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!

More from this series:

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.