Worried Cinderella Will Eat Your Daughter?

One mom did, and embarked on a personal campaign against girlie-girl culture

Peggy Orenstein's breaking point happened at the dentist's office. When the doctor turned to her then-3-year-old daughter and asked, "Would you like to sit in my special princess throne so I can sparkle your teeth?" Orenstein snapped.

"Oh, for God's sake!" she admits to crying out, "Do you have a princess drill too?"

It wasn't the dentist's fault, really; more of a reaction to the princess- and pink-obsessed culture that had Orenstein stewing for some time. And after the responses of relief (and occasional contempt) to a piece she wrote for The New York Times, she knew she was on to something. So she penned Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture as a rallying cry for parents conflicted over the seemingly premature sexualization of our daughters. She recently took spoke with iVillage about the book, playtime alternatives and what she thinks of real-life princess Kate Middleton.

You've been doing a lot of publicity. Are you experiencing a backlash a la Tiger Mother, with people suggesting you hate princesses?

Nobody who says that has actually read even the flap copy! I've gotten some tweets like "Cinderella is fun!" I got something on Facebook on my fan page that said, "There’s nothing wrong with playing with dolls!"

But I've been stunned and overwhelmed by the other direction -- by how many people feel like I've touched a nerve, and that they've been wrestling with this culture that is pushing girls to define themselves through beauty and play-sexiness at ever-younger ages. It's been really gratifying -- although a little scary -- to find out how many mothers in particular, but fathers too, are really concerned and at wit's end about how to help their daughter navigate through all this and have a healthy sense of body and sexuality and not grow up to be some Kardashian or Paris Hilton.

What sparked the idea for the book?

I originally just wanted to find out what the princess thing was about. I wasn't necessarily against it. I thought, "Is this protecting girls from premature sexualization or is it priming them for it?" I think it does actually start to encourage girls onto a path of defining themselves from the outside, of defining themselves through appearance and ultimately, a very narrow vision of appearance -- not just the fairest of them all, but the hottest of them all -- and that that message of pink-innocence-fun, this-is-just what-girls-do pretty quickly becomes something else.

Can you teach a young girl to be skeptical of girlie-girl culture?

That's why I gave the book that sort of funny, crazy title. I wanted to indicate that you have to fight fun with fun. On one hand, I said no and sometimes saying no was really hard. We did not have anything with Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty… Some of the things infiltrated, but we really kept it to a minimum and sometimes that really bummed her out. Not overindulging in it is step one, but that said, what I suddenly recognized as I was parenting was that you cannot convince your daughter she has more choices by constantly saying no to her. So you actually have to do the legwork -- and I hate to say it because I know how busy everyone is -- to find fun alternatives.

Like what?

NEXT PAGE >>

Like this? Want more?
preview
Connect with Us
Follow Our Pins

Yummy recipes, DIY projects, home decor, fashion and more curated by iVillage staffers.

Follow Our Tweets

The very dirty truth about fashion internships... DUN DUN @srslytheshow http://t.co/wfewf

On Instagram

Behind-the-scenes pics from iVillage.

Best of the Web