Orenstein has written an informative book which reflects some of the debate surrounding gender issues and the impact of today’s culture upon girls. She describes the American culture in which she finds herself raising a daughter and reflects upon the issues she has encountered as a parent. Her hope is to raise a daughter who is not strongly shaped by the early sexualisation of girls through marketing, and is especially hoping that the ‘sparkly pink Disney princess’ world would not impact and shape lives of children in a way that affects their future choices as adults.
She begins by critically exploring the roots of ‘Cinderella Culture’ that sweeps America and which in the UK has impacted the lives of our children too. She moves on to reflect on the influence of dolls from Barbie to Bratz and all that lies between, the influence of pop culture and role models, and the internet. I will leave you to read more and not give too much away. Her eventual conclusions I felt were a little weak; I thought more could have been drawn out about challenging those who, through marketing, create the culture in which our children grow up.
A word of warning, you may have to adjust to the American style of writing and see beyond it to glean some real gems of knowledge and insight into the subject; at times I found it a little much! Those of you who may have read more academic books related to the sexualisation of girls may not find anything new in this book. I found the book very focused on the US, the debate quite narrow, the style very chatty; for some this will be off-putting but for others it will make it a more accessible read. For me it seems to be commenting on influences encountered by the all-white American wealthy girl; there was very little reflection on the impact upon boys or even upon girls from different ethnic or social backgrounds.
The strength of this book lies in Orenstein’s ability to bring the debate down out of the academic arena for everyone to be challenged, including parents, and for that she must be applauded. There is food for thought for the youth work volunteer and those who are just beginning to think about these issues. The challenge to read more afterwards at a greater depth and to stimulate discussion with colleagues is there for the taking.
I would love to hear what some of you reading this will think! Do you agree or have you seen other insights that have passed me by?
Jennie Fytche is a Parish Nurse Development worker in Lincolnshire and a trainer/lecturer.