WHEN JOURNALIST PEGGY ORENSTEIN published an essay in The New York Times Magazine about the “princess-mania” that has overtaken a new generation of little girls, she was not prepared for a firestorm. But “What’s Wrong with Cinderella?” swiftly shot to the top of the Times’ website’s “most emailed” list and elicited hundreds of reader responses. Orenstein, who had garnered a reputation as an expert on girls’ development with her groundbreaking bestseller, Schoolgirls: Young Women, Self Esteem and the Confidence Gap, thought she was simply musing about her own observations and reactions to her young daughter’s obsession with Disney princesses and predilection for the color pink. Clearly, though, she had touched a cultural nerve: many parents, she discovered, shared her concerns about the significance of this seemingly-retro trend toward the ultra-feminine, and the role the ubiquitous marketing machine plays in packaging and promoting it.
In Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture Orenstein sets out to discover the origins and ramifications of this cultural shift. “I didn’t know whether Disney Princesses would be the first salvo in a Hundred Years’ War of dieting, plucking, painting (and perpetual dissatisfaction with the results),” she writes. “But, for me they became a trigger for the larger question of how to help our daughters, with the contradictions they will inevitably face as girls, the dissonance that is as endemic as ever to growing up female. It seemed, then, that I was not done, not only with the princesses, but with the whole culture of little girlhood: what it had become, how it had changed in the decades since I was a child, what those changes meant and how to navigate them as a parent.” With the keen perceptions of a seasoned journalist, the emotional investment of a mother, and a wittiness that’s all her own, Orenstein ventures to the land of Disney and American Girl Place, visits the toy industry’s largest trade show, even braves a Miley Cyrus concert. She talks with historians, marketers, psychologists, neuroscientists, parents, and children themselves. She returns to the original fairy tales, seeks out girls’ virtual presence online, and ponders the meaning of child beauty pageants. In the process, she faces down her own confusion as a mother and woman about issues that rearing a girl raise about her own femininity.
An intelligent, candid, and often personal work, Cinderella Ate My Daughter offers an important exploration of the burgeoning girlie-girl culture and what it could mean for our daughters’ identities and their futures.
Beyond Princess: Peggy's Resources to Help Parents
"Fight Fun With Fun!"
“I wish I’d had Peggy Orenstein’s thought-provoking, wise, and entertaining new book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter, to comfort me and to help me navigate the Pepto Bismol pink aisles of the toy store and the cotton candy pink channels of the TV dial. Every mother needs to read this.”
—Ayelet Waldman, Bad Mother
"Reading Cinderella is like hanging out with a straight-talking, hilarious friend; taking a fascinating seminar on 21st century girlhood; and discovering a compendium of wise (but never preachy) advice on raising girls. A must-read for any parent trying to stay sane in a media saturated world.”
—Rachel Simmons, Odd Girl Out and The Curse of the Good Girl
“Orenstein has played a defining role in giving voice to this generation of girls and women”¦. At times this book brings tears to your eyes—tears of frustration with today’s girl-culture and also of relief because somebody finally gets it—and is speaking out on behalf of our daughters.”
—Judith Warner, Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety
“[Peggy Orenstein’s] addictively readable book manages, somehow, to be simultaneously warm and chilling.”
—Rebecca Traister, Big Girls Don’t Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women
“Orenstein is such a breezy, funny writer, it’s easy to forget she’s an important thinker too.”
— “People Pick”/Four Stars, People
“…reading Cinderella feels like what I imagine it might be like sit at a cafe with Orenstein, whose writing style is engaging and conversational without being dumbed-down.”
“A sparkling and provocative look at the new ‘girlie girl’culture that has taken our daughters hostage.”
“Orenstein reports on how retro-feminist attitudes of the 50s are being hustled to innocent girls in the blood-chilling Cinderella Ate My Daughter."
— Vanity Fair
“Orenstein has done parents the great favor of having this important debate with herself on paper and in public; she has fashioned an argument with its seams showing and its pockets turned inside out, and this makes her book far more interesting, and more useful.”
— The New York Times "Book Review"
“A teenager’s precocious vampiness may seem different from a preschooler’s innocent pink high heels and tiara, but Orenstein argues that both reflect a disturbing trend of self-objectification, a desire for beauty as defined by others, driven by a media and marketing machine that ‘tells girls that how you look is more important than how you feel.'”
— The Boston Globe
“Orenstein is an unapologetically passionate critic of the marketing onslaught she skewers so stunningly in her latest and most masterful book.”
— San Francisco Chronicle