Author: Peggy Orenstein
First Published: 2011
Page Count: 206
Film/ TV Adaptation: No
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Orenstein takes an honest look at what pop culture is doing to daughters and mothers across the nation in this jaw dropping read that makes this book so much more than a guide to parenting.
*Never preachy *Balanced mix of humor and serious investigation
*Doesn’t really provide a solution to the problem
“I must have started a million sentences with ‘My daughter will never…’ And then I became a mother.” Disney princesses, pageants, pink guns (or really the color pink in general) are all under fire for taking away female individuality and commercializing our toddlers, teens and everything in between in this book. Orenstein wants to help mothers navigate through the clever marketing and manipulative “girlie-girl” culture that she believes is creating a generation of narcissistic, depressed women whose childhood influences tell her looks matter more than who she is as a person.
I was so excited to buy this book because I was so excited to hate it. I was raised in the princess culture; my parents took me to the Disney theme parks every year, I had every Barbie set on earth, and if I could grow a tail, I would’ve wanted to be the Little Mermaid in a heartbeat. I love every inch of the princess culture, even now as an adult, and I love to defend it every chance I get. But then I opened this book….and I wobbled a bit in my stance. If Peggy Orenstein had ever come off as a preachy, higher-than-thou mother who knows everything there is to know about raising a daughter, I would have hated this book as much as I wanted to. However, Orenstein is completely loveable as the voice of this book and as a mother who is just trying to raise her daughter right. And really, she had me at “I tried slipping a Jane Austen action figure into the mix, but, alas, she didn’t take.” She often plays the fence on many of the issues, like whether she should buy her daughter a fairy Barbie doll. It makes the book more realistic, because no mother is going to be iron willed enough to completely deny the possibility of wanting to buy the doll for their daughter. Her stories of motherhood are real and relatable but she also adds laughs where she can. Look at the names of these chapters: “Wholesome to Whoresome: The Other Disney Princesses” or “Why I Hoped for a Boy.” This book perfectly switches from serious to amusing and it never feels like a lecture on parenting.
For nine chapters, Orenstein builds up this horrible monster of a problem that mothers must face in the form of American Girl dolls and sparkling tiaras. However, when you get down to the final chapter, the author doesn’t really give us a solution on how to avoid raising overly sexualized, narcissistic daughters. It feels as if I was aware of a possible dark side to the pink culture before I read the book, but I ignored it because I didn’t know that much about it, don’t have a daughter of my own, and didn’t want to believe it was true. Now Orenstein presents us with this seemingly unstoppable pop culture beast that is impossible to ignore after reading about all of her research, and you feel utterly defenseless against such a force. The only advice she gives is to look at everything with a grain of salt but realize that you can’t protect your child from everything. Oh and make sure you raise them with proper values. Not very revolutionary advice.
After reading this book, I was surprised at how much I agreed with what Orenstein had to say, but I don’t know how much it changed the way I feel about raising a daughter. If I have one, I still plan on dressing her up in ridiculously expensive “official” Disney princess costumes and waiting who knows how long in line just to get an autograph with her favorite Disney princess in a bright pink “official” Disney autograph book. But I think I’ve realized, I could probably tone down my love of pink and princess to a realistic level. Watching a recent episode of Bethenny Ever After where she gets her daughter an eye-popping pink throne which plays music every time her daughter goes to the bathroom made me realize that maybe Orenstein has got a point. Things have gotten out of control with the marketing and commercialization of girlhood. However, this book isn’t just for mothers or mothers to be. Even adult women can learn a lot from this book and how we raise our daughters affects the men in our lives as well. Great book from start to finish, and a must read for anyone interested in how pop culture is effecting women today.