The New York Times best selling book about the new girlie-girl culture called [U]Cinderella Ate my daughter[/U] by Peggy Orenstein made it to the top of my summer reading pile. Subtitled “Dispatches from the front lines of the new girlie-girl culture” it’s a manifesto of princesses, pink and why our girls have become hyper-feminine. It was an interesting time for me to be reading this. I have a 3 year old niece that I’m hanging with who is Dora mad, embracing the princess movement and is dressed in rose pastels from head to toe. My own 10 year old daughter is already in the tween stage of urban clothes, cool earrings and the colour green. However she feeds her cousin into the princess obsession.
Orenstein writes exceptionally well. She’s funny, clear and uses specific examples from her own young daughter. She writes about the phenomenon of the Disney Princesses in her interview with Disney executive Andy Mooney. He decided to market the princesses as an entity after watching young girls in homemade princess dresses at a showing of Disney on Ice. Those brands now rake in 4 billion dollars a year. And it shows no sign of slowing down. At a trip to Epcot (the least princess of the theme parks) a mere six weeks ago in Florida I was nearly run over by little girls in sequins getting between me and Pochahontas.
And with princess Kate (or the new Duchess of Cambridge) visiting Ottawa this week it feeds into the culture of special, pretty and privileged. The couple was at Rideau Hall (home of the Canadian Governor General) where a number of my friends and colleagues went to see the future King and his new bride. It seems 40 year old women have an obsession with Royalty too. In complementing a young girl on her flouncy, pink dress the child in question turned to Kate and stated “I’m glad you like it and think it is the right dress as I’m going to be a princess too”.
You can’t talk about socializing girls to like pink without opening the nature/nurture debate even a little. Orenstein points out that there are innate differences. Any parent who has had their son make a gun out of a stick or watch their daughter pretending to change the diaper of her stuffed dog knows that there is something inbred about toy preferences. The 2002 study showed that male and female monkeys will pick up specific gender toys time and time again if given the opportunity. Orenstein makes her most compelling argument about encouraging inter gender friendships. Those inter gender friendships help girls cope when they are involved in romantic relationships later in life. it also helps expand her horizons.
“A little girl who only plays with girls and learns gender behaviour and interaction of little girls…well, what they do together is limited. Same with little boys”. If you can encourage your daughter to be all she can be – even through the pink and sparkly stage it can help her come out the other side and find her way in an increasingly sexualized and mature world. Despite our desires to keep our daughters innocent and sweet as long as possible.