In case you haven’t been watching or reading the news lately, Peggy Orenstein’s new book,Cinderella Ate My Daughter, is a huge hit. For good reason. Orenstein talks about the marketing that focuses little girls on pink, pretty, sexy and sassy.
Think Miley Cyrus and Lindsay Lohan (and we know the troubles those girls are experiencing).
It hits a particular cord for me because I am constantly being asked if the messages I convey in my books and keynotes about women relying too much on being “nice girls” and not enough on being “adult women,” are passe.
In fact, over dinner with a neighbor the other night I thought I was going to jump across the table and strangle her when she suggested my new book, with Carol Frohlinger, Nice Girls Just Don’t Get It, might no longer be relevent.
Orenstein confirms what I’ve been saying for years — you might have been given all the right messages as a child, or you might be giving your daughters all the right messages about being smart, confident, and strong. But when you leave the house, all bets are off.
Little girls are bombarded with Madison Avenue’s desire to have them play with dolls, wear pink, aspire to be princesses — and be nice.
I recall going to the Mall of America in Minneapolis a few years ago and coming across a store that was dedicated to princess outfits and parties for girls. An entire store! What’s the boy equivalent? Sports Authority?
In See Jane Lead I dedicated an entire chapter to raising our daughters to lead. Here are a few tips I encourage parents to consider:
- If you can afford it, send your daughter to an all girl’s school. Studies show 94% of these girls go on to college and 80% report holding leadership positions after graduation.
- Enroll your daughter in both individual and teams sports. Each plays a part in learning how to be competitive in different ways.
- Sign your daughter up for a self-defense class. Being able to protect herself lends to both physical and mental self-confidence.
- By the age of five, give your daughter and allowance and teach her how to spend, save and invest.
- Be vigilant about what’s happening at school in terms of bullying and mean girls. Don’t take the “girls will be girls” stance — insist that there is a zero tolerance for bullying at your daughter’s school.
- Explore non-traditional careers with your daughter.
- Choose female pediatricians, attorneys, and other service professionals so that your daughter has role models.
- Validate who your daughter is and not what you want her to be. A wonderful book,Nurture by Nature, helps you to identify your child’s natural proclivities so that you can reinforce them. Self-confidence comes, in part, from being encouraged to do what you’re good at.
It’s not that your daughters shouldn’t wear princess outfits or have pink clothing in their wardrobes, it’s that they shouldn’t be given ONLY these options. The more you expose your daughter to the wide array of choices available to her, the better luck you’ll have countering those Madison Avenue messages.
- Dolls for girls, science and Legos for boys: The toy aisle is still sexist (salon.com)
- Can Cinderella Really Eat My Daughter?: The Princess Craze (Part 2)…And WTF Disney?! (leakingboob.com)