"Whats Wrong with Cinderella" by Peggy Orenstein: Summary

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About this sample


Words: 486 |

Page: 1|

3 min read

Published: Mar 16, 2024

Words: 486|Page: 1|3 min read

Published: Mar 16, 2024

Cinderella, a classic fairy tale loved by many, has been a staple in children's literature for generations. However, as society has evolved and become more aware of gender roles and stereotypes, many have begun to question the messages that Cinderella and other similar tales convey to young readers. In her essay "What's Wrong With Cinderella," Peggy Orenstein explores the problematic themes present in traditional fairy tales like Cinderella and the impact they may have on young girls. This essay will analyze Orenstein's arguments, discussing the harmful implications of Cinderella's narrative on gender roles and expectations.

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Main Criticisms

One of the main criticisms Orenstein raises in her essay is the perpetuation of traditional gender roles in Cinderella. The story presents Cinderella as a passive character who relies on her beauty and the help of a fairy godmother to escape her oppressive situation. This sends a message to young girls that they must conform to societal standards of beauty and passivity in order to achieve happiness and success. By romanticizing the idea of a prince rescuing the damsel in distress, Cinderella reinforces the notion that women need a man to save them, perpetuating harmful stereotypes about female independence and agency.

Another issue Orenstein addresses in her essay is the emphasis on external beauty in Cinderella. The tale places a strong emphasis on Cinderella's physical appearance, suggesting that her worth lies in her beauty rather than her character or intelligence. This can have damaging effects on young girls' self-esteem and image, as they may internalize the message that their value is tied to their looks. By promoting a narrow and unrealistic standard of beauty, Cinderella fails to challenge harmful beauty ideals and instead reinforces the importance of physical attractiveness as a means to achieve happiness and fulfillment.

Furthermore, Orenstein discusses the lack of agency and autonomy given to Cinderella in the story. Throughout the narrative, Cinderella is portrayed as a passive victim of circumstance, relying on outside forces to change her situation rather than taking control of her own destiny. This sends a troubling message to young girls that they are powerless to change their circumstances and must wait for someone else to rescue them. By failing to empower Cinderella as a proactive and self-reliant character, the story perpetuates the idea that women are inherently weak and in need of male intervention to succeed.

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Peggy Orenstein's essay "What's Wrong With Cinderella" raises important questions about the harmful messages present in traditional fairy tales like Cinderella. By perpetuating traditional gender roles, emphasizing external beauty, and limiting female agency, Cinderella sends problematic messages to young readers about gender expectations and self-worth. It is crucial for parents, educators, and society as a whole to critically examine the narratives we present to children and encourage stories that promote equality, empowerment, and diversity. By challenging the problematic themes in stories like Cinderella, we can work towards creating a more inclusive and empowering narrative for future generations.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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“Whats Wrong With Cinderella” by Peggy Orenstein: Summary. (2024, March 15). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 20, 2024, from
““Whats Wrong With Cinderella” by Peggy Orenstein: Summary.” GradesFixer, 15 Mar. 2024,
“Whats Wrong With Cinderella” by Peggy Orenstein: Summary. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 20 Jul. 2024].
“Whats Wrong With Cinderella” by Peggy Orenstein: Summary [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Mar 15 [cited 2024 Jul 20]. Available from:
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