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How Peggy Orenstein’s ‘Cinderella Ate My Daughter’ can help SWSG mentors

Posted by Cat Scott Feb 2, 2011

I recently read Peggy Orenstein’s book “Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Girlie-Girl Culture,” not only because the title intrigued me, but also because I was hoping to understand more about the young girls I work with through SWSG. Orenstein brings up numerous good points about the culture surrounding young girls today from Disney princesses to Barbie and Bratz dolls, from Miley Cyrus to makeover parties. What Orenstein is really focused on, however, is how to raise strong girls in an overwhelmingly pink world that bombards girls with messages about looking beautiful and having the right clothes. Sounds a little like our mission, huh? SWSG focuses on this same thing, only we try to combine girlie-girl elements with strong women in history.

A couple great points I found in the book:

  • Orenstein talks about how the 1990’s reclaiming of the female body has turned into a blessing and a curse for young girls today. “Even as new educational and professional opportunities unfurl before my daughter and her peers, so does that path that encourages them to equate identity with image, self-expression with appearance, femininity with performance, pleasure with pleasing, and sexuality with sexualization,” Orenstein writes.
  • Young girls and boys were asked to take a test filling in the blanks of “If I were a [blank], I’d [blank] to the store in Orenstein’s daughter’s class. The boys had an entire range of things they’d become — firemen, spiders, puppies, athletes, tigers and more. Girls fell into exactly four camps — princesses, fairies, butterflies and ballerinas. What does that say about young girls’ imagination today?
  • The princess phenomenon that Orenstein focuses on breeds distrust among young girls, or as she so eloquently puts it, “God forbid Snow White should give Sleeping Beauty a little support.”
  • Orenstein does not want her daughter to ignore all the girls’ toys out there because she doesn’t want her daughter to see being a girl, or how our culture perceives girls, as being a bad thing. She just doesn’t want her to neglect the many opportunities she might miss by only playing princess. One scientist advocates “bringing out the full spectrum of emotional and cognitive abilities in any individual.”
  • She finally gets to the girls SWSG serves towards the end of the book in discussing the Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus disparity. “Pink-and-pretty had been marketed to parents as preschoolers as evidence of their innocence…for their older sisters, the pitch was changing: looking hot or at least hot-esque.”

So how does this apply to SWSG? Well, I’ve heard before that an organization targeting 9-11 year-old girls shouldn’t use the color pink in its logo, because, well, what if some girls don’t like pink? We totally respect when our girls don’t like pink, and they are by no means required to. However, we do want to redirect the associations that have come from girls and pink from “girls who like pink are only obsessed with their appearance” to “girls who like pink are also strong, intelligent women who are creative and proud.” Our girls generally rock as well. I really think we try to find that balance that Orenstein is talking about between being a girlie-girl and become a strong woman.

We also try to move pink away from these associations with the body. Since when did liking pink become synonymous with being hot? While all advertising and media targets our tweens to be older faster and sexier before they’ve even hit puberty, we just want them to enjoy being girls. Those girls might like pink, and they might not; what we ask is that they learn to like each other and strive to be strong women. I mean, a lot of mentors love pink, and we do our best everyday to be strong women for our girls.

Featured Image courtesy of peggyorenstein.com

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