It seems like the author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter has been everywhere lately! I've seen her on The Today Show and other talk shows and then last night saw she was in my Parents Magazine. For those of you that have no idea what I am talking about, she is a mother/author named Peggy Orenstein who wrote the book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches From the Front Lines of the New Girly-Girl Culture.
Ever since I found out I was having a baby girl, my friends and family and myself included, went out and bought everything pink! I thought, well surely I will have to buy her some gender neutral yellows and greens, and not go all the way pink. But there is just something about a baby girl in pink! Now, not to get into gender stereotypes as I already posted about that here, but it does seem that every store I go into has pink, pink, pink for girls. And have you seen the aisles at Target and Toys R Us that look like there was a pink explosion?
And it seems that everywhere I turn, I see little Diva Princesses running around. I almost got caught up in the whole Princess theme as I was shopping for my 1 year-old daughter's birthday invitations and saw plenty of them to choose from. But then I realized, I don't need to have my daughter start off as a Diva before she even knows what the word Princess means! What was I thinking. But I did pick a plain pink invitation :)
As I digress, the author of this book wrote about how we, as parents, need to strive to give our daughters the best sense of girlhood possible. Times sure have changed since I was a little girl! Today's 5 year-olds are getting mani-pedis with glittery pink nail polish, lipgloss, makeover birthday parties, shopping aisles filled with pink princesses, and one after another Princess themed birthday parties complete with tiaras and jewels. Not that getting a mani-pedi with your daughter is a bad thing, as it's a cute little bonding experience for you both, but the book asks the question, "have we gone too far with our little girls and their expectations?"
It seems that play for girls has gone from generic blocks and trains to 24/7 princesses. Have you noticed that the basic colored blocks now have another options of plain pink?
The author also raises the question, "is there more pressure on girls to define themselves based on how they look in this day and age, with all the Princess things?" If "all of the bling is fine at a young age or not?" And "is this whole princess commercialized phenomenon causing narcissism?"
Narcissism? Hmm, well she makes a good point when she mentioned that her daughter had to decorate her own purse at her third Princess party that year, and was given decals that said "spoiled" and "pampered princess" to glue on it. If your daughter didn't know what those words meant before, she sure does now.
Children start identifying with their gender somewhere around age 2 1/2 to 3 and they explore with whatever is given to them in their culture. The author feels that if girls are just given pink and princess themes as a tool to assert their girlhood, then they are learning your looks identify who you are. That this commercialism of Princesses is increasing self-absorption and spoiledness instead of empowerment and self esteem.
Do you think the author has gone too far? Well luckily she feels that the alternative is not to limit princesses and blingy pink things all together. But to make sure there are other fantasy outlets and dramatic play options besides Barbies and Princesses.
I personally think little girls should still have Princesses! We all grew up with Barbies, pinkness and princesses, but we also need to just be a little bit more mindful of not going overboard and making sure our daughters value what is on the inside and not get consumed with looks. I just don't want to see little 5 year-olds in halter tops, hot pink lipstick and posing for pictures like they are about to get on stage to hit the pole (and yes I do see these kind of pictures on people's family Facebook pages).
How can we give our daughters Princesses without going overboard?
-Continue to read all princess stories like Cinderella, Snow-White, Sleeping Beauty! They are classics for sure, but when they are old enough to understand, explain in your own words that (as we all know) in real life women aren't helpless and we are not always going to have a Prince come in and save the day :)
-To provide toys that are not ALL pink. Regular primary colored blocks, musical toy instruments, farm animals, etc. And encourage her to build forts for her princess dolls and use her blocks to build the castles.
-As for the makeup, nail painting and bling, you can limit some of it for very special occasions so they know it is a treat and not something a girl needs ALL THE TIME to make herself beautiful. That way she knows that these things are not required to make yourself beautiful. Use your limit setting that I posted here and choice giving.
And lastly, I think we should not sweat the small stuff as parents of little girls! I still call my daughter 'my princess girl' and will one day give her a tiara to play with and princess dress up clothes. But I will also make sure she has other play themes to even it out, like playing Ms. Doctor, grocery store, Ms. Fix-it, artist, etc.