I'd like to thank Mad Men for bringing the name Peggy back. Not that Ms. Orenstein has been using a different name, just as a general point of gratitude. Peggy is a perfectly awesome name, although it is not mine.
Cinderella Ate My Daughter is the perfect gift for my sister in law. Although we both spent middle school stumping for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment we came out with different views on children's toys. She views the parade of Barbie and Princess with the side gaze of someone feeling ill, and I happily acquire all the Monster High and Bratz Whor'z a child could wish. Both of us are trying to raise body confident, high achieving, take no prisoner daughters. Peggy Orenstein is talking to both of us in her book.
Looking at the copy for Cinderella left me ready to judge the book by it's cover. Author is from Berkeley? (We've both lived there.) Author has written on gender issues in the past? I was ready for a lecture on Why Princesses Are The Training Wheels Of Pole Dancing. (Nothing against pole dancing. When I was a tween I babysat for some, they tip well.) Instead Cinderella is a nuanced examination of gender stereotyping in the market place and in our homes. It acknowledges the joint forces of conflicting maternal messages and peer pressure in raising a confident and capable daughter. The author manages to reasonably defend Twilight as a phenomenon. (I didn't think I could see anything positive in that quartet.) Peggy Orenstein has the same problem as my sister in law - she planned to ban all things pink and Barbie before her daughter was born, then discovered that her daughter had other desires. In her reasonable examination of what we think is wrong versus what might actually be wrong she sets the framework for (among other topics) a serious conversation on the early sexualization of children.
Really, forget the Oprah pick of the month. Get your book club to agree on reading Cinderella Ate My Daughter. Except for the member that will be upset that Peggy Orenstein doesn't respect Sarah Palin (and you have at least one, be honest) everyone in the group will have something to say about this topic. Does Cinderella offer solutions? Not many. That's not the point of the book. The point is to bring a new way of thinking to topics we feel we already understand. (Pageants might not be that different from dress up after all.) Opinionated without preaching, fair when a cheap shot would be popular, Peggy Orenstein has offered a great read about her own struggle to define appropriate boundaries for her daughter. Read it with some women you love and bitch about it afterward. All our daughters might be better off for our doing so. (If we're really feeling wacky and utopian, we might band together to demand publishers stop cutting our heads off on book covers.)