In keeping with the theme of the past few posts, I wanted to post my own thoughts… so here goes: I have not read the Cinderella ate my offspring book, and I actually had never heard of it.  I would, however, like to read it.  Being a teacher who spends much of my day in my classroom with elementary aged kids, I’m sort of in a bubble when it comes to what’s going on in the outside world.  Sure, I visit a news website once or twice a day just to see if anything is “breaking” and see who thinks they might be able to fix it, but I don’t have access to a continuous feed of information throughout the day like some other people who have the luxury of taking a break from what they are doing to go and talk to their co-workers about this or that at the water cooler (huge run-on, I know).

Maya dressed up

Back in December, Maya attended the birthday party of a classmate who had just turned 3.  The theme was a Princess theme and she loved it.  The girls got to dress up as princesses in gowns, and the boys wore knight in shining armor paraphernalia.  Maya had a great time and has since been asking for a princess party for her birthday in March. (Too bad I’ve already booked the party with the magician.)  Ever since the party, and even a couple months before, Maya has shown a lot of interest in skirts, dresses, tutus and ballet attire.  When we get home from school she wants to put on her tutu skirt, or the leotard I got on clearance last year that is about 5 sizes too big for her.  She’s expressing some independence and we are letting her do it if it is safe.  For example, she has to wear pants and sneakers to school, but if she asks to wear her tutu skirt over that, so be it.  The other day she decided she HAD to put on tights, a skirt and her nice shoes before we could go grocery shopping.  Although Maya is very interested in princesses, tutus, etc, I signed her up for a mini-gym class at her preschool instead of the ballet class.  She probably would have chosen ballet over mini-gym, but she’s absolutely loving the gym class, and I love that she is getting to run, jump, tumble, etc.

Like Michelle, when I was little, I would probably have been considered a tomboy.  I was the ONLY girl in my entire town’s Little League baseball league (not team), and I was still better than the majority of the boys.  I even had a shorter haircut (thanks to some MAJOR miscommunication at the hairdresser in second grade), so many of the opposing players didn’t even know I was a girl unless I took my hat off.  As I got older I continued to play whatever sport I was interested in including baseball, softball, basketball, volleyball and soccer.  I remember my mom signed me up for ballet once, and I cried the entire time.  I don’t think I ever went back (Sorry for wasting your money, mom!).

The point is, right now Maya is at the age where she should be exploring different options and trying them out as she likes.  The tutu is certainly less expensive than the ballet class or dance company fees later on.  Right now she gets a kick out of dressing up, and tumbling in her gym class.  Cinderella might be trying to eat my daughter, but I’ll try to keep them away from each other for a little while longer!

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We are a Disney Princess family. In the beginning when Ella was first introduced to Disney, namely the princesses, I felt we had a good balance of what I’d like to call 2 categories: Princess and Not Princess. Ella really enjoyed playing with her trainset, reading all types of books (Thomas the Train, Huggle Buggle, etc.) and playing with her Princess Barbies. Lately she’s been very into Disney characters, namely the princesses. Does that mean Cinderella ate my baby? I think not.

It’s our job to support who our children are at any given point and instill in them their morals, values and ethics. I would feel sorry for your child if you tried to push him/her into something they weren’t. It’s like forcing them to play soccer if they really wanted to go to ballet class. One of my best friends has a son is the same age as Ella. He happens to enjoy playing with Barbies (dolls), puts on chapstick/lipgloss, seems halfway interested in playing dress-up, loves to cook with his kitchen, etc. My friend lets him, as she should because he enjoys doing those particular things. Is anyone judging her? Nope.

I think trying to make your child something he/she is not is more damaging than letting them play with a doll that happens to have measurements that you could probably only obtain by getting plastic surgery. It’s up to us, the parents of these young impressionable beings to teach them about what’s real and what’s not. Give them self confidence to be who they are and stop being so anti-“everything”. I’ve heard that Disney is actually talking about doing a bald Barbie for children who are going thru Chemo treatments, etc. I suppose that’s terrible also…How about American Girl dolls? These dolls have real life stories. They’re normal in size. I let Ella play with hers and she loves it. She happens to have Rebecca, the Russian Jew, by the way. Do you really think Ella knows the difference between the American Girl doll with the real life story or the skinny Barbie. Hell no.

