"Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture," by Peggy Orenstein
Jeff Glor talks to Peggy Orenstein about "Cinderella Ate My Daughter."
Jeff Glor: What inspired you to write the book?
Peggy Orenstein: Well, all books start with curiosity, with a question, and usually for me that question is personal, something I observe in every day life and wonder about. So in this case, my daughter came home from preschool, having had no contact with the media culture at home, and suddenly all she wanted to do was play Cinderella. And I didn't know -- was this harmless fun? Was this something I should be concerned about? What the heck was a Disney Princess anyway? And meanwhile we were walking around town and the guy in the supermarket would say "Hi Princess!" to her and the nice lady at the drug store would offer her a free balloon and say, "I know what color you want" and give her a pink one without asking. And finally the pediatric dentist said to her, "Would you like to get in my princess chair so I can sparkle your teeth?" I thought, gosh, do you have a princess drill, too? I remembered playing princess occasionally as a child, but I did not remember the expectation for 3 straight years, 24/7, 365 days a year I was supposed to not just pretend to be a princess now and again but actually fancy myself to BE one and have everyone in the world treat me as such. So I decided to on this journey to find out how the culture of little girlhood had changed since I was little and how that did or did not connect to the increasing sexualization we're seeing in the culture as girls grow older.
JG: What surprised you the most during the writing process?
PO: How early young girls are now concerned about beauty and weight, how they learn to define themselves from the outside in rather than the inside out. If I was talking to you 10 or 15 years ago, or when I wrote "Schoolgirls," my first book, we would have been talking about obsession with appearance, playing at sexy, body image concerns among girls maybe 12 or 13 and we would've been alarmed by that. But now these issues are on the rise -- really entrenched -- in girls in preschool and kindergarten and certainly early elementary school.
JG: What would you be doing if you weren't a writer?
PO: Well, if it were up to my Dad I would've gone to law school. Honestly, I never contemplated doing anything else, at least not since I was 14 years old. That's when I decided to become a writer and I haven't varied. Determination or lack of imagination ... not sure which.
JG: What else are you reading right now?
PO: Actually, I'm reading Erica Jong's "Fear of Flying." I'm doing a lot of thinking about girls sexuality and I realized I'd never read that book (except the juicy parts, when I used to sneak it from my mom's bedside table). It was so influential, so explosive in its day. Of course I'd read all about it but I never actually read it. So I was curious to see how her vision of a liberated female sexuality holds up, it was still relevant, felt quaint, more attainable less attainable ...
JG: What's next for you?
PO: I still feel I have more to say about the distinctions between sexualization and sexuality, between believing your role as a girl is to be desirable versus understanding and connecting to your own desire. So we'll see where that takes me. Meantime, I'm doing a lot of speaking around the issues in "Cinderella Ate My Daughter." I've hardly been home since the beginning of the year -- but I've been to Wichita, Dallas, Houston, Portland (Maine and Oregon), Boston, Minneapolis, Seattle, Denver, Edmonton Canada and on and on. It's been an incredibly rewarding experience
For more on "Cinderella Ate My Daughter," visit the Harper Collins website.
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