Jan 31 2012
Peggy Orenstein’s book Cinderella Ate My Daughter was an interesting look at the hyper femininity that today’s society ascribes to young girls. As the mother of a daughter herself, Orenstein wanted to investigate how much society was reflecting the true nature of little girls versus influencing it, and what sort of effects this might have on them. She discusses several including premature sexualization, impaired self-image, and strained relationships with the opposite sex. She tackles a difficult subject with an open mind and comes across as a genuine student of her subject matter, rather than a righteous expert. Like some of the other books we have read, I again felt she went to extremes to make her point, and was almost hyperbolic at times.
Reading Cinderella Ate My Daughter has opened my eyes to many new ideas that I was somewhat aware of but not entirely familiar with. Peggy Orenstein’s book was engaging and I enjoyed her stories of her daughter while connecting them to society as a whole. Shocked by some of the information that she included in her book, it is clear that society truly has a way of creating and shaping people to fit certain molds. One of the most interesting aspects of her book was the cross-cultural phenomenon where kids as young as preschool and kindergarten start self-segregating who they play with by gender. It is so crazy that our society presents us with this idea of who we should be (from a very young age) through products (Disney princesses), the media (Toddlers and Tiaras) and even books (fairytale stories/bedtime stories). As Orenstein raises her daughter she is constantly questioning if what she is exposing her to and not exposing her to is right. As if raising a child is not enough, she shares her struggles as she tries to teach her daughter more than what society tells these young girls what is right and correct. I especially liked reading the section where Orenstein talks of cross-sex friendships and that girls who have boy friends at a young age are able to relate to them better as they grow up and even into adulthood. Peggy Orenstein explains that there is nothing wrong with liking princesses or girlie-girl things but it is vital that we remember to teach young girls that that is not the only way to be feminine. This book reminded me of the children’s book Not All Princesses Wear Pink, where the author, Jane Yolen, encourages young girls to think alternatively about femininity.
A Year Without “Made in China” chronicles one family’s attempt to not buy Chinese imports. While the experiment made for an interesting read, I feel compelled to say that I found it to be a bit pointless. Bongiorni didn’t seem to know why she was performing the experiment and was constantly looking for loopholes, like the time she asked her sister-in-law to bring candles to her husband’s birthday dinner. I particularly felt bad for her children, who didn’t seem to comprehend why their parents were attempting such an experiment. Certainly I don’t think they needed every Chinese-made toy they wanted, but Bongiorni’s vague reasoning – “We want to give other countries a chance to sell us things” when very few other countries are actually producing things to sell – probably wasn’t any consolation. I found myself a bit frustrated with her when she let her son go without new shoes for a couple of weeks because she wanted to find ones that weren’t made in China, but had moral issues with paying for the Italian-made pair she did happen to find. American companies manufacture their goods in China because it is so cheap to do so, so avoiding Chinese imports probably isn’t the best idea for someone who doesn’t like spending a lot of money. Overall, I saw where Bongiorni was coming from and appreciated her opinion on the matter, but I would have respected her experiment a bit more had she had a better reason than “I just wanted to see if I could do it” for performing it.
Bongioni’s experiment seemed actually brutally honest and practical. I was very relieved to see that she didn’t inconvenience her sister or her neighbor, who had brought Made In China gifts for Wes. Had she decided to enforce her boycott with those around her, I would have been upset because that simply is not realistic.
Along the lines of others, Bongiorni’s other neighbor, who had several kids and a mortgage, actually apologized to her for not following along. I’m a skeptical person, but I thought being sorry was a bit much. The Bongiorni family didn’t seem quote so strapped for cash and were able to continue their experiment, but the added stress alone would likely make a not-so-comfortable family stress out more. But I also noticed that the Bongioni family was a lot more willing to live on the edge, admitting that their check balance could reach single digits at the end of each month. As someone who takes extreme caution, having single digits in my account would terrify me. Financial security is crucially important, especially with children.
However, Sara Bongiorni won my respect when she admitted that her kids, aged 1 and 4 were the perfect age for this experiment. Wes was certainly too young to really care, though losing out on Crocodile Dentist was a blow for him. However, at that age, kids can easily be made happy again.
A Year Without “Made In China by Sara Bongiorni was an amusing and personal look at the author’s family life during one year of attempting to avoid products made in China. Sara Bongiorni and her husband Kevin have children, which means they had to find toys not made in China, in addition to items such as clothes, jewelry, shoes, staples, mousetraps, among just about everything else. I thought the book was well written and the experiment was extremely interesting. It left me with an increased awareness of the origin of my own purchase. However, it also left me feeling it is neither possible nor worthwhile to avoid China-made products 100 percent of the time. I personally don’t have a problem buying China made products, per se.
