by Maya Bernstein

Happily Ever After

Role models for our daughters

One of the critical pieces of evidence Peggy Orenstein unearths in her new book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture (Harper Collins; $25.99), is that girls need role models. They need “larger than life heroes, especially in the all-important realm of fantasy, where they spend so much of their free time.” Orenstein, who has researched and written about girls for almost 20 years, spends the majority of her book trying to figure out which of our culture’s role models are positive, which innocuous, and which downright harmful. She prefers women in capes to sexy avatars, Hannah Montana to Miley Cyrus, and gory, unedited versions of European fairy tales to preschool pageants. But ultimately, though she “refuses to believe that parents are helpless,” she comes up empty. Yes, she ends the book with the vague advice that motherhood should somehow involve “staying close but not crowding them, standing firm in one’s values while remaining flexible.” But she leaves her reader unsettled. How can we compete with the army of marketers dedicated to grabbing our girls’ attention, subliminally guiding them towards a scripted womanhood of empowered acquiescence?

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