Cinderella Ate My Daughter

Cinderella Ate My Daughter

In “Cinderella,” as told in the Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales (1974) first published in Germany in 1817 as “Aschenputtel,” Cinderella’s mother dies, her father remarries, and her two new stepsisters—“beautiful but black of heart”—make her give up her pretty clothes and put on an old grey bedgown and wooden shoes, and they force her to work all day at servile chores. They mock her, call her a kitchen-wench and a stupid goose, and cause her every “imaginable injury,” emptying her peas and lentils into the ashes and forcing her to pick them out.  At night she sleeps near the cinders because she has no bed; her stepsisters call her Cinderella because she is always dusty and dirty.  When her father asks the three daughters what they would like from the fair, the stepsisters request beautiful dresses and jewelry, but Cinderella asks her father to bring back “the first branch which knocks against your hat on your way home.”  The father returns with the gifts for the stepsisters and a hazel twig for Cinderella.  Cinderella plants the hazel branch on top of her mother’s grave and waters it with her tears, and it grows into a “handsome tree” on which a white bird alights and gives Cinderella whatever she wishes for.  Although birds are sometimes miraculous creatures in fairy tales, in this fairy tale they are instrumental in Cinderella’s finding her way out of the burdensome life in which she finds herself.

When the King of the land invites all the beautiful young maidens to a three-day festival at which his son will choose a bride, the two stepsisters demand that Cinderella help them prepare for the festival.  Cinderella also wants to attend, but her stepmother, dumping a dish of lentils into the ashes, tells Cinderella to pick them out in two hours and only then can she go.  Cinderella calls on “tame pigeons, turtledoves, and all you birds beneath the sky” to help her pick the lentils out of the ashes.  They succeed, but the stepmother places a second obstacle in Cinderella’s path: Cinderella must pick two bowls of lentils out of the ashes in less than an hour.  Again, Cinderella calls her friends to help her, and she shows the two bowls to her stepmother, to which the stepmother responds:  “All this will not help; you cannot go with us, for you have no clothes and can not dance; we should be ashamed of you.”

Cinderella, despondent, visits her mother’s grave and asks the white bird to throw a silver and gold gown over her, as well as “slippers embroidered with silk and silver.”  Cinderella walks to the party in her new finery, and at the festival, the prince will dance only with her: “This is my partner,” he says.  No one recognizes the beautiful Cinderella, neither the father nor the stepmother nor the stepsisters.  When she tells the prince she wants to go home, the prince wishes to accompany her, but Cinderella, quick footed, runs into the pigeon house.   At the prince’s request the father destroys the pigeon house to see if Cinderella is there.  She is not.  She has jumped from the pigeon house and run to the hazel-tree where she takes off her silver and gold gown and lays them on her mother’s grave, and the white bird takes them away.  The father and stepmother and stepsisters find her at home, seated near the ashes in her grey gown.  On the second day of the festival, she again asks for a silver and gold dress, to which the bird throws down a more beautiful dress than before.  Cinderella dances with the prince; he will have no other partner, and when she is ready to leave, he follows her.  But Cinderella climbs a magnificent pear tree in the garden behind her house, clambering “so nimbly between the branches like a squirrel” that the prince cannot find her.  The prince tells the father that he believes the maiden he has danced with is in the pear tree, to which the father takes an axe and cuts it down.  But Cinderella has already jumped from the pear tree, taken her clothes to the bird, and put on her grey gown.

On the third night, the white bird throws down a “more splendid and magnificent” dress than any she has worn before, as well as golden slippers.  The guests at the festival are astonished at her beauty, and again the prince will dance with no other.  The prince, however, devises a ruse to catch Cinderella before she disappears:  On the staircase she descends, Cinderella’s left slipper gets caught in pitch the prince has smeared on it.  When the prince finds the slipper, he announces, “No one shall be my wife but she whose foot this golden slipper fits.”  Of course, the two stepsisters try to fit their big feet into the slipper.  The stepmother gives the first daughter a knife to cut off one of her toes, and then she fits her bloody foot into the shoe.  On the way to the prince’s castle with this stepsister, two pigeons warn the prince that the stepsister’s shoe is filled with blood, and he returns to Cinderella’s home, where the second stepsister tries on the slipper.  The stepmother also gives the second daughter a knife, this time to cut off a bit of her heel.  The daughter swallows the pain and the prince takes her away.  Yet, again, the pigeons warn him to look at her shoe, where blood is staining her white stocking.

