Cinderella Ate My Daughter – so what are we going to do about it?

Cinderella Ate My DaughterIf you have daughters, if you know daughters, if you have ever bought a
single Disney Princess gift for someone else’s daughters, you simply
must read Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches From the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture.

(Quick! Before you bypass the art supplies and mindlessly reach for a Tinkerbell hand mirror at the toy store.)

Be assured this is not some dogmatic, finger-wagging tome about
how Ariel and Barbie are ruining our world. Using her own experiences as
a feminist mother trying to come to terms with a tiara-happy daughter
(I can relate!), Orenstein’s book is part lesson in gender politics, part fascinating marketing case study,
and part part laugh-out-loud conversation with your very clever friend
over coffee who just happens to be grappling with the same issues you
are right now.

In Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Orenstein takes you through the history of licensed marketing to girls,
back to the Shirley Temple days, then hitting on milestones like the
introduction of Barbie; the pseudo-empowerment of the Spice Girls; the
oversexualized evil (my word) that is Bratz and all their copycatz and
wannabeez; and finally, today’s world of Hanna Montana, American Girl
Doll, and of course, Disney Princesses.

In other words, want to know how the heck we got to a place where 5
year-olds are wearing navel-baring shirts with double entendres on them? This book should help.

I don’t agree with every opinion–I happen to be a Tiana
fan–but I do agree with about 98% of it, including Orenstein’s main
point: not that princesses are bad per se, but that our girls hardly
have a choice these days what with the nationwide “explosion of pink.”

What’s interesting about this book is that it doesn’t set out to offer
concrete solutions, but to offer hope; my net takeaway is that when we arm
ourselves with knowledge and real media savvy, we can help navigate our
daughters’ worlds a little better. And more importantly, we can offer our
girls a healthy, necessary counterbalance to all the commercial messages, so we can more positively influence
their emotional development, self-esteem, and even chances for success
in life.

In other words, don’t let your child’s values be solely determined by
marketers with warehouses full of sparkly crap to sell. Who isn’t down
with that?

Cinderella Ate My Daughter is not a “here’s what you should do” book, but rather, a
“hey…let’s figure out what we can do” book. And I really appreciate that kind of a
thought starter.

Of course the great irony of it all: The book jacket is covered in pink
and sparkles. Enough so, that my 3 year-old daughter picked it up and
said, “oooohhh…Mommy…can we read this tonight?”

Peggy? Let’s get coffee. Pencil in six hours or so.   –Liz

Find Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein online from our affiliate Amazon

Cool Mom Staff

We spend our time looking for cool stuff so you don't have to. Hope this one fits the bill.


  • Ooh, can’t wait to read this one! Just put it on hold at my local library. I have no idea how I managed to have a daughter that loves all things sparkly and pink, but she is who she is.

    As long as she keeps playing with trucks and trains, digging in dirt, and running and jumping in that princess dress I think we’ll be ok, but what do I know? She is only 2.

  • I’m reading this now. It’s taking me a long time because I keep getting so aggravated I have to take breaks. I am a huge Peggy Orenstein fan…it’s the subject matter that gives me agita.

  • Reply May 9, 2011


    Peggy was featured on an episode of the Diane Rehm Show fairly recently. I am a dad of boys but was definitely fascinated by this topic.

    Here is a link to the story (audio) and transcript for those interested:

  • Reply May 10, 2011


    Can’t wait to read it! I happen to love all things pink and girlie girl, but I agree that girls grow up in this culture too fast.

    I think an important component is for Dads (or Grandads, or Uncles, or Godfathers or… you get the picture) to be involved with their daughter’s interests. My 3yo loves her dresses and sparkly shoes and dolls, but she also loves to drive radio-controlled cars and go fishing with her Daddy. Balance is key.

  • Reply June 3, 2011

    Allison K

    Picked this up at the library, based on your recommendation. Yes, every parent of little girls should read it! Great historical information about why things are the way they are. Amazing how much influence marketing has on our kids!

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