Wednesday, January 25, 2012

To: Peggy Orenstein – My Thoughts on Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture

Dear Peggy,

My name is Erin.  For as long as I can remember, I have always loved reading.  I love how books can transport me to different places and broaden my horizons.  It’s pretty phenomenal how words on a page can be so powerful.

 However, what I love even more is a book that makes me feel like I have found my long lost tribe; a tribe that shares the very thoughts that usually make me feel like a loner.  After I read Cinderella Ate My Daughter, I feel that this Midwesterner suburbanite may have found her unlikely match in a Berkley author.

The whole basis of the Girlie Girl Culture and how it enables girls to see beyond the social confines that emphasis looks over character resonated deeply with me.  For a mother who lives in the Midwest and is trying to raise a girl that doesn’t look up to the new Miley Cyrus of the moment, I felt that it was refreshing to read someone else who shared these same ideas.  Sometimes I look at the ridiculousness of skimpy Barbie clothes and the horrific metamorphosis of Strawberry Shortcake and Holly Hobby (my childhood favorites), and I think when the hell did this happen?  (I couldn't find the post with these pictures, but here's the one with the Trolls).  Doesn’t anyone else see this?  Or am I taking crazy pills?

I also loved the history of the princess movement from medieval times with fairy tales to Shirley Temple during WWII to the Disney Princesses franchise.  (As a child, I don’t remember all that glitz and glamor of The Princess Aisle.  I suspected some sneaky marketing move, so thanks for clearing that up).

I want my daughter to be a strong, self-confident happy person *and* have friends all while maintaining strong boundaries within this crazy Girlie-Girl Culture.  Herein lies the challenge because most Kindergarteners play princesses and Barbies.  The shopping scene that you described with your daughter crying for a Barbie as you are crying because you don’t want to buy the Barbie while your husband is exasperated really hit home with me.

For Christmas, my daughter wanted nothing by Barbie and Monster High (*shakes head and looks off in the distance as I exhaled a “where did I go wrong look” sigh).  The nice woman at Target asked if she could help me find something.  “A Civil Rights Activist/Yoga Instructor Barbie with a slightly fuller figure, please,” I sarcastically replied.  She nodded in agreement yet responded, “It’s just a toy.  She’ll be watching you for cues on body image and messages about women.”

This is true, but still. . .

I ended up settling on Art Teacher Barbie.  I cried a bit at the cash register, but when I saw how happy she was on Christmas morning, I felt all mixed up inside. To make matters worse, for her Martin Luther King, Jr. writing assignment that asked her to write her dream she wrote, “I wish Mom would like Barbie, My Little Pony, and Littlest Pet Shop.”



The Girlie Girl Culture may have changed, but the need for a mother’s approval has not.  So we had a talk today about how I am cool with Barbie as long as she realizes that although fashion and clothes are fun, it’s what on the inside that is most important.

 I may have given into Barbies (mostly because I think it would have done more harm than good if I had not), so I have drawn other lines in the sand.

My daughter has been enrolled in swim and yoga instead of dance.  I want her to focus on health and strength and meditation rather than performance and costumes. 

We try to watch Chopped on Food Network because I love how they show women sparing with men about food.  There are no mentions of looks, only skills.  Another plus?  The women judges are powerhouses in their industry, and they do not look like Barbies.  (I think Alex Guarnaschelli is awesome.  And although she's not on Chopped, I love Anne Burrell)! Win!

So although Marie is playing with Barbies, we are avoiding Barbie books like the plague.  She may have fun creating stories for her dolls, but she is not going to be reading about dates and cute boys as a five year old.

To be honest, Peggy, I wish I didn’t’ have to try so hard.  I wish you had a step-by-step action plan to raise a girl without all this media-driven pressure to be perfect.  I wish there were more options, and I wish that not liking Barbies wasn’t such a line in the Kindergarten sandbox.  I wish I could send her to dance without the fear of skimpy costumes and shaking her ass while wearing a tone of makeup.

So I try to stay strong on my decisions, keep the dialogue about what makes a good person open, and fill in the diversity and strong women role model blanks with reading and traveling.

Thanks for making me feel less alone in this struggle and inspiring me not give up fighting the good fight.

Sincerely Your Lost Tribe Member,

 Erin Rawlings

So readers, what is your opinion about the Girlie Girl Culture?  Do you think playing Barbies is harmless or detrimental? 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think you are putting too much pressure on your daughter. You’re taking away her choices to be a child and to play like a child. I would hope that as she grows older she will be wise to realize most of these things on her own. My daughter loves Princess and Barbies as I did when I was a child but I didn't grow up thinking I was or wanted to be a Barbie or a Princess. Nor did my brother grow up to be a machine gun toting little green army man... I believe in letting children be children and have choices... I always wanted to be a soccer mom, pushed it, children didn’t like it, alas, I am not a soccer mom. I am a mom that gives her children choices and lets them pick and choose. Makes for a well rounded child, and as long as they are not hurting themselves, bravo. And as you said, she’s 5, I would worry if she was 15, lol.