The prince returns to the home for the third time and asks to see another daughter, to which the father replies, “There is still a little stunted kitchen-wench which my late wife left behind her, but she cannot possibly be the bride.”  The stepmother resists calling her down, but the prince insists. Cinderella washes her hands and face, bows to the prince, seats herself on a stool, removes her wooden shoe, puts her foot into the slipper, and the slipper fits “like a glove.” The prince then recognizes the woman he has danced with and exclaims, “That is the true bride!”  He and Cinderella ride on his horse to the castle, leaving the stepmother and stepsisters in a rage. When the prince and Cinderella pass the hazel tree, two white doves alight on Cinderella’s shoulders, one on the left and one on the right.

Consider, in this version, how Cinderella is an agent of her own change.  She asks her father for the first branch that knocks against his hat; she plants the branch on top of her mother’s grave; she waters it with her tears; it magically grows into a small tree; birds alight on it and give her what she desires. When her stepmother refuses to allow her to attend the festival, she takes charge and asks the birds for a ball gown and slippers.  On each of three successive nights, she walks on her own and when she arrives, the prince dances with no other maiden.  When she wants to leave, she cleverly slips away from the prince, first, by hiding in the pigeon house and then jumping down from it and escaping into her house; second, by climbing a pear tree and jumping down from it and again escaping into her house; and third, because of the prince’s ruse, by slipping away but leaving a slipper caught in the pitch on the staircase.  This Cinderella knows her mind, knows how to get what she wants, and fights for the opportunity to celebrate her womanhood.  Missing her mother’s physical and emotional protection, Cinderella figures out that the magical hazel tree substitutes for her mother’s absence and will give her the means for altering her life, just as the festival provides the place where she shows the world the beautiful woman she is—emotionally and physically.  The prince is a means for her transformation, but he is not the primary cause. Through perseverance, clear thinking, and cunning insight, Cinderella winds up in an enviable position, while her mean stepsisters, whose eyes are pecked out at her wedding to the prince, endure blindness for the rest of their days.

Versions of the “Cinderella” story have been told for more than two thousand years.  The oldest version is thought to have originated in Ancient Greece, but the story also has roots in countries such as France, Germany, China, Norway, England, Ireland, Japan, Scotland, Greece, Italy, Serbia, Russia, Japan, Vietnam, and Denmark, as well as in American Indian cultures.  It is remarkable, then, that children in our culture today are primarily familiar with the version of the helpless Cinderella in which Prince Charming saves her from her miserable life.  One of the sources for this present-day anemic version was Disney’s 1950 release of the film Cinderella in which the fairy godmother magically produces a pumpkin-turned-coach to carry her away to a royal ball and into the “arms of Prince Charming.”  When midnight arrives, Cinderella returns to her rags and she runs away, but not before losing a slipper that Prince Charming takes with him when he scours the land to find the maiden whose foot will fit the slipper.  This Cinderella is not the strong, willful Cinderella of the Grimms’ fairy tale, but rather a sweet girl whom Prince Charming takes to a magical kingdom where they live happily ever after. This devolution of Cinderella from the Grimms’ version to Cinderella in the Disney film to the present-day Cinderella who is merely a dressed-up sidekick to Prince Charming—a stereotype reinforced in images, clothing, and toys—has been exploited by a consumer culture that does not want girls to be strong and independent and the agent of their transformation from girlhood to womanhood.  It is, rather, a consumer culture that seems to want to make girls as helpless as ever.  The message is:  There is a rapacious world out there ready to run over you if you want to navigate it on your own.  Is this the message we should be sending our girls?  Or, should we, instead, invite girls into a nurturing culture that tells them they are quite capable, thank you very much, of an intelligent, insightful, and conscientious journey through the stages of girlhood to womanhood without becoming a market commodity?

