific and largely unavoidable. Other companies like American Girl and Mattel have also jumped on the bandwagon. I get it...these companies are capitalizing on our children and sucking us dry...that is, if you let them.

At least she often admits her own contradictions as she raises her young daughter. I think that she could be a lot calmer and happier if she just focused less attention on "big, bad, scary consumerism" and more attention on raising a good, solid, well-rounded individual. She needs to realize that if her daughter wants to play dress up in a pink tutu, she won't turn out to be the world's biggest slut, or have a completely obscured outlook on the world. As she herself says: "At what point is a princess just a princess?"

If this sort of topic interests you, I highly recommend it!


  1. Very intellegent, well written commentary. Yes, as Freud said sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and as you say, sometimes a princess is just a princess. I think the point is let your daughter be a princess and allow her to be ANYTHING she wants to be. In the past too many options/occupations were denied to girls and that is what women have been balking about. The lack of knowledge about women's history also is a point of contention. Yes, I know, I am one who needs to read this book! Thank you for bringing it to your readers' attention.

  2. Truly inspired commentary.

    I really enjoyed this book, and agree with your points too. I thought the most interesting part of the book was the toddler pageant commentary. She really brought a fresh perspective on a topic that has been written about endlessly.

  3. These are very interesting topics, and I totally agree with you that some people carry things too far in wanting everything to be gender neutral and non-stereotypical. I have always been a girly girl who loved dolls, princesses, Barbies, romance, etc., but that doesn't mean I've grown up to not care about women's rights and the importance of allowing people to not be defined by their gender. I honestly feel a bit sorry for kids of parents like this who focus so much on obsessing about these things and missing the bigger picture. I wonder if any of these kids ever rebel and embrace stereotypes even more as they grow up.

    1. I totally think they do. In fact, that's one of Peggy Orenstein's theories in the book. She has a theory that this princess craze, which started around the year 2000, was driven by women who were raised in the 70's during the uber-feminist era: only dressed in pants and weren't raised to be "girly girfls." So they wanted to have a different type of femine-embracing approach to raising their own daughters..but many of them over-compensated and may have taken it to the extreme. Maybe all those girls will raise their daughters one day like their grandmothers did in the 70's and it'll all be one big giant circle.

  4. This book is actually waiting for me at the library right now!! I'm excited to read it and I'll let you know what I think!! I really liked your critique.

    1. yay!!! I can't wait to hear what your thoughts are on the book!


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