When reading this book I looked around my room and tried to find one item that was made in America and I failed. It scary how much dependence America has on material goods made in China. In the introduction it said our trade deficit to China 201 BILLION dollars. Would life change that much if we started making our own products? Isn’t it worth it so we are not exploiting workers in China for cheaper goods? This new years resolution was interesting to read about, because Bongiorni has a family that can’t buy China items and children seem to be the strongest targets for Made in China items and she has two children. They to a toy store and every item is made in china.
A Year Without “Made in China” made me realize that if I gave myself the task of trying to eliminate products made anywhere else but the United States, I would fail. Bongiorni’s account on this situation was interesting. Making the New Years Resolution, Bongiorni didn’t realize how difficult it would be to eliminate the Asian markets products from her home until she was given the task of finding another item that sufficed and got the job done. It was interesting to me to see how long it took her sometimes to find the alternate item because most items in America are from the Asian market system. Doing this project and writing this book opened Bongiorni’s eyes about how the products that aren’t made in America play a huge role in everyone lives and how hard it would be to survive without it. Even products that say “Made in the US” are made in China. I can safely say that I would never put this task on myself of trying to eliminate “Made in China” in my life because it would cause more stress on me than I already have.
A Year Without Made in China, by Sara Bongiorni, is a collection of stories and narratives of her family’s attempt to prohibit Chinese made products. Bongiorni is able to explain, through her own experiences, how influential China is on our daily lives. It is true that more often than not we do not recognize how abundant Chinese products are in our lives. It isn’t long until Bongiorni’s family begins to struggle with this experience. Her husband tries to buy peg-board hooks and is unsuccessful and when her son out grown his shoes it seems that Chinese made shoes are the only ones out there. I never thought of how time consuming this experiment would be. It occurred to me the difficulty of finding alternative products that are not made in China but I never thought of the fact that it could take 2 weeks to find a pair of shoes. Bongiorni begins to see as the year unfolds that the more they try to push China out of their lives, the more they see how far China has pushed in. Another aspect of this experiment that I found surprising was the notion that some products that were packaged and said “Made in the U.S.A” were actually from China after all. This alone has to create distrust between the consumer and the producer, however I do not think that Americans will ever boycott Chinese products like Sara Bongiorni’s family did.
When I began reading “Purchasing Power,” I was immediately struck by the discussion of Barbie dolls on the first page. As a child, I was fanatical about Barbie. She represented being a grown-up, or at least what I thought it meant to be a grown-up. She had her own house, she had a boyfriend, she had any job you could possibly imagine, and most importantly, she was allowed to wear high heels. I remember reading about a “Barbie boycott” a few years ago, organized by mothers who thought Barbie sent a negative message. At the time I found myself wondering how anyone could see Barbie as anything but positive. It wasn’t until I read Natalia and Asia’s observations about Barbie that I realized something I had been overlooking: I never had a problem relating to Barbie. I had straight blond hair and blue eyes. As Asia said, “They make Barbie a stereotype,” and it was one that I fit (Chin 1). I can see how a little girl who doesn’t relate to Barbie so easily might have a hard time applying any sort of positive message to her own life and instead feel bad for not meeting a certain standard of beauty. In hindsight, Barbie didn’t really teach me anything important (if anything the wildly unrealistic expectations about adulthood she gave me were second only to ones I got from reruns of “Sex and the City” as a teenager) but she did make me believe that I could be anything and have anything I wanted. Every child should have the opportunity to think that way, regardless of whether or not she looks like a plastic toy.
Purchasing Power, Black Kids and American Consumer Culture by Elizabeth Chin is an in depth look at a specific group of poor black kids in the early 90s. Her study focuses on consumerism and was conducted in Newhallville, a neighborhood located in New Haven, Connecticut. I liked her work, and was more comfortable with how she went about her research than I was with the last author. The stories she told were moving and her thesis was coherent. However, I found her to be slightly extreme in some places, which I feel detracts from her argument. One line that confused me was on page 163 in Chapter 6 and begins with “If one accepts that racial divisions are absolute and unbridgeable…” To me, this came out of nowhere and was left hanging there with no real explanation of why one might accept that. I also thought Chin’s focus on Barbie was a bit extreme, to the point of working against her.