January 28, 2011 at 1:46 pm , by Lauren Piro
Last week, I had the chance to chat with Peggy Orenstein, author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter (Harper), which went on sale Monday and is quickly becoming a must-read for mothers around the country. LHJ’s February issue contains an excerpt—about girls and body image—but the book is about so much more. In it, Orenstein takes on the extreme “girlie-girl” culture that pervades the lives of young girls today. I was eager to hear more from Orenstein. Could all the princesses, pink and pop stars inundating our daughters’ lives be hindering the development of their identities?
The title of your book suggests that you don’t think too highly of Cinderella. Just what is so bad about princesses?
What concerns me is that the emphasis on appearance and play-sexiness is getting younger and younger. In the last five years the percentage of elementary school girls who feel that their appearance is very important and more important than their schoolwork has gone up. Nearly 40 percent of 6-year-olds regularly wear lipstick and lip gloss and in the last two years the percentage of 8- to 12-year-olds wearing mascara and eyeliner has doubled. I find those to be troubling trends. We know that fixation on those things is unhealthy for girls. It puts them at risk for negative body image, eating disorders, depression and unhealthy choices in intimate relationships.
One of my favorite chapters in the book was about how every item sold to girls these days is pink and princess-y, and how marketing for these toys, games, makeup and more is aimed at ever-younger girls.
It’s true, and this princess culture is so huge that we’ve almost forgotten that it’s only ten years old. Fifteen years ago, there was the occasional movie but you didn’t have princesses on everything from hand sanitizer to diapers. When she was three, my daughter wanted paper cups with Cinderella on them only because they had Cinderella on them. Our daughters should be able to develop the broadest and healthiest possible definition of who they are, and pink and princess everything is not going to get us there. Why do we need a Scrabble set “for girls” that says FASHION on the box? I don’t care if “fashion” is a seven-letter word.