Peggy Orenstein, author, journalist, and lecturer, has been writing about the girlie-girlie culture for the last twenty years. When she was pregnant and had her first sonogram, she saw that the little being inside her was a girl.  She had hoped for a boy because she didn’t know if she could live up to the counsel and advice she had written about and spoken of in her lectures. She “fretted over how I would raise her, what kind of role model I would be, whether I would take my own smugly written advice on the complexities surrounding girls’ beauty, body image, education, achievement.”  She was scared, but then she realized she had wanted a girl all along.  But the burning question became:  How was she, Daisy’s mother, going to navigate the hypergendered culture that had blossomed—from the corporate perspective—into a marketer’s land grab, a real microsegmentation of all things girls and all things boys from toddlers to preschoolers to tweens to early adolescents to older adolescents.  This magnification of gender differences, which didn’t exist when Orenstein was growing up, is the easiest way to segment a market, and thus you get “the pink play pattern” for girls and blue for boys, but it would be more accurate to say that blue for boys does not pack the wallop that pink does for girls.  It is the male-oriented stuff—Thomas the Tank Engines, battery-powered 4-wheelers, Star Wars light sabers, guns, Pokemon—that teases out the nature side of boys and leaves the alleged nature side of girls in frilly pink princess dresses and pink slippers and tiaras playing inside their pink tents festooned with pink ribbons and gauzy, pink drapery. Orenstein contends that although pink is a “tiny slice of the rainbow” and “may celebrate girlhood in one way, it also repeatedly and firmly fuses girls’ identity to appearance.”

Thus, when Orenstein begins to explore this new girlie-girl culture, she enters a stranger play world for girls than any she had experienced, one that leaves little to the imagination of girls except through the lens of corporations and what they want girls to buy.  This corporate money-making machine is the world that Orenstein and Daisy experience together—Disney Princess dolls and American Girl dolls and Dora dolls and a renovated Barbie and Ty Girlz and Moxie Girlz and Bratz Girlz and Glitter Girlz and Hannah Montana, not to mention the “rows and rows of make-your-own jewelry/lip gloss/nail polish/fashion show craft kits.”  It is a corporation’s delight, whether the mother/daughter shopping duo buy the cheaper Barbie Computer Engineer doll at 13.99, or the Barbie a Fashion Fairytale Glitterizer Wardrobe and Barbie Doll Playset at $49.99, or Barbie’s Dolled Up Digital Nail Printer at $179.99; or the more expensive American Girl Doll at $110 and the doll furniture that is a must for an American Girl owner:  a cookstove for $68, or a chifforobe for $175, or even a salon appointment for $20—for the doll.

Even if mothers believe that their daughters playing with these toys prolongs their innocence, as some mothers whom Orenstein interviewed believe, Orenstein sees coercion written all over this barrage of products that girls can choose from, inimical, in many cases, to girls developing an identity that, like the Cinderella of the Grimms’ fairy tale, allows her to explore her worth as an individual, and gives her a feeling of internal confidence that pervades her interactions with the world.  Orenstein wants to offer Daisy “a sense of worth as a girl that was not contingent on the cut of her clothes, a femininity grounded in something other than the bathroom mirror.”  Instead, when Orenstein begins to explore the landscape of the consumer culture where shopping is the pinnacle of the female experience, she considers this:  “Don’t our possessions reflect who we are; shape, even define, our experience?…So what do the toys we give our girls, the pinkness in which they are steeped, tell us about what we are telling them?  What do they say about who we think they are and ought to be?”  This is the big question Orenstein answers in her most recent book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches From The Front Lines Of The New Girlie-Girl Culture.

First, the title of the book.  Does it provoke nodding assent or puzzled brows?  The synonyms for “eat” are “consume,” “devour,” “ingest.”  “Consume” has several different meanings, but one meaning is “to waste, squander,” “and another is “to destroy totally, ravage.”  “Devour” also means “to destroy, consume, or waste,” as well as “to prey upon voraciously.”  Perhaps a clue to the meaning of Cinderella Ate My Daughter lies in this quote:  “As with all of us, what I want for my daughter seems so simple:  for her to grow up healthy, happy, and confident, with a clear sense of her own potential and the opportunity to fulfill it.  Yet she lives in a world that tells her, whether she is three or thirty-three, that the surest way to get there is to look, well, like Cinderella.”  And what does this modern-day Cinderella look like, how does she act, what does she believe is most important in life?  And will this Cinderella make it to her teens without being devoured by a ubiquitous corporate enterprise whose mission is to figure out the most efficient and clever way to market their wares to little girls and tweens, as well as adolescents and women? And if this ubiquitous Cinderella is a metaphor for an all-consuming corporate culture whose sole purpose is to make money, well, it could also be said that this same corporate culture preys on girls in the sense that it narrows almost to a tiny point girls’ ideas of what it means to be a person:  Not how the development of their intelligence and talent and effort enhances their opportunities in life; not how a bold yet careful exploration of the world provides them with the confidence to meet challenges, to accept failure, and to move on; not how intimacy and relationship are central to a girl’s developing sexuality, but being a girl means identifying with Disney Princess dolls—to dress up in pretty pink and to act special and precious and innocent—and, then, as she grows older, identifying with hot Moxie Girlz dolls and to dress in “skintight microminis, black camisoles, and boots,” eyes shadow-rimmed and lips full.

