Orenstein leads us on a journey through this wacky, weird culture of princess gowns and tiaras that seemed to suddenly spring up within the past ten years—indeed, it did; Orenstein explains just how, too. It was a very flippant marketing decision on behalf of Disney, led by a former Nike executive (go figure) who noticed that there were plenty of little girls wearing princess dresses that were homemade. He saw a cash cow immediately and the princess line was born—a tactic with no marketing plan, Orenstein reports, that turned a quick $4 billion profit. She also points out the creepy fact that on all of the merchandise, the princesses do not look at each other as friends—we still, after all, have yet to see a Disney film in which a female character has another female friend.
The book goes on to discuss the gender coding of toys, digital media, interviews with mothers about why they purchase such items for their daughters in the first place, and of course, why girls like the princess stuff. Links between the whole pretty in pink, princess world and the early sexualization of girls are drawn, with some scary research presented—such as the fact that when women see ads featuring stereotypes of themselves, they tend to be less interested in things like education, and may even score lower on math tests!
The book also ends with a couple of good recommendations for reading and watching media with positive female roles, such as the Miyazaki films we all adore so much, as well as certain fairy tales and biblical stories. I wish there were more recommendations, but the reality is that there are very few films with positive female roles, or even female relationships other than love interests, featured in them.
I heartily recommend this book to everyone—particularly parents—and hope that we can all continue pushing for better media and representation of our daughters across the board. I look forward to finishing it this weekend and will pass on my copy to the first mother who wants to borrow it!