The pressure to be pretty in pink


First aired on Edmonton AM (02/03/12)

We live in a society that places a premium on beauty and attractiveness and young girls seem to be under more pressure than ever to be pretty in pink.

"At an increasingly young age, girls are sold the idea that who they are is how they look," author Peggy Orenstein said during a recent interview with Edmonton AM. "And the culture of appearance and commercialism and, sort of, defining yourself from the outside in, rather than the inside out, has been drifting down in age so that it's now affecting little girls as young as three, four, five years old."

Orenstein's latest book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter, looks at how girls are being encouraged to indulge in princess fantasies and place too much emphasis on body image. She got the inspiration for the book after seeing how her own daughter was navigating childhood.

"You hold that little girl in your arms ... and you don't want her to feel any limits, you don't want her to feel like there's anything she has to do because she's a girl, or anything she can't do because she's a girl. And we're going along raising our daughter like that, and then she went to pre-school, and how the mighty fall, right?"

Orenstein said that after two weeks of pre-school, her daughter had memorized the name and gown colour of every Disney princess. The parent also noticed in her day-to-day interactions with people how society reinforces gender stereotypes, as store clerks would call her daughter "princess" and offer pink balloons without asking which colour she preferred.

Orenstein was "tempted to give it a pass as a mom because it's cute." But she believes that, as children age, they'll look to celebrity figures (famous for their looks or self-indulgent behaviour) as the model of what a woman should be.

Part of a parent's job, Orenstein said, is to help their children develop a critical eye so they can determine for themselves what values are important. Ask questions about what they're watching, who they're listening to, and experience it with them.

"You're not going to be able to keep these things out of their world but you can try to create a bridge between the box that we inhabit with all of things that we care about -- compassion, competency, all these other things -- and stuff that's in the pop-culture box. Right now, the pop-culture box is too big in their heads."

CinderellaAteMyDaughter-175.jpgCinderella At My Daughter
by Peggy Orenstein

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From the publisher: 

"The acclaimed author of the groundbreaking bestseller Schoolgirls reveals the dark side of pink and pretty: the rise of the girlie-girl, she warns, is not that innocent.

Sweet and sassy 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 the source of female empowerment. And commercialization has spread the message faster and farther, reaching girls at ever-younger ages. But how dangerous is pink and pretty, anyway? Being a princess is just make-believe; eventually they grow out of it . . . or do they?" 

Read more at HarperCollins Canada