The Princess Industrial Complex

Having written about girls' adolescence, journalist Peggy Orenstein is quite the expert in parenting of young girls.

Her attempt in raising her daughter free of the girlie-girl stereotype, however, was nuked when - in what seems like an overnight transition - her 3-year-old daughter became enamored with being a princess.

And so began Peggy's journey in understanding the "princess phase" - and the corporate drive to foster and cash in that phenomenon.

Orenstein takes us on a tour of the princess industrial complex, its practices as coolly calculating as its products are soft and fluffy. She describes a toy fair, held at the Javits Center in New York, at which the merchandise for girls seems to come in only one color: pink jewelry boxes, pink vanity mirrors, pink telephones, pink hair dryers, pink fur stoles. “Is all this pink really necessary?” Orenstein finally asks a sales rep.

“Only if you want to make money,” he replies.

The toy fair is one of many field trips undertaken by Orenstein in her effort to stem the frothy pink tide of princess products threatening to engulf her young daughter. The author of “Schoolgirls: Young Women, Self Esteem, and the Confidence Gap,” among other books, Orenstein is flummoxed by the intensity of the marketing blitz aimed at girls barely old enough to read the label on their Bonne Bell Lip Smackers. “I had read stacks of books devoted to girls’ adolescence,” she writes, “but where was I to turn to under­stand the new culture of little girls, from toddler to ‘tween,’ to help decipher the potential impact — if any — of the images and ideas they were absorbing about who they should be, what they should buy, what made them girls?”

Link | Peggy's Book: Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture (Photo:

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A lot of this 'forcing' is being done by idealistic feminists and traditionalist men. Odd, isn't it, that two diametrically opposed groups are engaging in an identical form of detrimental behavioral conditioning.

The feminists don't want their daughters to be girly, and the traditionalist men don't want their sons to be girly. What gives?
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My beautiful 22 year old went from pink and lacy princess to shaved head and punk clothes. She was a beautiful princess and she is now a beautiful punk. Have faith in your children however they imagine themselves. So long as issues like entitlement are addressed and concepts like marketing are taken into account, let them be who they choose to be. There are plenty of explorations of princess themes that send positive messages, the book Paperbag Princess, and the movie Enchanted to name a few. Love and support them now matter what their favorite colour is.
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I remember my sister went through the Princess phase but it was from reading fairy tale books that have had princesses in them for as long as books existed. I'm sure corporations cash in on it, but there is something essentially human about the princess phase.
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