If you're one of those parents who thinks your daughter is a princess, perhaps this isn't the book for you.
Award-winning author Peggy Orenstein was in Darien Tuesday night to talk about her latest release, "Cinderella Ate My Daughter," and how the media and stereotypes are causing young girls to grow up too fast and become sexualized much too early.
"Girls are doing fine -- getting better scores on tests and doing better on the playing field than ever before," she said.
"Yet, there's this pressure to define themselves by prettiness and hotness that has not settled down."
Orenstein spoke in front of about 60 people at the Darien Community Association's Meadowlands on Middlesex Avenue. Sponsored by the Junior League of Stamford-Norwalk (JLSN) and Barrett Bookstore, the event drew a crowd of mostly female parents. The event was intended to raise funds for the JLSN, and all funds went to the organization's Diaper Co-op, which provides free diapers to families in need in the area.
"(My daughter) doesn't want anything pink, she wanted a black strapless dress on her Christmas list -- which Santa never got to giving her," said Darien resident Lauren Moir, who said her 7-year-old daughter considers Lady Gaga among her idols.
"She said her resolution was to become a better girl by wearing better clothes and doing her makeup."
It's just that attitude that Orenstein argues is permeating the psyches of young girls across America. She read from one of the chapters in her book, entitled "Pink." She begins that section by talking about the extensive research she did on the "Princess" mentality of girls, and how Disney has fed that idea by marketing all of the princesses as a group -- so much so that in 10 years it has become a $4 billion industry.
"One day my daughter went to preschool and as if by osmosis she memorized the covers of the Disney princess books," she said. "Since when did every little girl become a every little girl become a princess?"
In addition, she attended a toy fair at New York's Javitz Center, at which she estimated about 75,000 items that were marketed to young girls with the color pink and the word "Princess" on them -- things like purses, brushes, diaries, spy kits and even little washing machines.
"I asked some sales representative if all this pink is really necessary," she said. "He told me `Only if you want to make money.'"
Orenstein argued that girls are being pummeled by marketing and advertising at a much younger age than ever, making them susceptible to messages pressuring them to become "sexualized" too young.
Teen idols such as Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears, who often try to portray themselves as wholesome and moral, and then pose on stage and in magazines in provocative clothes and poses send out confusing messages to young girls, she said.
"Watching their trajectories tells you something about how society is telling us about how they should be growing up," she said, recalling a Miley Cyrus concert that she took her daughter to, where girls as young as second grade were wearing short mini-skirts. "It became clear to me that looking hot, or hottesque, was the way to express femininity."
Orenstein, a Minnesota native who now lives in the San Francisco area, is selling her book for about $26 through Harper Collins Publishers, and the book is available at most bookstores and Amazon.com. Darien was her very first stop to market her book, which was literally released hours before her appearance at the Meadowlands. She had appeared on the "Today" show earlier in the day.
"We are really excited."