Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches From The Frontlines


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.  
Spy-Gear Spy Night Scope
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.)
Creative-Education Hooded Princess Cape

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.    

01b copy

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.

 

 

The Cumulative Effect of Insignificant Decisions Cost Us Big Time

R.cumulative.effect.of.decisions.woman.question.marks.thinking

In a New York Times opinion piece, "Mothers in the Work Force," Jennifer Glass offers up an all-too-common way that women self-sabotage by failing to map out if-then scenarios before making decisions that seem relatively insignificant in insolation

"Focus[ing] on enabling mothers to choose between homemaking and paid work without acknowledging the long-term economic costs of women withdrawing from the labor force for themselves and their families.

"Despite the seeming advantages of having a full-time parent at home in the short run, the risks of divorce or future spousal unemployment are strong enough that any woman who chooses to be a stay-at-home mother risks her family’s future well-being.

"Not to mention her own loss of Social Security and pension income, career growth in income and responsibility if she had remained employed, and the diverse social networks that help both children and parents with practical and emotional assistance."


In Ambition Is Not A Dirty Word, I talk about the cumulative effect of incorrectly weighing decisions and how it costs women is ways we never counted on: 

In cognitive therapy, there's the well-known concept in cognitive therapy of seemingly insignificant decisions: you make one decision after another and they add up to a huge decision

So, for example, if you decide,

“Oh, I’m not going to negotiate that salary they offered because it seems fine—and besides, I don’t like to negotiate.”

Or, “Sure, I’ll cut my rate for that client; it’s better than risking losing the project.”

Or, “I have no idea what my value proposition commands in the marketplace in terms of salary, but I don’t have the time or luxury right now of finding out; I’ll get around to it later.” 

Or, "I'm going to off-ramp and be a stay-at-home mom for a while. It's best for my children, we can afford it, and then I won't have to worry about work-life balance so much. I'll pick up where I left off later."

 

All these decisions may seem relatively unimportant in isolation. But where making more money is concerned, the pattern pretty much adds up to this: 

 I’m not going to bother earning what I’m worth or caring about making more money, at least not for now. But “now” adds up;  you end up selling yourself short in a huge way—today, and over the course of your lifetime. 

 

Every choice has consequences—pros and cons. 

But, as ambitious women, just how do we go about weighing our choices in a mindful, conscious way—particularly in light of the fact that we are given very little support for doing so?

How do we choose correctly when we aren’t encouraged to think today about our futures?

How do we avoid setting ourselves up for pain and suffering when we aren’t taught to try and calculate very specific if/then scenarios:

If I make this choice now, and things go as planned, how will my life be affected? 

If this or that unexpected thing happens, then where would that leave me?

What would my options be then?

And if I thoroughly consider and analyze real, potential future outcomes, do I still feel comfortable right now making this choice? 

How do you approach these decisions in your own life?

Do Working Moms Raise Sons Who Cheat?

IStock_kid A British psychiatrist has concluded that hiring a nanny to care for your infant boy could turn him into a serial womanizer. Why? Because you have conditioned him, from the earliest age, to the comfort and solace of “the other woman."

Yet one more example of why so many ambitious women simultaneously crave and fear our ambitious goals.

Wouldn’t it be great if women could ignore what our culture thinks about high-achieving women and eliminate the fear part of our ambition equation? Just imagine how that would change our perspective.

Continue reading "Do Working Moms Raise Sons Who Cheat? " »

How to Start Your Own Business While Working Full-Time For Someone Else

Dear Debra: I’m dying to start a small business. How can I find time to set myself up as an entrepreneur while working 9-5 for someone else?

Claim two hours a day for start-up activities. One is for creative, strategic, hard planning—activities that require your brain to be fully awake and fired up. The second hour is for the roll-up-your-sleeves, boring, rote grunt work that doesn’t call for mental alertness or focus—just time. Every one of us can find two otherwise wasted hours, no matter what our work and life situation.

Continue reading "How to Start Your Own Business While Working Full-Time For Someone Else" »

Finding Fulfillment Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Dear Debra: I’m working full-time while finishing an advanced degree. My company is paying for grad school, so taking advantage of that benefit is smart. But I’m spending way less time than I’d like with my ten-year-old. My husband works from home and is happy doing most of the carpooling, play dates, and homework. Working crazy hours is temporary and will benefit us long-term, but still I feel like a shitty mom and wife.

Don’t beat yourself up for not having a perfectly balanced work and home life, all at the same time. Write this down on note cards: Life is long.

Continue reading "Finding Fulfillment Between a Rock and a Hard Place" »

Balance or Not, You are Normal

Dear Debra: I ordered pizza for dinner for my kids twice this week-and last; the house is a wreck, I brought home a mountain of work last weekend and barely made my daughter's school play.  What's wrong with me?  Does everyone else have their act together?

Here's the truth that no one tells us, especially glib work-life balance evangelists: Once you get out into the world of work (and even before that-in college, for example) you should just expect that your day-to-day life simply isn't always going to flow smoothly.

Continue reading "Balance or Not, You are Normal" »

Balance Is Bunk: Either/Or Is False Choice for Women

Dear Debra: I'm 29.  My husband and I have an amazing 3-year-old.  I've worked part-time since he was born.  Now, not only do we need my full-time income, I'm dying to dive back into my career.  But I feel guilty, like I'm abandoning my son.  Plus, we want another baby someday.  I just can't see how to balance ambition and mothering

Continue reading "Balance Is Bunk: Either/Or Is False Choice for Women" »

Working Moms Look Back with Mixed Emotions

By Maya Dollarhide Lucca. CNN.com. July 14, 2008

  • Story Highlights
  • Decision for moms to work or stay home is fiercely debated, rarely easy
  • Psychiatrist: Children who are put in day care feel a real loss
  • Author Dr. Debra Condren: Keeping yourself from your own ambitions can be "soul destroying"

Continue reading " Working Moms Look Back with Mixed Emotions" »

Is It Honorable For Women To Give Up Their Ambition? Part II: Let's Get Real

 

When it “sunk in that mainstream schools shortchanged her severely autistic son”, Amy, 39, closed her thriving medical practice to help start charter school. For a long time, it seemed to be working out. “Then I found my husband in bed with a woman on the school committee. We went through a horrific divorce. I had to try to revive my career; at 49, it’s finally starting to take off again. But at my age, with everything I had to deal with, it was f_­­_g hard.” 

 

What If? Could this be you?

Continue reading "Is It Honorable For Women To Give Up Their Ambition? Part II: Let's Get Real" »

Is It Honorable For Women To Give Up Their Dreams?

Debra: You preach ambition for women. Aren’t you forgetting something? What about life balance? Mothering? –32, with better values than “just career”

Say your ambition is to be a great wife, mother, friend, or fair-minded coworker who refuses on moral grounds to educate herself about office politics. That doesn’t bother you, does it? No, because that’s socially sanctioned ambition. You’ll likely regard the following women as having chosen “honorable ambition”.

Continue reading "Is It Honorable For Women To Give Up Their Dreams?" »

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I’m all about creating ways for ambitious women to share our stories with each other.

I am a business psychologist, researcher, author, executive coach, and career advisor. I lead workshops and lecture frequently on women’s need to embrace our ambition. I founded the Women’s Business Alliance, a motivational think tank for more than 2,500 women. For more details, see my about page.

I’d love to hear your story. Ambitious women owe it to ourselves—and the world—to make the contribution we were born to make. Let’s keep the dialogue flowing.

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