HuffPo Piece: Cinderella Ate My Man-Eating Tiger Daughter

This originally appeared on The Huffington Post on April 1, 2011. Note that the same day my piece was posted, news broke that Amy Chua’s eldest daughter, Sophia, was admitted to the Harvard class of ’15 (during the most competitive admissions cycle in Harvard’s history, with a 6.2% admit rate); Sophia will be matriculating in Cambridge this fall.

Looking for advice on how to raise a successful daughter? Recent bestsellers offer conflicting advice. In Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Peggy Orenstein trumpets Girl Power over pink princesses if you want a smart, independent woman. But Kay Hymowitz writes in Manning Up that you should poo-poo this New Girl Order — at least if you want your daughter to be a wife and (working) mother someday. And then there’s the now infamous Tiger Mother Amy Chua who painstakingly details how she “Chinese parents” her two daughters to be the best at everything they touch in Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother; her girls tend to trounce everyone (girls and boys) while wearing princess-style dresses.

Chua recently spoke at Harvard (otherwise known as mecca for Tiger Moms), where she proclaimed, “I could not in a million years imagine my book to be perceived this way, as preaching Chinese parenting as superior… This is not a parenting book. It is a memoir.” Indeed Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother covers Chua’s childhood and family life, and describes how her relationship with members of her family changed while raising her over-achieving Chinese-Jewish-American children. These humanizing details are interspersed between the more horrifying anecdotes — well known, thanks to the excerpt printed in The Wall Street Journal — about denial of dinners and sleepovers, and threats to burn stuffed animals and give toys away.

As Chua was excoriated in the media, Orenstein’s own parenting book-cum-memoir appeared. Cinderella Ate My Daughter is a spirited journey through the princess-industrial complex created by Disney and fed by American Girl, Club Libby Lu, other toy companies, child beauty pageants, and many more. Orenstein, a journalist who specializes in women’s and girls’ issues, details how this pink culture developed historically and how it impacts girls today at younger ages than ever before–including her own daughter, Daisy.

In many ways Chua and Orenstein’s families and concerns are similar. They both have daughters. In fact, they both are raising Asian/Jewish daughters. They both find something wrong with current American parenting techniques, especially when it comes to raising their girls. But Peggy Orenstein is revered and Amy Chua is reviled, and when you read the books you can see why. As unyielding as Chua is (even when conceding defeat), Orenstein is questioning — a crucial difference between the two books. Orenstein is also humorous. Chua claims she was trying to be a funny writer, but any self-deprecating humor just doesn’t come across as genuine, especially when she repeatedly lists the accolades of her various family members. In the end, Orenstein is just more admirably ambivalent, honest, and likeable about mothering a young girl today.

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Comments

  1. Hilary Levey Friedman says:

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    Jennifer Rentas Love this. And I love that your voice comes out so much in your writing, it's like sitting down and having a conversation with you. Which I, of course, love doing 🙂
    Yesterday at 11:49am · LikeUnlike
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    Renata Campante Loved it, Hilary! Sofia has been making me think about this topic more than ever, and it is so hard already…
    Yesterday at 12:00pm · LikeUnlike
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    Patrick E. Lynch Love your insight. Ms. Hymowitz says that today young women constitute 58% of graduates at four-year colleges and universities and account for more than 70% of those graduating with highest honors. Sounds like you and my Caitlin. You Go Girls!!!

  2. Char @ SportsGirlsPlay says:

    I think there is good information to take away from both authors, however, I think you said it best at the end of your HuffPo piece – a little sparkle is a good thing.

    My goal is to raise confident, self motivated, compassionate young ladies who can think for themselves and are not afraid of a little hard work. I try to teach this by leading through example and pointing out these qualities in those around us while maintaining certain levels of expectations.

  3. Hilary Levey Friedman says:

    Char- There is no one right way to raise kids, but it sounds like your children are lucky to have you!

Trackbacks

  1. […] 3) The parenting scandal of 2011, featuring Tiger Mom Amy Chua, continues to have legs. A group of teenage girls from Indianapolis interviewed me for this article that they wrote in The Indianapolis Star (they are part of a very interesting program for aspiring journalists called Y-Press).  If you’re interested in more of my thoughts on the Tiger Mom, check out my USA Today column, Contexts article, and book review in The Huffington Post. […]

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