We need to stop over analyzing absolutely everything and just let kids be kids. As long as we instill in them morals and do everything in moderation, who cares? Freaking chill out.

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My daughter is 6 months old.  I’m not currently concerned about sexualization… the thought alone makes me nauseous so I choose not to think about it yet.  I have actually started reading Peggy Orenstein‘s book and there is one topic in particular that really grabbed me.  STUFF.

Girl stuff vs Boy stuff.

Baby GirlWhen I was a kid, I wasn’t into Barbies.  I had He-Man toys and Gobots.  I played baseball with the neighborhood boys.  I loved my Micro Machines!  People called me a Tom-Boy. I never really thought about whether or not my mom was especially progressive for letting me have those toys and not pushing me to wear dresses (although she loooved when I voluntarily put one on), but I suppose she was.  What shocks me is that people still peg a girl as a Tom Boy for playing with those toys or for being into sports.  A girl is still expected to love pink and princesses and dresses.  And what’s even more shocking to me is that there are people in this world who believe that what toys or clothes your child likes has some effect on their sexuality.  Hear this now: I love boys and always have.  That was built-in. And despite my baseball hat wearing and my more dominant personality (something often pegged as “masculine”) I never had problems with the boys… ehem… if you know what I mean.  For me it was never about wanting to be a boy or being a lesbian or whatever other nonsense people think; it was just what I liked to do.  And actually, I think being allowed to be strong and dominant has given me the confidence to do whatever I wanted to do as an adult.

Moving beyond just Orenstein’s book, I’ve been reading more on the “princess culture” that is being shoved down the throats of little girls.  Sure, some little girls just naturally gravitate to that stuff and that’s fine.  But why should they be limited?  In fact, I have always felt that toys marketed to boys inspire more creativity and spark interests that lead to both hobbies and careers later in life.  Legos.  Chemistry sets.  Erector Sets.  (Do they even still make those?) Why should my daughter be limited to the Disney Princess make-up kit?  What does that do for her sense of self?  Tell her that beauty is what is most expected of her? I’ve seen science-themed party favors labeled as “Great for a boy’s party!”  I’m sorry, what was that?  BOY’S party?  What about science is specific to boys?  And we wonder why there is a shortage of females in science, technology and engineering fields.  Stealing from something I saw along the way (I can’t remember where so I can’t give due credit… sorry!), couldn’t my daughter benefit from an astronaut makeover rather than a princess makeover?  Can’t we take her to go watch the planes take off over the Potomac?  And after all of that, can’t I still take her to ballet?

Frankly, I’d like to keep princesses out of Darby’s toy box and closet for as long as I am able only because I don’t see the value. When she comes home asking for it, fine.  Barbies will likely not have a residence in our home (between body image and the skanky clothes those b*tches wear, she doesn’t need that).  I know I can’t control that stuff forever, but I can for a while and I intend to.  I want to expose her to planes and trains; building toys; art and music; the Cubs and the Red Sox!  If pink and princesses are her thing, I won’t limit that.  But I certainly won’t limit her TO that.  There is too much other cool stuff out there.

I actually think this kid nailed it. To quote the brilliant Riley, “Why do all the girls have to buy pink stuff?”  They don’t, Riley.  And I promise you, Future Ms. Marketing Director, that my little girl can have super heroes if she wants them.

There is no denying that stuff is both a reflection of who we are and an influencer of how we are who we are.  Kids and adults alike.  I want Darby to find success in her life, however she may define it.  Ballerina or brain surgeon.  I want her to be strong.  I want people to tell her that she’s beautiful AND brilliant… perhaps the latter more often.  Unfortunately the stuff that is marketed to her tells her that being beautiful and finding her Prince Charming will lead to happily-ever-after.  I hope she does find her Prince (or Princess) Charming some day… but what leads to happily-ever-after is being confident and proud of who you are.  I will simply not allow Disney or any of the other toy companies impede upon that ideal.  They are not the boss of my brilliant daughter.  I will protect her from this crap.