Then there is young girls’ identification with the pop star Hannah Montana, as played by Miley Cyrus in the Disney television series, who, as Hannah grows older, evolves into Miley Cyrus and causes a ruckus in 2009 when “she strutted out of a trailer in booty shorts and a sparkly tank slit up the sides to expose her bra.  As she sang, she stepped offstage, onto an ice cream cart topped with a pole…then, hanging on with one hand, she dropped into a squat, her knees splayed, her back arched.”  What happened to Hannah Montana, the innocent role model for girls and tweens?  Orenstein explains the virgin/whore cycle (it happened to Britney Spears and Hilary Duff too) as “the fetishizing of Miley’s wholesomeness, the inevitable trajectory from accidentally to accidentally-on-purpose to simply on-purpose sexy.  Why isn’t it until that final leap, when a girl actively acknowledges and participates in what is happening, that parents of young fans cry foul?”  This commodification of stars like Miley Cyrus causes Orenstein a perpetual headache, especially so when she understands better than most that girls who identify with these pop stars are commodities themselves, used to make money for the corporations that support these teen idols. Even worse, however, is the media’s intruding into a girl’s world (and a mother’s), and although Orenstein does not claim “that Disney Princess diapers or Ty Girlz or Hannah Montana or Twilight or…a Facebook account is inherently harmful,” she argues that “each is, however, a cog in the round-the-clock, all-pervasive media machine aimed at our daughters—and at us—from womb to tomb; one that, again and again, presents femininity as performance, sexuality as performance, identity as performance, and each of those traits as available for a price.  It tells girls that how you look is more important than how you feel.  More than that, it tells them that how you look is how you feel, as well as who you are.”

Of course, corporations don’t literally eat girls, as in Cinderella Ate my daughter, but their marketing strategy does precisely what it can’t do literally: It eats up the imaginary space girls need to explore their own play worlds, in their own time, in their own way, with their own bodies, under the protection of their mothers and grandmothers and aunts who can serve as role models to help them choose between the good and the not-so-good, as Cinderella’s mother in the Grimm’s fairy tale does (even in death!) to help Cinderella transform her world.  Orenstein would be the first to say that princess products and all those pink and girlie-girl toys are not inherently bad, but in totality, as Orenstein so judiciously explores in Cinderella Ate My Daughter, the consumer culture does sexualize girls starting as young as three years old.  When you consider that nearly “43,000 children under age eighteen (mostly girls, of course) surgically altered their appearance in 2008—over twice as many as a decade earlier,” or that “tens of thousands” had “scheduled chemical peels, dermabrasions, or laser hair removal,” or that in 2009 “12,000 injections of Botox” were administered “to children ages thirteen to nineteen, presumably to prevent wrinkles,” you have to wonder where are the mothers and grandmothers?  And there they are: “9.3 million women,” most of them between thirty-five and fifty, “underwent cosmetic procedures in 2008.”

If mothers and grandmothers and aunts and older sisters have so incorporated the message that it is their bodies that lend them their identity, then how will their daughters draw the line between what is real in their lives and what is made up for them?  How will they tackle the Cinderella who consumes girls? How will they navigate the shopping frenzy that encircles them? Girls and women judge themselves and other girls and women according to the criteria that corporations have set for them:  Who they are, what they’re supposed to wear, how they’re supposed to look, what they’re supposed to do with their bodies to make themselves attractive, appealing, and sexy to boys and men.  Orenstein quotes Susan Douglas, author ofEnlightened Sexism, who sums up the conundrum for girls and women:  “We can excel in school, play sports, go to college, aspire to—and get—jobs previously reserved for men, be working mothers, and so forth. But in exchange we must obsess about our faces, weight, breast size, clothing brands, decorating, perfectly calibrated child-rearing, about pleasing men and being envied by other women.”  In other words, daughters raised in the culture Orenstein examines in Cinderella Ate My Daughterhave to fight to be who they want to be and resolutely understand that self-objectification—judging your body by how you think it looks to others—is not what a girl’s life should be about.

