I’ve been reading Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein. In some ways it’s an easy read; her style is engaging, filled with anecdotes, information and statistics she’s gathered in her research, and just enough wry humor.
In other ways it’s uncomfortable reading for me — not the topic, which is the way our daughters are being shaped by the culture, or the sexual references that sprinkle the book (not surprisingly, as it is a book about our culture, and our culture is not just sprinkled with such references, more like heavily frosted with sprinkles on top) — but because we are somewhat different in our approach to life. Just one example: our approach to healthy sexuality. She expresses hopes that her daughter will experience premarital sex. Seek it out, even. Explore it, before settling down to a committed relationship. (I think she even used the term marriage, though I’ve lost the page marker.)
We agree on at least one point: We’re mothers, trying to guide our daughters on their journey to adulthood, wanting what’s best for them, what will make them strong, individual (able to think for themselves), fulfilled women doing what they love, making wise choices, and dare I say, making their corner of the world a better place. (We agree on a lot more points; we find many of the same things appalling, and we’ve made a number of the same choices in raising our daughters, even though we come from opposite worldview corners. However, the touchstone for this post is that we are both concerned moms.)
It’s been a sometimes dizzying tour of the Princess culture, pinkishness (I didn’t know that “pink” and “blue” as baby colors came about in the early 1900, and that “pink” started out as a masculine color), advertising and marketing, bewildering choices, femininity and feminism, and, where I’m currently reading, social media.
In the latest chapter (I still have a few pages to go) I stumbled across a real gem, succinct enough to share, and nicely summing up the previous 181 pages:
We have only so much control over the images and products to which they are exposed, and even that will diminish over time. It is strategic, then — absolutely vital — to think through our own values and limits early, to consider what we approve or disapprove of and why.
I alternate between wanting to read this with our daughters, to drawing back when I stumble over an explicit term. What I may end up doing is reading parts aloud to them. I’m not comfortable just handing this book over to our teens, though the message in the book is definitely worth pondering. How to raise our daughters in this culture that would trivialize them, tying their identity to shallow surface things: how they look, what they buy? That is the question.