In case you missed it, April 22nd marked the beginning of the first annual National Princess Week. Inviting children across the country to “celebrate the sparkle and wonder of every princess,” the long and the short of it is that Disney and Target partnered up (with Julie Andrews as a spokesperson) to get folks to buy a bunch of stuff for girls. Regardless of how you feel about the princess craze (and I pass no judgment here), I think we can all pretty much agree that these beloved characters are hardly lacking the attention and admiration that would warrant a week dedicated to their appreciation. But alas, as the Oncler once said to the Lorax, “business is business and business must grow!”
So in the wake of Princess Week, it seems fitting to devote this month’s book salute to Peggy Orenstein’s Cinderella Ate My Daughter. I love this book, not only because she dedicates a good chunk of Chapter 4 to the work we’ve been doing on The Sanford Harmony Program and the importance of mixed-gender play, but because it also happens to be a really good read. Well researched, and with a good dose of humor, Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture, explores the explosion of the “princess culture” that has occurred in recent years and its implications on raising healthy daughters (and sons).
The history regarding the origins of the Disney Princesses and the escalation of princess-themed merchandise and publicity make for intriguing reading, yet the focus of this book isn’t solely on Disney. Orenstein also takes a close look at American Girls, child beauty pageants, young singer/actress-role-models-turn-cautionary-tales (such as Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus), social networking and more. As Orenstein examines these cultural phenomenons from various angles, she strikes a careful balance of reserving judgment while still expressing her concern for young girls’ self-esteem and the sexualization of children.
Incredibly thought-provoking and informative, this book really gets to the heart of how complex gender based cultural messages can be and how complicated it is to find solutions to raising healthy, happy kids.
Have you read Cinderella Ate My Daughter? I’d love to hear your thoughts!