The high alert for Orenstein began when Daisy wore her favorite “engineer” pin-striped overalls to preschool and carried her Thomas the Tank Engine lunch box, and a boy on the playground yelled at her, “Girls don’t like trains!”  Daisy went home and threw her lunchbox into the bottom of the toy box.  Within a month, Daisy refused to wear pants, and then, “as if by osmosis,” Orenstein relates, “she had learned the names and gown colors of every Disney Princess—I didn’t even know what a Disney Princess was.”  By her third birthday, Daisy “begged for a ‘real princess dress’ with matching plastic high heels.” Orenstein, dismayed, realized that princesses “did mark my daughter’s first foray into the mainstream culture, the first time the influences on her extended beyond the family.”  Orenstein concludes:  “And what was the first thing that culture told her about being a girl?  Not that she was competent, strong, creative, or smart but that every little girl wants—or should want—to be Fairest of Them All.”

To be Fairest of Them All is not what Orenstein wishes for her daughter, but she admits she did not “know whether Disney Princesses would be the first salvo in a Hundred Years’ War of dieting, plucking, and painting…. 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.”  For Orenstein, then, being the writer and journalist of all things girls for twenty years, Daisy’s experience with her “engineer” overalls and Thomas the Tank Engine lunchbox was all she needed to throw herself into field of the new girlie-girl culture.  From the field, then, she sends “dispatches” that make up the ten chapters in Cinderella Ate My Daughter.”  She visits the executive of Disney’s consumer division; Disneyland; the American Girl Place; the American International Toy Fair; Pottery Barn Kids; and Toys “R” Us. She talks to “historians, marketers, psychologists, neuroscientists, parents, and children themselves.”  She goes to child beauty pageants, reads lots of fairy tales, attends a Miley Cyrus concert, and goes online as an “avatar.”  Alerted to the dangers of segregated gender choice that Daisy experienced at her preschool, and by extension in a segmented market culture that breaks down into two distinct groups—toys for boy that tell them to explore the world, and toys for girls that tell them to explore their femininity (as in princess, ballerina, fairy, butterfly)—Orenstein concludes that this segregation/segmentation is more powerful than she had ever believed it to be, but she is determined to assist Daisy in choosing consumer products that allow her to play out the princess side of herself, but at the same time give her the confidence and strength and awareness to become the Cinderella of the Grimm’s fairy tale—the Cinderella who is the agent of her own transformation from girl to woman.

Indeed, research shows that the hypergendered market and the segregated classroom are extensions of each other:  One takes place in the consumer culture and one takes place in the school. Segregation of boys and girls is so damaging to boys and girls, Orenstein discovers from a team in Phoenix, Arizona, that is researching the ill effects of boys and girls playing in segregated groups, that it—separation of boys and girls—has become a public health issue.  This research team’s goal “is to improve how boys and girls think of and treat the other sex in the classroom, on the playground, and beyond: to keep their small behavioral and cognitive differences from turning into unbreachable gaps.”  It appears that self-segregation is universal and crosses all cultures, but if so, single-sex peer groups reinforce kids’ biases, as Orenstein learns from this research, and it can also change “their brains, potentially defining both their abilities and their possibilities,” according to Lise Eliot, author of Pink Brain, Blue Brain.  Why do “we parents want to—even need to—amplify the differences between boys and girls?” Orenstein asks herself.  If the research team in Arizona is correct that self-segregation “becomes detrimental to relationships, to psychological health and well-being, when boys and girls don’t learn how to talk to one another,” then “that divergence of behavior and communication skills in childhood becomes the building blocks for later issues.”  And they conclude with this startling statement:  “Part of the reason we have the divorce rates we do, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking behaviors, sexual harassment, is lack of ability to communicate between men and women.”  Thus, it is not that far from the self-segregated classroom to the hypergendered segregation found in stores, in advertising, on the web, and in the lives of girls and boys, women and men.  And, from there, it is most extravagantly displayed in one swoop at little girls’ beauty pageants, where Orenstein witnesses the most powerful effects of the Cinderella consumer culture in all of its smashing success.

The Cinderella that Ate Orenstein’s daughter—special, precious, beautiful, pink, innocent, all lace and appearance and body—presents itself in its most extreme form at the Universal Royalty Texas State Beauty Pageant that Orenstein attends—perhaps the most eye-rolling of all the dispatches she sends from the field.  There, little girls as young as four years old perform routines and are judged on “the walk, the stage presence, the nonstop smile, the nymphet moves, and, of course, the flashy outfits and gaudy makeup.” Although the parents emphasize that their daughters want to perform, the mothers, especially, are intimately involved in their daughters’ routines, using hand signals to tell them where they are “supposed to walk, when to stop, when to spin.” Eden, one of the contestants in the four-to-six year old division, watches her mother as the five year old performs in front of the judges.  Orenstein describes it thus:  “It was a mesmerizing experience.  Together mother and daughter bent their arms at the elbow, turned up their palms, and twirled.  Together they blew kisses over their shoulders at the judges, together they vamped and waved, together they leaned forward and shimmied.”

