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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Disney Devours Daughters (sort of)!!!

Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl CultureIf you've read this blog for any stretch of time you know that my wife and I are the parents of two girls ages nine and seven respectively. As such, they are prime targets for the Disney marketing machine.

By that, anything princess-esque in nature (a.k.a. frilly, pink, sparkly) that can be purchased is pushed at them, or rather at us as parents, to acquire as economic surrogates. For years, I've been guilty of quelling the "nag factor" that Disney triggers in my girls for the very latest in princess paraphernalia.

In the interest of full disclosure, during our last trip to Disney World we spent a couple hundred dollars to surprise them both with a princess make-over at the Bippty-Boppty-Boutique, complete with a new outfit and shoes. While the girls were delighted with the temporary transformation, I couldn't help but think they looked like whorish little beauty pageant boppets.

In that instant, I felt horrible about what I had enabled my daughters to become.

And that's the message at the heart of author Peggy Orenstein's book Cinderella Ate My Daughter. Orenstein writes passionately against the prioritization, glamorization and fixation on the superficial ideal of princess-beauty that our society is perpetuating. From TV, music, advertising, games and toys, fashion and publishing - virtually ever segment of our culture is permeated with the too sugary sentiment that everyone deserves to be treated like a princess - as long as they look like one.

Despite her insightful premise, Orenstein's book swings widely between richly defined arguments to pauper thin rantings. At some points in my reading, I thought that super model Kate Moss had more substance than Orenstein's observations. Particularly regarding girls and sexuality.

In one instance the author rails against the sexualized maturation of pop singer Miley Cyrus to womanhood, yet has no problem with girls having premarital sex. She all but resigns herself to the fact that "girls will be girls" and they're going to do it anyway.

As a father, that really bothers me. To simply let the culture win in the lives of my daughters is not an option. Similarly, just because my girls may decide to exceed the speed limit when they're able to drive a car, doesn't mean I should condone that behavior by buying them a radar detector or give up on telling them that they shouldn't speed. As a parent, I need to be ready and prepared to encourage them to slow down in the promiscuity lane when the time comes.

Despite this specific flaw, I think Orenstein's book is a worthwhile read if for no other reason than it will sensitize you to NOT be so ready to increase Disney's top line revenue with unnecessary purchases of princess junk.

Question: How do you balance raising daughters in the culturally noise that focuses on appearance and beauty as the highest good?

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