Peggy Orenstein, of Schoolgirls fame, recently wrote a thoroughly thought-provoking book about raising a daughter amid our grossly overly-pink girlie culture titled Cinderella Ate My Daughter. If you have a daughter, I would say that this is a must-read although reading it may make you more terrified than when you began it. You know from the onset of meeting your daughter that it may be a hard road ahead but this book really nails that idea on its head. The world is such a different place than the now-so-seemingly-innocent one that you and I grew up in (that statement alone should give you worry). She concludes, albeit a bit skeptically, that there is hope. You can raise an independent and lovable girl - it just takes some mindful choices in the beginning and following through to the bitter end (supposedly around 13 when they just stop listening to you).
Here is a oh-so brief summary (seriously, go get this book - at the store or at the library - it is worth your time):
Peggy is a journalist who has spent much of her career writing about issues that face adolescent girls so when she is expecting a child of her own she prays for the boy that wasn't to be. Of course, she has a girl, how silly of her to think otherwise. So when her toddler girl becomes infatuated by princesses (despite never have read princess stories) she decides to dive head first in to this crazy pinkalicious world of baby/toddler/tween girls and what this could mean for her future.
"According to the American Psychological Association, the girlie-girl culture's emphasis on beauty and play-sexiness can increase girls' vulnerability to the pitfalls that most concern parents: depression, eating disorders, distorted body image, risky sexual behavior. Even brief exposures to the typical, idealized images of women that we all see every day has been shown to lower girls' opinion of themselves, both physically and academically...The pursuit of physical perfection was recast as a source of young women's "empowerment." Even as new educational and profession opportunities unfurl before my daughter and her peers, so does the path that encourages them to equate identity with image, self-expression with appearance, femininity with performance, pleasure with pleasing, and sexuality with sexualization. I didn't know whether Disney Princesses would be the first salvo in a Hundred Years' War of dieting, plucking and painting. But for me they became a trigger for the larger question of how to help our daughters with the contradictions they will inevitably face as girls."