Sunday, February 13, 2011

Book Review - Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture by Peggy Orenstein

Title: Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture
Author: Peggy Orenstein 
Year: 2011
Page: 288
Genre: Non-Fiction- Family

FTC Disclosure: ARC from HarperCollins

Summary (from

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.

First Sentence:
Here is my dirty little secret: as a journalist, I have spent nearly two decades writing about girls, thinking about girls, talking about how girls should be raised.

My Thoughts:

Why this book?
  • We're still deciding whether to have children. I thought reading this book would help provide some insights if we ever have a daughter (or I'd be facing if we do decide to have a kid)
First thought:
  • I think I'd get more out of this book if I do have a daughter.
Cover Art:
  • Definitely pink and princessy! Fitted the book.
  • Catchy!
  • Pretty fast read. The book was actually around 200 pages (instead of 288), as it included a lot of references
  • it was more than just Disney princesses and pink. It talked about pop culture, Hollywood stars, children's TV programs, Facebook, Dolls and other young girl-related topics. The one I was most interested in was Beauty Pageant - I really didn't quite understand why parents would want their 6 years old dressed up like 40 years old in 80's style with the big hair and heavy makeup, so I found this chapter quite fascinating, though since it was just a chapter, it wasn't quite in depth as I'd have liked.
  • I think in some areas the author would have gone a bit deeper. For example, her daughter really wanted this girl, or this toy gun, or that... but the author never really asked why the daughter wanted it
  • Another chapter I found quite interesting was female role models (or lack of) in fairy tales, and the differences between the original version and the Disney's modified version. I had only read the famous fairy tales (Snow White, Cinderella, Little Mermaid etc) in Chinese in very simplified version for children so I know the gist of these stories, but I never knew some of the details of the original versions or what Disney had changed (I had only watched Beauty and the Beast... can't think of other Disney movies I'd watched...). I guess I had never given it much thought about the role of female (waiting to be rescued, pretty princess vs ugly sisters, would do anything to be noticed by the prince etc) but it definitely made me think about that. Should little girls not read fairy tales then? I don't know... I can't remember I ever thought princesses were real (well okay we still have some royal families around, but they aren't exactly like the princesses and princes in the fairy tales). 
  • I wish the author included more of her daughter's thoughts (I think she's about 5 years old)
  • I did like that the author included conversations between her friends and other mothers she interviewed
  • Each chapter read almost like a magazine article, so the end of the book wasn't a big finale. 
  • As I was reading, I kept thinking I am so out of date with today's children's preference of toys, fashion etc! I had no idea what some of the dolls were and had to google. Did make me feel a bit overwhelmed on how I'd be as a mother if we had a daughter! 
What I Learned:
  • A new acronym! KGOY = Kids Getting Older Younger
  • I had always liked less feminine or less frilly names for girls (Ha! And I ended up naming our only female cat Tallulah, couldn't get more girly than that!). But this book did make me think of something - is being feminine or frilly necessarily negative? I am definitely NOT girly. Sure, I like nicely designed stuff and appreciate beauty, but I prefer simplicity. I am a wash-and-go girl and can't understand why others would wake up 2 hours early to do their hair and make up everyday (I'd rather get more sleep!) but is that really a bad thing? Would I not want my daughter to do that because I don't? I don't know if I'd have an answer until (if) I had a daughter
Read this Author again?
  • Depends on the topic

I thought back to our conversation several years before in the grocery store, when I tried to explain my aversion to Cinderella. Had my worst fears during that episode come to pass? Rather than becoming more conscious of manipulation, had she instead learned that the things associated with girls -- and by extension being a girl itself -- were bad? (p154)

That involves staying close but not crowding them, standing firm in one's values while remaining flexible. (p194)

Overall Rating:
3 Stars. I think those with daughters (particularly from 3-15 years old) would appreciate it more than I do 

All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.


  1. I agree that the chapters sort of read like magazine articles, but I liked that, since I love magazines! :--)

  2. I have seen this title but not read anything about it, I will have to had to my Wishlist. My daughter just went 4 and is all about the princesses, she would love to dress like one with all the makeup etc and stil run, ride and fall on the ground like the boys, lol

    Sounds interesting.

    BTW - thanks for the book recommendation, I have downloaded to my Kindle already

  3. Sounds intriguing, and probably a must-read as mother of 7 and 10 year old girls. Watching them 'grow older at a younger age' than I did makes me wonder if there is anything I can do - but perhaps there is.
    Thanks for the review.