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Cinderella Ate My Daughter – Part 1

Cinderella Ate My Daughter Book Image

Green Mom, a mom of 2 boys, recently recommended this book to Commuter Mom and I who both have preschoolers currently enmeshed in the “girlie-girl” culture. I have been looking for a new genre of book and this one fit the bill. I downloaded it this weekend to my Kindle and read the first few pages.

I stopped halfway through the first chapter because I wanted to record my thoughts on the subject before I delved into Peggy Orenstein’s research and findings. So, here we go…

Admittedly, I was less than happy when my daughter started on the princess thing around 2.5 years. It wasn’t because of the girlie-ness of it more than the commercial aspect. She initially was introduced to the princesses on her pull-ups and it didn’t take long before she knew every Disney princess name and corresponding dress color. Her interest continued to grow until she amassed a mini-arsenal of dress-up clothes, princess crowns, and sparkly everything. Around the same time – age 3 – she began dressing herself and out went the cute jeans and pants and in came the frilly tutus and dresses-dresses-dresses. My husband and I rolled our eyes but never let on – we wanted her to experiment with different interests and develop the independence that comes with making these early decisions. And secretly, this lifelong tomboy (and longtime fan of Ani DiFranco) loved that she had a daughter who liked having her nails painted in an array of pastels, wore tutus to school, and loved to watch Project Runway with me (though I only let her watch the runway part due to the sometimes iffy language).

As part of a family of strong-willed women I grew up in a pretty much feminist household. Although I purposely haven’t read any reviews or blogs about the book, I imagine that there are people who sit on both sides of the issue on how young girls are impacted or not by this marketing phenomenon. Here is what I have to say (at this moment!)…

  • Honestly, I never gave the phase too much thought. I know it’s a phase and will eventually be replaced by another one.
  • I don’t think there is anything wrong with the princess “stuff” if kept in check by parents. Case in point, Olivia wanted to be Cinderella for Halloween 2 years ago. Fine by us. My husband went out and bought a 3T sized costume. When we took it out of its packaging, it went up to her mid-thigh. Can you say inappropriate?!? We insisted on leggings.
  • I think it’s okay to let children express their individuality (or, in this case, what seems like lack of individuality) as long as we can provide life experiences that expose them to all sorts of people, places and things. And I think this last point makes all the difference.

One and a half years later and I already see the princess phase waning. Now, she enjoys Diego and Dino Dan as much as Strawberry Shortcake. She goes hiking in her tutu and hiking boots (not sparkly!). She enjoyed her soccer class as much as her ballet class. Her wardrobe now includes pants again (not just leggings!). Will she always be our little princess? You betcha! But we know it won’t define her.

These are my thoughts for now – officially recorded. I’ll post as I read through the book. Let me know your thoughts or go grab a copy and read along with me!


  1. Meg February 16, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    I actually saw Peggy Orenstein speak on this topic the day that the book was released. She spoke to a small group on women in my community and read a chapter or two. As the mom of 2 girls under the age of 4, I expected to walk away from the talk with a feeling one way or another about the princess culture – love it or hate it. But like you, I don’t feel too strongly either way right now. My older daughter is the girliest of girls but it manifests itself in her wardrobe and the way she decorates her bedroom (ALL PINK!), but she has little interest in Disney princesses to date.
    The one thing Peggy Orenstein did point out that caused me some concern is that the princess culture is the gateway to other, more dangerous interests. Once girls get over the princess thing, she finds they move on to the BRATZ dolls and other scary/sexy images I can’t name because I’m not familiar with them (yet!).
    Anyway, thanks for starting this discussion. It’s an important one.

  2. Elena February 17, 2011 at 10:15 am

    One of my best friends wil love this book, she has a daughter of 4 years. Thanks.

  3. Cooking Mom February 17, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    What a great opportunity to hear Peggy Orenstein speak on the topic. I actually finished and am compiling my thoughts on how I feel about it all now that I read it. I have to agree with you that I was not expecting the insight about how the princess culture leads to more dangerous interests — most of the book speaks to this. It is what scares me the most and I can’t say that I got a lot of advice about how to handle it from Miss Orenstein. I have to go back to my highlighted notes and write part 2…stay tuned!

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