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
(“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.



Your Money - Financial Advice by Women for Women -

24money-ready-articleInline Money advice is universal, but some issues affect more women than men. Experts also say women tend to be less knowledgable and confident about finances.

Continue reading "Your Money - Financial Advice by Women for Women -" »

'Enlightened Sexism' in Media Obscures Reality

9780805083262 In her latest book, Susan J. Douglas finds the treatment of women on TV is putting a haze over young women's awareness of sex discrimination. In real life, writers at Newsweek and NPR and business researchers are speaking out.

(WOMENSENEWS)--American women turn on the TV to prime-time dramas and see powerful mature women everywhere.

They are surgeons on "Grey's Anatomy," district attorneys on "Law and Order" and high-powered cops, lawyers and politicians. Katie Couric and Diane Sawyer anchor the newscast, often spotlighting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's state visits. Television has even seen female presidents of the United States, something yet to be achieved in reality: Cherry Jones on "24" and Geena Davis on the short-lived "Commander-in-Chief."

Isn't that just so empowering?

No, says Susan J. Douglas in "Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message That Feminism's Work Is Done," published by Henry Holt this month. Why?

Continue reading "'Enlightened Sexism' in Media Obscures Reality" »

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? " »

7 Things Rich Authors Know and Do Differently Than Poor Authors

Stevenew Many of my coaching clients, colleagues, and friends ask me why some authors make a fortune while so many others with equally good – or better (let’s be honest) – books always seem to struggle financially.

Many of us who are authors (published, or not yet) would like to make a whole lot more from our own non-fiction book(s) – maybe even enough to go full-time – without wasted time, work, emotional energy, or chasing false promises and throwing away money that ends up giving us a rotten return on our investment.

After working with 9,300+ authors over the last 20 years, my trusted advisor and colleague Steve Harrison, founder of the  Radio-TV Interview Report and the Million Dollar Author Club,  has learned this: Rich authors know and do seven key things differently than poor authors.

I invite you to join Steve for a free 75-minute information-packed telephone seminar on Thursday, April 15 (offered at two different times for your convenience) during which he'll share those seven key things with you. Click here to register now at no cost.

Anyone who works with me knows that I am extremely selective about recommending resources. I personally have studied (and studied and studied…) -- and implemented (implementing is key, after all!) -- Steve’s information over and over again to make my book, Ambition Is Not A Dirty Word: A Woman’s Guide To Earning Her Worth and Achieving Her Dreams  (Random House / Broadway) a bestseller. Knowing first hand the value of Steve’s information, I strongly encourage you to take advantage of this 75-minute
complimentary seminar.

What you’ll learn on this call will be vitally important information about publishing, how to avoid needless mistakes and stop wasting your precious time and money while writing and and promoting your book(s), and nuts-and-bolts advice about how to achieve MUCH more success and fulfillment as an author. Click here for more details about what you'll learn:

Continue reading "7 Things Rich Authors Know and Do Differently Than Poor Authors" »

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" »

Power Marketing Tips

1. Use speed coaching to give prospective clients a taste of why to hire you.  At your business conference vendor table, display a professionally printed sign: "Complimentary 5-Minute Speed Coaching" plus your name, logo, and expertise (e.g., "How to Get Media Attention-Fast!").  Spend five minutes with each person, answering one burning question.  Also jot down your advice on the back of your business card.  Warmly invite them to schedule an appointment and hand them the card.

2. Use promotional magnets.  A C.P.A. could create a Save the Date magnet with April 15th circled, plus three brief tips for staying on top of taxes, including "Call today to schedule an appointment with me; plan ahead!"

3. Offer information-packed telephone seminars to clients and folks who ask to receive your newsletters.  Rent an inexpensive bridge line (think giant conference call).  Participants simply call, sit back, and enjoy your expert advice and Q & A.

4. Factor gold-standard information product creation into your long-term business strategy.  Record your seminars and workshops.  Turn them into Cds, MP3s, and transcripts.  Sell these high-quality products or use as marketing giveaways.

5. Pick up the phone today and brainstorm with your informal advisory board.  A brain exchange of creativity is free, fun, and productive for everyone involved.  Breaking isolation and sharing ideas prompts inspiration.