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This week we’re doing a series about some of the concepts that Peggy Orenstein writes about in her book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter. Stay tuned for more posts from some of the other writers here!

I’ll admit, I haven’t read the book. Early last year, The Diane Rehm Show on NPR featured an interview with Ms. Orenstein. There’s certainly no way for me to comment on the entirety of the book in this post, but I’d like to comment briefly on the overt sexualization of young girls. Ms. Orenstein aptly describes frequent situations in which young girls (teen, pre-teen, tween, pre-tween, preschool, etc.) are thrust into an atmosphere dripping with sexuality. Abercrombie and Fitch (I know – shocking) came under fire last March for selling a push-up bikini for young girls. When faced with this kind of environment, these girls react the way anyone would – they adapt, they react, they incorporate, they do their best imitation of a sponge and soak it all up.

I don’t personally have a problem with Cinderella, Barbie, Aurora, Belle, pink, purple, fairies, crowns, or even the occasional tutu. They’re all crammed into various bins and boxes in our playroom as I type. Sometimes the girls play with them, sometimes the boys parade around the house in a much too small leotard. At this point in my parenting life, there’s not much that will faze me when I walk in the door after work. However, there is a significant problem, as Ms. Orenstein claims, with equating your daughter’s (or any woman, for that matter) value with her sexual appeal or behavior. Some may think that we as parents are paving the way for sexualizing our girls with the occasional fingernail polish. I hope not, but it’s a difficult world out there for young women. I hope we’re able to instill in our girls the ability to value their whole self, not just their physical self.

I work a lot with college students. Increasingly, many of our college students are women. Overwhelmingly, they are strong, beautiful, smart, inventive, and independent women. They’re just plain awesome – the kind of women I hope Peyton and Adah resemble when they are in college. I teach a class on college student development each fall and we always focus on interpersonal relationships one week. We usually read Janet Reitman’s piece on the lacrosse scandal at Duke University from Rolling Stone (read it if you have a chance – really good piece of writing). Usually, students reaffirm the thesis that college women live a bit of a Jekyll/Hyde life – during the day women perform well in class, excel in leadership positions, and generally outclass their male peers, while at night the same women reduce themselves, and their clothing, to the sexual playthings of boozed men. The women in class often lament that they see it all too often. They’re genuinely saddened by it. As a father, husband, and brother, so am I.

Peyton’s favorite color is pink. Lately she and Adah have been rocking out with these Vtech Disney Princess Wands:

I don’t think they’re destined for royalty by using this little trinket (sorry, girls). Tomorrow, they’ll jump out of their pink and purple sheets and probably head straight for their new dollhouse. Does that mean that Cinderella ate my daughters? Maybe for now, but I don’t think they’ll sit too well in Cinderella’s tummy. As they grow and develop, we’re going to teach them to love their Cinderella self, their pink self, their emotional self, their cognitive self, their physical self. When it’s time for them to understand their sexual self, I hope it’s on their terms.

A friend of mine posts blogs on a website for moms.  She recently sent out a Facebook note asking parents what types of presents they get their kids, ages 0-2.

This got me thinking.  Other than a couple of Barbies and a handful of other things, Jeff and I haven’t gotten Ella gifts for holidays or birthdays.  We would much rather put some extra money into her college savings account or build her stock portfolio.  How fantastic a gift would it be if Ella could go to college and come out DEBT FREE or be able to have a large down payment for a new home?  The reality is, Ella has so much stuff that she doesn’t even know what she has!  Baskets and baskets of toys go unnoticed on a daily basis.  She plays with the same few toys repeatedly and is happy as a little lamb, plus, it’s less toys for the Toy Fairy to take away when Ella decides she doesn’t want to clean up.

I think there is so much emphasis on gifts for holidays and birthdays that it overwhelms kids in that age group, at least it does Ella.  Why do we feel the need to be so excessive with gifts on a consistent basis?  In 20 years when Ella is, hopefully, out of college, has no college loans to pay off and possibly a nice safety net, I hope she’ll be able to appreciate the lack of gifts as a child and see the value in what we chose to give her instead… I know I did.

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