Sound Minnesota values and research for books such as "Girls & Sex" don't make bestselling author Peggy Orenstein a fan of the impact the Kardashians have had on society.
"Kim [Kardashian] gets fame and money in exchange for selling her sex appeal without changing a system that urges girls from an early age to view their bodies as projects to be constantly monitored and improved, a system that requires women in the public eye to be 'hot' in order to get ahead or even have a voice — whether they're actors, singers, athletes, newscasters, lawyers, politicians, whether they are 15 or 65," said Orenstein.
The Minneapolis native and author of "Cinderella Ate My Daughter" will be at the Mall of America April 14 at 7 p.m. for an event hosted by "SmartSex with Kerri Miller" (smartsex.org) to discuss the challenges of raising girls "in this ridiculously hyper-sexualized culture" influenced by social media, peers and porn. The session will suggest how parents can talk to their kids. Tickets are available.
Orenstein's dad, Mel, will be present, but sadly her mom, Beatsy, died in 2016.
"So much of this work comes fundamentally from the way my mom talked to me and the relationship I had with her," said Orenstein. "My mom used to tell me how great her sex life was with my dad. I would plug my ears and say, 'Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!' even though I heard what she was trying to tell me." Orenstein now is conducting interviews for an upcoming book from the perspective of boys.
Q: Explain the "princess industrial complex" and the "Kardashianization of girlhood."
A: I was noticing that girls are marketed to from the earliest ages. What they learn in that marketing through the princess industrial complex and into the Kardashianization of girlhood is that how they look is more important than who they are. That primes them for something more insidious as they get older.
Q: Does your daughter watch "Keeping Up With the Kardashians"?
A: God, no. She knows who Kim Kardashian is, but I don't know that she knows she has a TV show.
Q: What impact does being self-absorbed and focused on perfection have on teens and their sexuality?
A: In my most recent book, "Girls & Sex," I write about how girls learn that self-absorption is the same as self-confidence. It means self-confidence is the same thing as being narcissistic. That's the essence of the Kardashianization of girlhood. What it also teaches them is that sexuality is a performance rather than something they feel. Self-absorption is sold to them as a form, and often, the form of personal empowerment.
Q: How do you raise a daughter who ignores so much about the pressures to be perfect and what people think?
A: That's a little much! I think with younger girls you have to fight fun with fun. You have to find ways she can joyfully connect with a feminine identity that's not hooked to an appearance and commercialization. By starting that process earlier you build a scaffolding that is a bridge to older girls, so you are helping them critique what the culture is selling them.
Q: As the mother of a middle-school daughter, what keeps you up at night?
A: She's an eighth-grader and what keeps me up at night is that she's starting high school! I want her to feel in the realm of sexuality that she has control, choices, wants, needs, desires, limits and she know what these are. That she is responsible, ethical, caring. My fears are cultures of binge drinking, hookups, easy access to porn, the disrespectful dehumanizing culture to young women.
Q: After your research into the sexuality of Dutch girls, [see her TED Talk] did your conversations with your daughter about sex become more Dutch and less American?
A: Totally. To-tal-ly! I was not any better about talking about these issues than anybody when I started this research.
Q: I hear your 90-year-old dad, Mel, will be in the MOA audience. Will his presence make you or him squirm more?
A: Me, is the short answer. We did a reading at Magers & Quinn when the book came out and the one thing I said to my brothers is, "Don't let Dad sit in my eye line. I have to say things that I don't want to say in front of him." So I walk in, I sit down, I look up, my dad is in the first row, 3 feet away, smiling at me. I thought, "Oh my gosh. OK. Here we go." I became able to say anything to anybody at any time.
C.J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on Fox 9's "Jason Show." E-mailers, please state a subject; "Hello" does not count.