Peggy Orenstein, New York Times magazine writer and author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter, would prefer to be the mother of a boy than a girl.
Her basic reasoning is that the pressure is too great to be, well, a girl. In an interview with Mother Jones, she says, “My biggest surprise as a parent, or one of them, was how much of my job is about protecting my child’s childhood.” More specifically, she feels that “Femininity becomes defined for [girls]by sexiness (you know, at the age of four), narcissism, and consumerism – all three of which are problematic for [my daughter].”
She also argues that “premature sexualization,” a result of the Internet and media, encourages young girls to focus on how they look rather than how they feel. And as the title of her book goes, Disney Princesses such as Miley Cyrus, Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears and Demi Lovato are to blame. Or rather, she blames Disney, the engine that produces these performers. In reference to Lovato, who has been submitted to rehab recently, Orenstein replies, “It’s an embarrassment for Disney. I mean, I don’t know why they don’t think they have to respond to what they’re creating, but apparently they don’t.”
She’s also worried about the effect of marketing on children and its tendency to target both genders with toys for girls or toys for boys. There is no sharing of toys between the genders. For girls, it’s either the pink Legos or the “boy” ones. While Orenstein does not want parents to fall into this marketing trap, neither does she want them to land on the other extreme of not permitting their daughters play with dolls. “She knows those are boy things, so you’re telling her that that which is associated with girls is somehow inferior, and I don’t consider that an antidote,” she explains.
Despite ragging on pop culture and marketing ploys, Orenstein is not a complete pessimist. Instead, she encourages parents to be creative with regard to parenting: “I think one of the challenges is to create an equally positive, joyful, fun, satisfying sense of femininity and feminine identity in a different way so that there are things you’re saying yes to and satisfying that urge that your daughter has to be assert her girlness.”
Read the full Mother Jones interview here.
Check the nearest foreign bookstore for Cinderella Ate My Daughter. See the Directory for Beijing’s bookstores here.