I almost don’t even know where to begin with my review of Peggy Orenstein’s Cinderella Ate My Daughter. This book has evoked nearly every emotion possible which is why I would have to give it 5 out of 5 stars. There were many moments and a few chapters where I would never dream that would be my conclusion. But a 5 out of 5 star book it is. It just is.
Would I recommend this book? Unequivocally yes. With the caveat that it is not for the weak or faint at heart. This is an intense book! It needs to be read with an open mind because that’s how she wrote it. Her experience writing it often changed her mind about things and often gave her greater insight to why people are the way they are. I have to give Ms. Orenstein credit for her research as well as her talent for persuasive writing. I really appreciate people who have a talent for stating their opinions in a well constructed and thought provoking way. I did not agree with everything she said but I will always applaud the way she said it. I appreciated her standards because she backed up her opinions and explained her point of view in a way I could understand why she felt the way she did. Back to that open mind thing! Just don’t have your mind so open your brains fall out.
One thing I really liked about the book was while she discussed what society is doing to females she also cited many examples of how young boys are affected by “changing times.” I don’t worry only about my daughter. I worry about my boys too. I worried about them long before Gwen came along.
In the middle of reading this book I felt guilty for the elaborate princess party I threw. I felt guilty for all the hot pink in Gwen’s wardrobe. It’s possible that if pink wasn’t synonymous with girls she might dress differently but she rocks the hot pink. She was never a bubblegum pink girl and as much as she loves purple she’s not even a sophisticated purple girl like I always thought she would be. She is hot pink personified. I felt guilty for every toy she played with and everything she did. I felt like I was constantly justifying my way of raising her. Now I feel like I have been right all along and I’m doing fine. She’s not going to turn into some tarty tramp.
Many times I was so infuriated by the book I wanted to quit reading. Sometimes because I did not agree with the author or the people she was talking about and sometimes because I hated how true it all was. I had it all in my mind how I was going to give my own advice to parents and especially those of girls. But then the last chapter said everything I was planning on saying. The last chapter, in my mind, redeemed all the muck I had been drug through. The last chapter summed everything up so well by saying that yes, girls have it rough with what the media is throwing at them as well as the rise of online life, but it is possible to navigate the world with the help of attentive parents.
I worried about how to give parenting advice that wouldn’t sound like I was an ostrich with my head in the sand because I’m a conservative Mormon. This is why I absolutely love that a Jewish feminist put my thoughts together in a way that sounded like common sense. She advised parents to decide early what their standards were and how far they would go. What would they allow in the home in terms of toys or other branches of the media and what would not be allowed? Decide and act early because it would make a difference later on. Teach your girls (and I would say boys too). Talk to them instead of dictating to them. It’s ok to say no to them.
One personal example of this in my home is that Heath and I decided, before we had kids, where we would draw the line with modesty for both boys and girls. I don’t see our kids fighting us as teenagers as hard because we have set the standards from the beginning. If immodest clothing is never a choice as a baby, toddler, or older child, it certainly won’t be a choice as a maturing teenager. We never have to take anything away because they never had it to begin with. That is one way we are teaching our standards to our children.
I started a modesty post a long time ago but never finished it. My mom had told me about this video from Jonna, a Finnish pop star who risked everything to put her foot down and be modest. It fits here. For all the Britney Spears’, Christina Aguilera’s, Hilary Duff’s, Vanessa Hudgens’ Miley Cyrus’, and the list goes on – for all those girls who think growing up means taking off your clothes to be taken seriously as an adult – Jonna is successful and modestly tasteful.
There may be a lot of negativity out there directed at girls but there are still good role models and there are ways for girls to have it all. Moderation in all things. Attentive parents willing to teach. Focus on trusting oneself rather than marketing oneself for the approval of others. This world is a good place. You just have to open your eyes and look for it. I’m glad I read this book!