Dr. Debra Condren wrote the bestselling book, Ambition Is Not A Dirty Word: A Woman’s Guide to Earning Her Worth and Achieving Her Dreams. Debra is a career and executive coach, speaker, and columnist. Read her advice at:


I'm traveling through the Little Rock, Arkansas airport hours after meeting in New York with a group of women to talk Hillary and women and ambition. Exiting security, the first thing I see, through the airport bookstore's window, is a large black and white poster of a photograph of Hillary, Bill, and Chelsea walking up onto a podium. The caption reads:

"Get Ready to Pary Like It's 1992".

Don't put on your party shoes just yet. There's still a hill to climb. And not just over substantive differences between candidates. Hillary's up against the same old story: it's tough being a working woman--and her campaign proves it, say female execs. They may or may not back her, but successful city women say  Clinton's travails show what they're up against.

Tory Johnson, CEO, Women For Hire, workplace contribitor on "Good Morning America" and anchor of "Home Work" on ABC News Now called a breakfast meeting to talk about what successful working women are saying about Hillary Clinton. Tory's resulting article was originally published in the New York Post, February 25, 2008 and is reprinted with permission below.

Nypost22508_5SISTER ACT: Tory Johnson (center) talking Hillary and careers with (from left to right) career coach and business psychologist Debra Condren, Working Mother Media CEO Carol Evans, attorney Sara Newman and Hyperion Books publisher Ellen Archer.

Guest post by Tory Johnson, CEO, Women For Hire.

LOVE her or hate her, win or lose, successful working women are talking about Hillary Clinton.

But it's not her politics that have them fired up. What getting under their skin is a laundry list of gender-nuanced issues brought to the fore by  Clinton's run for the ultimate corner office.


Neither Too Nice Nor Bitchy––Ambitious With Integrity: Working Women's New Big Thing

by Jo Keroes

Cross-posted from Mommy Track'd:
The Working Mother's Guide to Managed Chaos.

One of the hottest books around right now is Debra Condren’s provocatively titled amBITCHous.

It’s been reviewed in the Style section of the Sunday New York Times and Condren has just begun an advice column/blog on Huffington Post, one of the site’s Fearless Voices. Not just another gimmick, amBITCHous issues a serious call to working women: instead of seeing ambition as something to be ashamed of or to conceal, we should claim it as a virtue, cultivate it and use it to our advantage. She wants us to recognize that our careers are as important as our children, our intimate partnerships and our friends, and that for a woman to shortchange her ambition is every bit as damaging to her as shortchanging her commitment to her family would be.

But she’s not advocating bitchiness at all. Sitting prominently in the middle of a bright red cover, the title is deliberately provocative, designed to sell books, for Debra quite rightly practices what she preaches, which is that we have a right to go after what we want and to get the recognition we deserve. But she also preaches how to go about it with integrity and without disabling guilt. Her tone is tough – among the amBITCHous rules that form the center of the book are “Make ‘em pay” and “Disable Detractors” – and that may alienate some, but this is a book worth sticking with, for the author also understands what it means to try to “live daily with the dialectical tension of loving your work every bit as much as your children and family.

Nineteen seventies feminist assertiveness training taught women to “go for it,” that we had a right to compete with men – that we could practice law, perform surgery, run big businesses. Condren looks around and sees that the “women can have it all” mantra has worked against us, for it’s asked that we define what “it” is. “Now,” she says, “it’s not the killer job and the great home life; it’s balancing the two, which, practically speaking, means less of each: women should be just thrilled to have a not-ideal job and a not-ideal life as long as they feel the two are balanced.” Instead of balance - “balance is bunk,” she pronounces - Condren argues for harmony, for integrating our ambition into the rest of our lives, making it just as important, not less, than the rest of our priorities. Her 21st century version of assertiveness training offers a host of examples from real women in various professions along with an array of very practical, concrete scenarios and strategies for “unabashedly going after your dreams” without sacrificing your family or your friends. She shows how not to let others take credit for your work; how not to be shy about asking to be paid what you’re worth; how to prevent someone from sabotaging your success; how to lead a team that likes and respects you; why to seek professional advice and be willing to pay for it. In an excellent final chapter, she offers a plan for sustaining our ambitions in the face of a complicated life. Life is long, she reminds us, and since what works for us now might not work next year, each of us has to keep working out our comfort zones from one phase of our life to the next. If balance isn’t normal – “imbalance is,” says Condren - then we need to expect that, accept it and live accordingly, without ever apologizing for the ambition that makes us who we are.

Jo Keroes, a Professor of English at San Francisco State University for more than 25 years, is the author of Tales Out of School, Images of Teachers in Film and Fiction, and the mother of 2 daughters including Amy Keroes, Founder & CEO of MommyTrack'

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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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