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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tiaras + Glass Slippers + Magic Wands = Self-Centered, Narcissistic Material Girls?

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

"'Princess' is how we tell little girls that they are special, precious. 'Princess' is how we express our aspirations, hopes, and dreams for them. 'Princess' is the wish that we could protect them from pain, that they would never know sorrow, that they will live happily ever after ensconced in lace and innocence" (81).

If you're the mother of a little girl, you're no doubt familiar with the Disney Princess phenomenon. How could you not be? The princesses—Cinderella, Snow White, Belle, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel, Tiana, etc.—decorate everything from clothing to bedding to cans of Spaghettios. Their wholesome, inspiring images appeal not just to young girls, but to parents, who find the innocent, fairy tale magic appealing in the increasingly risque world of pop culture. But how innocent is the multibillion dollar "girlie-girl" industry (which includes not just the Princesses, but Barbie, American Girl, etc.), really? Is it doing what parents hope it's doing—encouraging imaginative play, teaching girls to reach for their dreams, and empowering them to embrace femininity, but not be limited by it—or is it turning sweet little princesses into self-centered, narcissistic material girls who expect to be treated like royalty, no matter how they act in return?

To find out, Peggy Orenstein, a writer and mother of one daughter, studied all things pink—from the Princesses at Disneyland to historical dolls at American Girl Place to the backstage world of child beauty pageants. As she trolled through this frothy pastel world, she discovered some shocking trends, issues that convinced her to approach the pretty Princess world with caution. All mothers want their daughters to feel attractive, confident and empowered, but not if it means turning out spoiled brats who are so greedy, selfish and materialistic that they can't function in the real world. As Orenstein examines this troubling fantasyland phenomenon, she offers encouragement and information with the goal of arming parents against the potentially damaging effects of Princess culture on their daughters.

While I don't agree with everything Orenstein says ("I expect and want my daughter to have a healthy, joyous erotic life before marriage. Long, long, long before marriage" [129] - I mean, what mother wants that?), I found Cinderella Ate My Daughter to be both entertaining and disturbing, revealing and troubling. Orenstein writes with an engaging, mother-to-mother tone that allows readers to feel her passion and concern for young girls everywhere. Whether you find Orenstein's attitude toward the sparkly girlie-girl world hysterical and exaggerated or convincing, if not right-on-the-money, one thing is certain: She'll give you something to think about.

(Readalikes: Hm, I can't think of anything. Can you?)

Grade: B

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for language (no F-bombs) and frank talk about sexuality

To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of Cinderella Ate My Daughter from the generous folks at Harper Collins and TLC Book Tours.


  1. I have three tomboy princesses at home. They've watched most of the princess movies and have a few barbies. They read a few books about the Disney Princesses.

    But they also watch X-men, TMNT, and Batmn. They have as many "boy toys" as "girl toys" and they spend much of their time outside up trees or in the mud...often while wearing a dress.

    They take dance classes now, and someday I want to get them into martial arts too...when we have the extra money. I think it's good for a girl to learn to be graceful and to also learn to defend herself.

    When they were younger, I read to them the book "Princesses are not Quitters." And there seems to be a lot of other princess or female heroine books to promote a healthier idea of what a princess is.

  2. Hmm, I guess I mean to say I neither agree or disagree with the premise of this book. The princess concept isn't bad in and of itself, but if that is the only thing we give our daughters by which to define themselves and we don't teach them that "princess" means responsiblity and caring and kindness, then yeah, princess is bad.

  3. This sounds like a book that would garner a LOT of conversation at a mom's group!

    Thanks for taking the time to read and review it for the tour.


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