Princesses, girly-girl stuff and Mommy’s impending ulcer

Just the other day I picked up a new book up at the library — “Cinderella Ate My Daughter” by Peggy Orenstein.  I can’t even remember how I heard of this book, but I requested it from the library and just picked it up this past weekend.  I’ve read the first 15 pages and am hooked.

I’m very loosely paraphrasing, so if I misrepresent something please don’t scream that I’m a moron be upset with me.  But the book is basically Peggy’s research and hands on experiences with how our daughters are being exposed to the message that beauty, sexuality and overall looks is the means to getting where you want in life.

To quote from the book jacket “…sexualized girlhood influences our daughters, from infancy onward, telling them that how a girl looks matters more than who she is”  and “…the pursuit of physical perfection has been recast as a source — the source — of female empowerment.”

Given that I have three girls, I thought this book might be topic I’d want to hear more about.  *Ahem.*

In the few pages I’ve read Peggy discusses the Disney Princess explosion that happened in the 1990s that continues today.  I admit, I am soooo not the Disney Princess-type mom.  I don’t mind if the girls want to play princess dress up.  They have Disney Princess coloring books and dress up clothes and games, and my oldest has watched Snow White, The Little Mermaid and Aladdin (although we had to practically force her to watch since she doesn’t like the “bad guys” and runs and hides every time the antagonist in the movie is on-screen.  Sheesh.)

I like being a girl, and I care about my looks and like to dress nice and wear makeup and jewelry, but I don’t try to push “girly” stuff on my kids.  I’m not going to encourage it but I’m not going to discourage it either.  I’ve been trying to keep fairly neutral and I try to keep an assortment of gender-neutral toys and games and movies around.  I do admit I do try to avoid buying everything in pink.  I prefer purple, green, red, yellow, and even try to throw in some blue.  I just don’t think that because I have all girls I need to have everything in pink.  (Although I’m sure Chad would disagree and say everything in our house already is pink.)

And so far none of my girls (and by none I mean the older two) seems to have bought into being a girly girl.  Yet.  Carlie prefers watching Mickey Mouse or Little Einsteins over a princess movie.  Although she does love Strawberry Shortcake.  And she wanted makeup and jewelry for her birthday this past year.  And both older girls love to wear dresses but are just as comfortable in shorts and a t-shirt.

As a mom of three girls I am very worried about the over-sexualization of young girls in society today.  I try not to pay too much attention to pre-teen and teen stuff yet (I figure why give myself an ulcer now), but what I do see concerns me.  The way these young kids on TV dress, act, and talk, it’s like they’re 21 year olds in 13-year-old bodies.  I see how stars and celebrities who are idolized by young girls dress in nothing but a bra-style top and short shorts when they perform.

I don’t know my thoughts yet on if (or how much) commercialism influences the thoughts of our young girls.  I’m not saying I think the princess girly-girl stuff does cause early sexualization of girls, I’m not saying it doesn’t.  I don’t know how I feel yet.

I just know I want my girls to love themselves, be confident and happy with who they are.  Am I living in a dream world?  Probably.  But I’m going to try damn hard to make sure they do.

I’ll keep you posted on the book.  In the meantime, I’m going to go find sales of antacids so I can start stocking up now.

P.S.  Did I completely botch this post?  I felt like I had a really hard time articulating my thoughts.  I have so many trains of thought running through my head on this topic and I wanted to just graze each one and not dig too deep just yet.  So if you had a hard time following me, I apologize.  After I read the book, or maybe during it, I’ll post more thoughts and dig a bit deeper.

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7 responses

  1. I’m with you LeeAnn. I’m so grateful that so far, Nora’s much more interested in other things than the Princesses and that she doesn’t watch Hannah Montana or iCarly. I was proud of her when she told me she wanted a baby sister so she’d have someone to play hockey with. An yet, I feel a change coming — maybe I’m just leery of Kindergarten in general, but I’m afraid of what being around girly-girls so much will do to my kiddo. I’m hoping that her independent mind will continue to hold her in good stead through grade school. (Then I plan to ship her off to the nuns!)

  2. Well, We are Disney freaks at my house…you did not at all botch this post and I have been wondering about that book myself. One thing that is really hard that you will find as C gets older is how HARD it is to find age appropriate clothing. I now am so happy to have uniforms so I don’t have to find tons of clothes for my 6 yr old that is sized for an 8 yr old. One thing that Disney and other popular ‘girly’ (read Am Girl) type things do help breed in girls is confidence. In most princess stories, while yes a true fairy tale, there has been some drama to get to the ending. Jasmine has to fight Jafar in Aladdin (a little), Cinderella was resourceful in keeping 1 slipper, Snow White took care of the dwarfs…Of course you have to kind of look for it but if you analyze it a little (read, watch it 1000 times) it is there. We’re just getting into the Am Girl stuff and it is nice wholesome stuff, just insanely expensive. Right now my biggest issue is clothing and the girl drama that came out of kindergarten. I’m hoping the transition from preschool-kindergarten was some of that drama and maybe 1st grade will be calmer before true girl drama starts. Keep us posted on the book. I may have to check that one out as well…

    • I despise all the character themed clothing. So far my kids don’t care about it and I intend to keep it that way as long as I can. It’s just mass marketization of these brands to make lots of people (not us) lots of money (ours). I wouldn’t say there is any upside or positivity to pushing these characters in our faces 24/7. Amen to Catholic school uniforms. 😉 I grew up with them and look forward to not having to pick out daily clothing for my kids for school.

      Good call on trying to find the positive things in the princesses. I like that a lot.

      And I didn’t want to hear about kindergarten drama. 😉 I’m not ready for that. Preschool has been easy, I’m not looking forward to dealing with that.

  3. Hi LeeAnn!
    Okay–I have to voice in on this one! Be afraid, be very afraid! My daughter is nine, so we are waist deep in this issue now (and I have been meaning to pick up that book, actually.) The kindergarten year was horrendous as far as girl drama coming center stage, for us, at least. And Hannah Montana and iCarly were right in the mix. I have absolutely no answers and I have no clue what the future will bring. What I did find, though, was that talking A LOT and sharing experiences that I had in grade school helped. We also started doing more just Daddy-Daughter activities–I wanted to get into that routine early, I’ve read a ton about that relationship helping through the pre-teen, teen years. Also, if your girls like reading, start doing biographies. While my daughter LOVED princesses and got into the HM and iCarly stuff, I feel like we were able to first, limit it, and second, temper it a bit with bios on Eleanor Roosevelet, Sacagawea, and other real life “girl” stories. Oh, and the school uniforms are a godsend.
    Now she is starting fourth grade and there is still quite a bit of drama amongst the group, but I will go out on a limb and say that while we are not immune from it at our house, we definitly seem to be on the lesser end of the spectrum. Good luck and wish me the same!
    Jaime Elgin Soell

    • Thanks so much for your input Jaime. I love the idea of reading biographies of inspiring women. I thought about introducing stories of saints, particularly female saints, into our nightly prayer routine. And Chad is very much into being sure to develop the Daddy-Daughter relationship. He read a book titled “Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know” by Margaret Meeker and strongly recommends it.

      I know all this is nothing new, it’s just new to me. 🙂 I love and appreciate yours (and everyone’s) thoughts and input!

  4. Jaime–
    That reminds me of the scene in Enchanted where the little girl wants a book of fairy tales and gets a book of biographies of strong women! I was thinking, “What’s wrong with that?” Nora really enjoys a lot of nonfiction. Another thing that I am grateful for.
    Sarah

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