Eden’s competition is Tarlyn, the eventual winner, whose expenses include $3,000 each for a hand-sewn “cupcake dress,” “…the dance coach, the makeup artist, the home tanning equipment, the head shots, the extravagant frocks and swimwear, not to mention the entry fees—which can run as high as $1,000—as well as travel, accommodations, and meals….”  Given the description that Orenstein offers of Taralyn’s routine, it is obvious that Taralyn and her family have assimilated the new girlie-girl culture in the extreme, not only as in Cinderella consumes little girls, but also as in being a poster child for a segregated, hypergendered culture that separates girls from boys to the detriment of both.  At the pageant, “Taralyn sauntered across the stage, threw the requisite kisses, then, in a move all her own skipped along the front edge, pointing to each judge in turn and winking.  She was so light on her feet, she almost floated.”  This, from a five-year-old girl.  Her mother is exuberant about her daughter’s performance.  “She loves to perform,” she tells Orenstein. “She wantsto be onstage.” Taralyn earns $2000 cash prize for her performance.  Orenstein wonders what else she earns.  Confidence? Poise? Adoration?  Affirmation? Or will she one day “come to believe she is loved only for her beauty, loved only if she canstay beautiful—thin and unblemished, with the right breasts and teeth—if she can stay perfect, if she does not let her parents down.”  Orenstein is at pains not to “blame the victim”—the little girls who perform at these pageants or the families who claim this is what their daughters want—and she is careful to weigh both sides, but the evidence she gathers from this dispatch, and in other dispatches from the field, indicates that this new girlie-girl culture is not helpful to girls’ growing up to be confident, aware, and sexually secure.

From Orenstein’s first dispatch from the field—an interview with Andy Mooney, the executive who saved the Disney consumer products division from collapse after he attended a “Disney on Ice” show in Phoenix and saw, to his exasperation and amazement, hundreds of girls dressed in princess costumes—all homemade; to Orenstein’s dispatch from the virtual world she enters to discover that girls’ virtual reality mimics the sexualization of real girls: “big hair and chunky highlights; full, glossy pouts; thickly lined doe eyes; and skimpy, fashion-forward outfits”; to the beauty pageants where she watches five-year-old girls perform as if they are twenty-five in front of an audience with lots of voyeurs—she sees a “Big Bad Culture” out there, full of pitfalls and thickets and thorns. Whether you sell your self online, like a brand to be marketed; or walk the aisles of Toys “R” Us and buy a Disney Princess doll or a princess outfit or a make-up kit or a Barbie Glitterizer or a Moxie Girlz; or visit the American Girl Place and eat lunch with your American Girl doll(s), you—mother and daughter—are at the center of the new girlie girl culture.  Whether in the virtual world or the real world, appearance, performance, and self-objectification seem to be what make or break a girl’s feeling that she belongs. What girl would choose to be marginalized from her peers when all of her friends are ensconced in a marketer’s paradise?

Orenstein lists some antidotes to counter the effect of the all-consuming Cinderella market, but however positive they are, I don’t think her suggestions are going to make that much difference when so much power is on the other side.  Still, it is helpful to know that the author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter fights to keep her daughter safe from the most injurious aspects of the hypergendered culture about which she has written 244 pages.  She wants to give Daisy a healthier, more rounded, and intelligent diet of consumer-type products:  She has “gotten a lot more canny about how we participate in the consumer culture.”  For example, she buys “tiny knights, princesses, pirates, dragons, unicorns” for Daisy to engage in imaginative play.  She reads more mythology, fairy tales, legends, and Biblical women’s stories. They watch animated films by Hayao Miyazaki in which the female protagonists are “neither hyperfeminine nor drearily feminist.”  She talks regularly to her daughter and watches television and listens to music with her.  She wants Daisy to be skeptical of what she sees and hears and to question the consumer culture that “threatens to consume” her even as she “consumes it.” Orenstein believes that the choices mothers make for their daughters in their toddler years will influence how their little girls navigate that culture as teens, and that awareness of how the hypersexualized, hypergendered, girlie-girl consumer culture affects their daughters will go a long way to helping their daughters “to see themselves from the inside out rather than outside in.”  These daughters, it would be safe to assume, would be much less likely to show up half-naked (or naked!) in a sexting post.

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