Peggy Orenstein, an award-winning writer, author, and speaker concerning issues affecting girls and women, is set to come out with a new book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter, this week. As an author with reportedly over 20 years of writing about women’s issues, I expected more from the book. Written in a blog-like manner, it tends to be more fluff, containing more anecdotal evidence than scientific research. The concepts, while not new, still hold merit. However, I believe Orenstein would have been better off condensing the topics to the pertinent matter and writing a series of articles rather than compiling them into a book.
After the first few chapters, I began to think I never wanted to read nor hear the word pink again. More depressing is the fact that she is correct in her descriptions of our consumerist run society. Market campaigns play a much larger role in our daughters’ self-views than ever before. As the author states, rather than giving girls freedom from the traditional stereotyped constraints, companies are merely packaging those constraints in a way that is geared to convince girls to chose them.
In a world where every little girl is expected to idolize packages princesses and where our home, free of the typical character royalty, is unique even among more progressive thinkers, the concepts are thought provoking for some and old hat to others. The book had potential but fell short. Readers would be better off checking out Packaging Girlhood.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of Cinderella Ate My Daughter from Harper Collins Publishers.
In Packaging Girlhood, Lamb and Brown mention the concept of mean girls and a movie by the same name. It isn’t a new concept. Mean girls have been around for a long time. The word girls can by misleading, because it isn’t just girls. Mean girls tend to grow up to be mean women.
There are a few characteristics mean girls have in common. They tend to have deep-seated insecurities. In order to feel better about themselves, they need to have an entourage of followers. Follow along, go with what they say, and you may escape their wrath. Chances are you won’t. Just as they talk about non-followers behind their backs, they are talking smack about their so-called friends, too. If you fit the profile of what they need, they’ll find a way to keep you in the flock in some capacity. Without the followers, they have noone to make them feel good about themselves. Fail to follow the code or dare to think for yourself, and they attack, threatened by their own insecurities.
Facebook, like My Space before it, is the new smack book. Need a place to misconstrue a few details, spread a few lies, discredit someone, or just let out a little passive aggressive hate and fear? Mean girls (and their aged counterparts – mean women) can spread whatever they like via the internet, free of (or at least with limited) accountability. They will stretch the truth or make up stuff entirely in an attempt to make others looks bad and themselves look good. Online venues haven’t replaced old-fashioned gossip get-togethers; they still exist. It’s only added to the tools utilized by those looking for a boost in their lacking self-esteem.
It’s the stuff of cat fights, popularity contests, and mommy wars, and it all begins with insecurity: that of the person building her royal court and of those looking for some attention from such a person. It isn’t a new phenomenon and it won’t soon be a thing of the past. As long as our society pits women against each other and doesn’t stand up to it, mean girls will exist.
Girls and boys, men and women, aren’t very different. Looking around at American society, you would never guess that. In their book, Packaging Girlhood, Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown examine the societal aspects which strive to make these gender distinctions and how that affects our daughters. While many would claim genetics and hormonal differences dictate such differences between the genders, Lamb and Brown make a compelling argument that our male dominated society is so driven by marketers – from baby pink onesies and dolls to sexy shopping teenagers and young women to the lack of strong females in books, movies, music, or even advertising. Marketers know how to the play the game, and that game is creating a society that plays into buying their products. Our daughters are the ones who suffer most.
If you have a girl in your life, I recommend reading this eye opening book. While some of the examples are dated back to 2004/2005, marketers haven’t changed in any recent history. The same gender distinctions are merely repackaged. Even individuals who feel they are cognizant of gender stereotyping may rethink how they look at some things. Read the book and then take the authors’ advice: talk to your daughters.