Friday

Cinderella Ate My Daughter

We have three girls (and one boy). I always hoped, because I was a girl, I would be ready to raise girls. Until I had them. Times are very different from when I was young, and the pressures on our girls are immense. I thought the pressure was bad for me, but now it is worse. Our oldest daughter just turned 7 and she is bombarded with pressure from the media and from her peers. I can already see how society is telling her that how she looks matters more than who she is. 


I just finished reading a book called "Cinderella Ate My Daughter", written by Peggy Orenstein. The New York Times Bestselling book documents the authors struggle to raise a daughter who is self-confident and happy amid a world that encourages little girls to surround themselves in nothing but pink and tiaras while they dream of the fairy tale romance. 


Orenstein wants the same thing for her daughter, that we all want for our girls. We want them to grow up healthy, happy and confident, with a clear sense of their own potential and the opportunity to fulfill it. But she argues that our girls are growing up in a world that tells them that regardless of their age, the surest way to accomplish their goals, is to look like Cinderella.

Is there something wrong with Cinderella? Is there something wrong with all the pink and glitter and fairy tale? Orenstein has done her research and clearly illustrates how society has created and pushed this Cinderella mentality.

It seems that wrong or right, these societal ideals and influences make companies money, so it doesn't look like things are going to change any time soon.

Studies show that young girls today face more pressure than ever to be "princess perfect". Not only do they have to get straight A's, but they have to be fashionable, beautiful and kind. They are exposed to media that makes them worry about being pretty and sexy, and a study from the University of Minnesota has even found that advertisements have a negative impact on girl's self-esteem.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the truth of all of this. I would hope that executives at Disney and Mattel don't sit around in their board meetings thinking of ways to sexualize young girls. But "princess perfect" sells and so it is naturally going to be pushed on our daughters.

Although society is targeting our young girls, we are still their parents, and responsibility lies on us. We want to blame the media, but ultimately, as parents, we do have a final say.

So how can we help? What can we as parents do to help our girls deal with the pink Cinderella pressure?

1. Watch what we say.
As parents, we need to make sure that our comments don't teach our girls that success and happiness is defined by how we look and what we wear. This applies to the comments we make about ourselves and our looks, as well as the comments we make about others.

2. Praise our girls for their strengths and effort.
This goes along with the first point. If you have a girl, monitor what you say to her in a 24 hour period. What is the focus of your comments? Naturally we comment on how cute they are, "you look so pretty", "I love your dress."
Instead of commenting on their looks, praise and comment on the effort they put into things and for the areas they are strong. Society will bombard them with feelings about clothes and looks. As parents we need to teach them they are strong and capable.


3. Give them challenges.
Provide challenges for our girls. Kids don't wake up and think "I am going to make myself do something hard today". We have to help provide them with challenges that they can overcome. This helps them believe in themselves and translates into future challenge. It builds their worth, based on their talents, abilities, and work ethic, instead of their looks and clothes. It also helps them keep a sense of reality.

4. Love them
Whether they like Cinderella or not. Keep your arms wide open at all times so that kids know they are loved.


Want to read Cinderella Ate my Daughter? You can follow Peggy on her Website, her Facebook page, and her Twitter account.


Do your girls feel the pressure to be a "pretty princess?
Do you think society pressures our girls?

12 comments:

  1. Love this!!! Thank you for sharing. I have a little girl who loves pink, tutus and anything princess. This is very good advice. The media is so hard on our "babies". We MUST protect them and always be on gaurd. Thanks again for sharing. Anna & Co.

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    1. Thanks AnnaCo. The media is really hard on our girls. Your right. It is our job to protect them and teach them.

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  2. Thank you for this also. I will have to read the book. I especially like #1: Watch what we say. My daughter is beautiful. I mean really really beautiful (and I am not just saying that) but she is also really really smart. Smarter than me sometimes. I forget that sometimes though because I think we all tend to focus on what we can see more. I read some advice somewhere along the lines of to tell your kids that they are both. So no I don't just tell my daughter she is beautiful without saying she is smart too. She needs to hear both otherwise she could grow up thinking she can't be either. That is my little bit of advice.

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    1. Emily, what great advice. We do have to tell our girls both!

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  3. After having 2 boys first I was petrified to learn I was pregnant with a daughter. Girls are so hard to navigate--they can be emotional and flighty and dramatic--but what I've learned in the nearly two years since she's been around, is that they are fantastic, too. Smart and funny and clever and kind. I want to accentuate those in my daughter and I hope as she grows that she knows she is so important and not just a pretty face. Thanks for the ideas.

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    1. Emily, I know those same fears. :) I love what you said, "...smart, funny, clever and kind..." Girls are wonderful!!!

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  4. Thank you for sharing. I have three girls and this is just what I needed to hear.

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    1. HI Pals Place. Thanks for your comment. I think I will write another post on the topic, it is really important.

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  5. I read this book awhile ago and I agree that it's up to the parents - we decide what comes into our homes, what our girls wear, what they watch, etc. Sure, in our house we watch the "princess" movies and that's fine! (they're actually not even my daughter's favorites....) But I don't try to bring alot of "princess", glittery, glitzy stuff or Barbies into the house. My daughter's content to play with those things at friends' houses and then her interests lie elsewhere at home. We can blame the media and toy companies all we want, but it's ultimately in our hands to teach our daughters that looks are not what's important. Great post!

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    1. Joolee, thank you for your comment! I am with you. Although there is much around us to influence, we are the parents, and it lies on us.

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  6. There is a great children's book called Not All Princesses Wear Pink by Jane Yolen And Heidi Stemple. It's a great read and reinforces what you say in this blog post. :-)

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    1. Sarah, thanks for the suggestion. I will be adding it to our collection. :)

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