If you thought that Tiger Mom was bad, wait until you get a gander at Feminist Mom.
That’s right, just as our world is coming to terms with Amy Chua’s book: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, one Peggy Orenstein has brought forth a new book on feminist mothering: Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture.
Keep in mind that Chua wrote about her experience bringing up girls. She is bringing them up to be accomplished, successful women… not CEOs and not radical feminists.
While Chua has been roundly denounced for being authoritarian, when one of them, at age 13, threw a tantrum over her mothering technique, Chua took responsibility and modified her approach.
You might be seeing her as authoritarian; the truth is closer to trial-and-error.
Did Chua’s daughters go through the kind of extreme princess phase that Orenstein is railing against? They may have; they may not have.
More importantly, Chua did not become obsessed with her girls’ gender identities. She wanted them to be the best version of who they were; and that included being girls.
A gender bending feminist like Orenstein is obsessed with her daughter’s gender identity.While she does talk about academic achievement, when this talk is placed next to her rants about princess behavior, it feels like lip service.
As we will see, therein lies the most important difference between these books.
Pity poor Peggy Orenstein. There she was, bringing up a perfectly neutered three year old, when her daughter went to school one day and came home a princess.
Here is one writer’s summary of this defining moment: Here is the way one writer summarized it: “Orenstein's own daughter didn't start out princess-obsessed. Daisy marched into her first day of preschool in Berkeley, Calif., in her favorite pinstriped overalls and carrying a Thomas the Tank Engine lunchbox. (Gender-neutrality achieved!) But it would be less than a month before the now-7-year-old would scream as her mother tried to wrestle her into pants, begging for a "real princess dress" with matching plastic high heels.” Link here.
What happened to transform her daughter from gender neutered to defiantly feminine? Simple: a boy had told her that girls do not play with trains.
For some parents, the princess phase, like tomboy phases, like a lot of other phases, is part of growing up. They focus on more important matters, like math homework and violin practice.
Even if we accept that the princess phase, the girlie-girl persona, has become as overblown as Orenstein thinks it has, perhaps the reason is that it is trying to find its was in a world where feminism has made itself the enemy of feminine women.
Thus, for a feminist zealot like Orenstein, her daughter's princess phase is an existential crisis. It threatens the very existence of the feminist cult.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong or right with overalls and Thomas the Tank lunchboxes. And there‘s nothing right or wrong with a princess phase.
Problems do not arise until you make it into a feminist issue. Someone ought to ask why this feminist is losing her mind over her daughter’s wish to feel like Cinderella.
Why is it so important that the girl be dressed in overalls, and carry a train-themed lunchbox? Surely, every one of Orenstein’s feminist cult followers will find that to be a perfect example of gender-bending, the hallmark of responsible parenting.
But what are these Feminist Moms saying to their daughters. Are they trying to make these girls-- at age 3-- be more boyish, more of a cross dresser, more butch, or just plain neutered.
As we know, modern feminism originated in Betty Friedan’s critique of “the feminine mystique.”
Like it or not, feminism declared war on femininity, and on everything that signified it. It wanted to teach all girls to repress their femininity, because it believed that a feminine woman was necessarily going to become a household drudge.
In the feminist playbook, career success was visited on women who were more manly or even more gender-neutered.
When today’s gender-bending feminists see femininity making a comeback, in exaggerated and caricatured form, through their daughters’ tastes and preferences, they think that they are seeing the return of the repressed. Or better, they are seeing their daughters, from a very early age, rebel against their efforts to bring them up as gendered neutered.
As it happens, feminists are not very self-aware. As Orenstein rolls out her indictment of marketers, manufacturers, and the media, she neglects the one element that might really make some sense of this preschool rebelliousness: the anti-feminine side of feminism.
When Amy Chua’s daughter rebels against violin lessons, the world’s intellectuals stand up and cheer for her. When Peggy Orenstein’s daughter rebels against her mother’s feminist zeal, the world stands up with Orenstein and blames Walt Disney.
Once her daughter gets older Orenstein will blame Conde Nast.
This extended exercise in blame shifting means one thing: Feminist Mom has no sense of how she is contributing to her daughter’s rebelliousness.
When Orenstein asks why her daughter, brought up in the perfectly politically correct precinct of Berkeley, CA can still be influenced by the princess culture, she concludes that if the poison has reached Berkeley it must be very pervasive indeed.
But it might also be the case that Berkeley is the kind of place where gender bending is the law of the land. In Berkeley, I surmise, Feminist Moms are doing their darndest to wring the femininity out of their daughters.
Wouldn’t Berkeley be a logical place for rebellion?
And yet, even in Berkeley, some mothers look askance at Orenstein’s efforts to break her daughter of her love of princesses.
They actually suggest that Feminist Mom is “brainwashing” her daughter because she is depriving her of her ability to choose what she buys, what she wears, and what she plays with.
In a breathtaking failure to accept responsibility, Orenstein replies that it is really Walt Disney who has deprived her daughter of choice.
Orenstein is at considerable pains to say that she wants her daughter to grow up to be a strong woman who marries and has a family. For all I know, she really feels that.
But what if that strong woman who marries and has a family, who is as comfortable in overalls as she is dressed up like a vamp, becomes Sarah Palin?
Considering the venom and vitriol that feminists have been throwing at the prototypical Mama Grizzly, you know that that would be yet another existential crisis. The girl would be disinherited.
Feminist Mom is not at all interested in having her daughter grow up to be what I have called, in reference to Palin, “a woman in full.” She wants her daughter to grow up to be a fully zealous feminist.
As I have been at pains to point out, Sarah Palin possesses a kind of femininity that feminists have been working to eliminate from the culture. And that, in princesshood, has been roaring back.
As the title of her book suggests, Orenstein considers Cinderella to be the enemy. She entitled her book: “Cinderella Ate My Daughter.”
Ask yourself: how much ideological zeal does it take to make Cinderella into either a cannibal or a child molester?
That’s not the only reason why this is strange.
Just look at the story of Cinderella. It is a story of oppression, of women's inhumanity to a woman.Wasn’t Cinderella a beautiful young woman who was oppressed by her wicked and envious step sisters?
The stepsisters are so jealous of Cinderella’s beauty and her sex appeal that they force her to do all of the household chores. They turn her into a drudge, a maid, a girl that no man would ever want.
Still and all, feminine charms win out in the end, and Cinderella marries the prince.
But if a girl were to be given the choice between being Cinderella and being one of the stepsisters, which would she choose?
Strangely enough, people are railing against Amy Chua for wanting her daughters to do their very best, to achieve great things. And they are applauding Peggy Orenstein for trying to brainwash-- as her friends have said-- her daughter into being an ideological zealot.
Which do you think is better?
Perhaps the next time someone decides to write a history of feminism, she will call it: "The Stepsisters' Revenge."