This article reprinted from the Debra Condren Weblog. The original article can be found online:
© 2009, Debra Condren
Cinderella Will NOT Eat My Goddaughter, My Nieces--or
My Sons or Nephews. Are You With Me? Or With Cindy?
"There is ample evidence that the more mainstream media girls consume,
the more they partake in the media junk culture, the more importance they
place on being pretty and sexy, and a ream of studies show that teenage girls
and college students who hold conventional beliefs about beauty and femininity,
especially those that emphasize beauty and pleasing behavior – are less ambitious,
and more likely to be depressed and to make poor sexual choices (including not
requiring their partners to wear condoms) than their peers. That’s terrifying."
-Peggy Orenstein, speaking with me on AMBITION Radio
Yesterday was my goddaughter's 6-year-old birthday.
I spent a ton of time in recent weeks doing research on great books, toys, and
gifts to shower her with on her special day. As I was perusing sites like eBeanStalk.com
(“Expert-Selected Toys Matched to a Child’s Development”), I was not at all surprised –
but was annoyed and disappointed – to find categories by gender.
Boys Versus Girls: Why?
Searching through “Toys for 6 Year Old Girls” and “Toys for 6 Year Old Boys” yielded
very different recommendations.
A super cool-looking “Spy Night Scope,” a “Shrinky Dinks Insects” kit, and an “MLB Multi-Position
Batting Tee” were served up for the boys.
A “Brain Noodles – Princess & Frog Kit” (WT? This hurts my brain on so many levels), a
“Shrinky Dinks Jewelry” kit, and a “Paint Your Own Bathroom Set” were among the top
recommended picks for girls. There was even a “Hooded Princess Cape” set, complete
with a silver magic wand and the caption, “Who’s afraid of the big, bad wolf?” categorized
under – get this – “Fun Learning, Child Development, Educational Toys” for girls. (Not to
mention, last time I checked, Little Red Riding Hood’s cape was RED, not pink, but I digress.)
The Socially Sanctioned Message is Clear
Painting your own ceramic bathroom set, or fantasizing about kissing the right frog to become a
princess – and making jewelry for that encounter – is SO much more fun than swinging a bat, or
playing dark-of-the-night spy, or crafting cool insects – IF you’re a girl. (The rules of the world
are different for boys.)
The Dark Side of Pink and Pretty
Searching for great gifts for my young goddaughter's impending birthday, I was reminded
of a recent AMBITION Is Not A Dirty Word Radio show I did with an old friend and colleague from
my San Francisco years, Peggy Orenstein, author of the New York Times bestseller,
Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of The New Girlie-Girl Culture.
Peggy Orenstein is an acclaimed journalist and author of the groundbreaking bestseller Schoolgirls
who, as a new mother, was blindsided by the persistent ultra-feminine messages being sent to a
new generation of little girls—from endless permutations of pink to pressures to be “a hot tot” and
a “spoiled brat princess.”
When 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, 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.
Fight For A Focus on Girls' Sense of Self from The Inside
What does it do to girls’ ambition to grow up in a culture that pressures them, from a
very young age, to define their sense of self according to a junk culture’s ideals and from
the outside in, rather than from the inside? Whether you're shopping for books or toys,
or, channel surfing. are slapped with a preview of "Toddlers and Tiaras" or "Jersey Shore,"
the junk culture assaults and threatens to make you/us feel helpless to do anything to force
a course correction.
We do not have to stand helplessly by, shaking our heads at what's out there: on television,
social media, in print, in stores, being served up by the junk culture. We can spot, confront,
interpret, and defy the pernicious messages flooding our kids. We can help them reclaim
what it means to grow up in a meaningful way with an eye on making the contribution
they were born to make -- according to what matters to them as individuals, rather than
being distracted or derailed by the junk culture. (Enough already.)
But we must be conscious of socially sanctioned cultural messages and assumptions,
swirling about us, mindlesslessly sucking in us and our children.
Wake-Up Call – And What To Do About It, Starting Today
My AMBITION Radio show with Peggy Orenstein reveals the dark side of pink and pretty in
a wake-up call to parents: The rise of the girlie girl is not that innocent. Grab a glass of
pink lemonade and tune in to hear Peg and I discuss why the rise of the girlie girl
is not that innocent.
Of equal importance , we talk about practical, simple – even fun! (we’re not talking going
Mommie Militant here) – things you can do in your and your kids’ everyday lives to empower,
rather than limit, how your children shape their identities and dreams to ambitiously navigate
through this, our junk culture, according to their own informed sensibilities.
Happy Birthday Little Sister Sledge,
from your Big Sister Sledge Auntie. I’m thrilled that you love your new Jr. Telescope Set,
your binoculars, and your great new hardcover books (adding to your library being one of
our celebratory rituals and holiday traditions) – none of which are about princesses kissing
frogs. Your mom and I are on the front lines with you. We are family.
I invite you to weigh in below. Are you with Cinderella? Or will you take a stand to protect
YOUR daughter (and nieces and goddaughters and, even your sons and young males in your
life) from the junk culture that dumbs down girls' sense of selves and expectations?
Nothing less than our daughters' identities and their futures is on the line.