Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cinderella doesn’t have to eat your daughter

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! 

4 thoughts:

Ray Colon said...

Hi Tristan,

Unless we opt to raise our daughters in a cloistered environment, counterbalancing the prevalence of the immodesty in society is a never-ending struggle. The influences of celebrities, music, the media, and peers constantly move the line that shouldn't be crossed farther and farther away from modest behavior.

There have been times when my youngest will be singing a song. The beat is catchy and she's belting it out when I hear an inappropriate lyric. I know that she has no idea what she is saying, but I stop her. "I don't like that. Don't sing that song anymore." She doesn't understand why I object, but she complies.

My older daughter and I had a back and forth about a belly button ring. This went on for years. "Please." "No!" "Pretty please." "No, you can decide for yourself when you are older." Well, one day she was older and despite my misgivings I knew that, as a young adult, she did have the right to make choices. I reiterated the reasons why I objected before leaving the decision up to her. Of course, she had it done.

I agree with you when you write that parents should draw the line and set standards in the beginning: "We never have to take anything away because they never had it to begin with." But as our daughters mature I think that we want to balance what we think is good for them with instilling feelings of autonomy and self-determination, because they will need to develop in these areas before going off into the world on their own.


The Piquant Storyteller said...

Hi Ray,

I'm on my laptop and just lost the whole response back to your comment! Grrr! I will try to recompose on the desktop.


The Piquant Storyteller said...


First of all, thank you for your comment and your perspective. I agree with you. Children should be instilled with feelings of autonomy and self determination.

Heath and I have the philosophy that we are raising adults and not children. We teach them and they govern themselves. They are free to make their own choices and always have been.

Of course those choices are limited to their experience and maturity but as they get older they make bigger decisions that have a greater impact on their lives. Their moral base has been established and they are free to go from there.

I don't ever want my kids to feel like I have coerced them into anything. They all came out with very strong personalities and even stronger opinions. I love that! I will love them no matter what they choose to do. My hope is that I have stuck to my standards and have taught my children with words and example so they aren't grasping the whims of society uneducated.

I have to say that I am extremely sad I lost the original comment. So much time filled with distractions has passed that I hope this makes sense! As always, you are welcome to discuss more.

Happy weekend,

Ray Colon said...

Oh, I do get angry when that happens to me. The second draft never seems to come out as well as the first. I've gotten into the habit of copying my comment just before I hit submit -- just in case.

I think that we are pretty much on the same page with what you wrote in your post. I relayed that story about Simone to illustrate that as she's gotten older, I've had to evaluate and reconsider how I approach things with her. As parents, you know that we question ourselves continually. I guess it comes with the job.