Nonfiction book group titles, spring 2011.
Tuesday Article: David Foster Wallace

Pity the girls.

I didn't particularly care what sex CRjr turned out to be, but after reading Peggy Orenstein's Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture, I'm just as glad he's a boy.

Cinderella Not that there's anything all that shocking in this volume. Orenstein, the mother of a daughter and the author of other books on girls and culture, set out to explore some of the cultural forces working on girls today. Throughout her book she covers the Disney princesses (as a money-making juggernaut), Miley Cyrus, the nonsensical forces that coerce girls into wanting to be older younger and then stay younger older (good luck with that), "grrl power" in the 90s, tiny tot beauty pageants, and "mean girls" on Facebook and other social media.

Sound a bit disjointed? Well, it is--which is my sole criticism of the book. It seems a little scattershot, but I think that's because this is a topic that's near to Orenstein's heart. I get the feeling she's trying to work out how to raise her own daughter amid all these cultural forces, and that's distracting her a bit from constructing a more linear narrative here. But it's still an interesting book, and the overall picture reflects something my sister's always quoting from someone: you may try to do things differently, but by and large you end up raising your kids like your neighbors do, just because that's the everyday milieu you're all in together. Sigh.


What I particularly like about Orenstein is that she does some research, asks some questions, and still puts her own personal stamp on the material. Consider this, from her conclusion:

"Meanwhile, the notion that we parents are sold, that our children are 'growing up faster' than previous generations, that they are more mature and sophisticated in their tastes, more savvy in their consumption, and there is nothing we can (or need) do about it is--what is the technical term again?--oh yes: a load of crap. Today's three-year-olds are no better than their predecessors at recognizing when their desires are manipulated by grown-ups. Today's six-year-olds don't get the subtext of their sexy pirate costumes. Today's eight-year-olds don't understand that ads are designed to sell them something. And today's fourteen-year-olds are still desperate for approval from their friends--all 622 [on Facebook] of them." (p. 183.)

That pretty much sums it up, I think. If you've got girls, or you're interested in parenting culture in general, I'd give this one a read.