Excuse me; could you give me a boost? I need to get up on my high horse here?
I’ve just finished reading an amazing book that struck every note in my keyboard…Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein. If you believe in Cinderella now, you won’t when you finish this book and what’s more, you’ll be in a much more capable space to survive this stage in your daughters’ lives.
With the full impact of the Feminist Movement in the 1960s, we were all pretty clear that the stereotype girlie girl that we were raised to be had been replaced by a competent, confident new age girl.
At work, we began to chip away at the glass ceiling and more and more of us were able to transcend that hurdle. At home, we began to step out of our role model roles and encouraged our husbands to do the same.
Women now cut the lawn, took out the garbage, both traditionally male tasks, and men began to do laundry, cook the family meal, both traditionally female tasks.
Little girls wore pants to kindergarten or pre-school and they were encouraged to attempt any physical endeavour that caught their eye. Little boys started taking gymnastics, little girls started playing baseball.
Feminism seemed to be working, one small step at a time.
And then, writer Peggy Orenstein wrote her latest book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter.
Ms. Orenstein is a wonderful writer. Going through the pages of her book was like sitting down for coffee together. She’s incredibly well informed about her topic, without being pompous.
And if I were to get to the bottom line about her book, she feels that we have a challenge to find a balance between feminism and femininity. And this balancing is done on a very fine tightrope.
From Canadian bookseller Chapters…” pink and pretty or predatory and hardened, sexualized girlhood influences our daughters from infancy onward, telling them that how a girl looks matters more than who she is. Somewhere between the exhilarating rise of Girl Power in the 1990s and today, the pursuit of physical perfection has been recast as a source-the source-of female empowerment. And commercialization has spread the message faster and farther, reaching girls at ever-younger ages.”
So the solution then becomes a personal choice for every parent. Can we refuse to allow our daughters the thrill of playing dress-up, princess style? Can we refuse to allow our daughters the opportunity to play with sexy Barbie instead giving them flat chested Cindy? That’s what I did when my daughters were first entering this stage. I shake my head now about my altruism and naivety because I now believe that some girlie-girl is essential for all of us.
Ms. Orenstein points out the negatives too – obsession with physical beauty including model-like perfection of face, hair and body. But she also acknowledges that we don’t want our daughters to grow up with no femininity of character.
Personally, I know that I truly believed in Cinderella and that one day a prince would find me and take me away to a charmed life. Sadly, I believed that until near the end of my teens. Sigh.
But isn’t it ok to dream? Isn’t it ok to imagine a beautiful life? Can’t we allow our daughters to dip a toe into this dreamland without worrying that it may taint their sexuality in future years? Isn’t it ok to take a whimsical break from the responsibility of life? Isn’t it ok to just have fun sometimes?
I’m a woman of a certain age and I’m certain that Cinderella can be part of a girl’s balanced life.
©Marcia Barhydt, 2012