HarperCollins Speakers Bureau

Peggy Orenstein

Expert on the Culture of Girlhood, New York Times Magazine Contributing Writer, Best-Selling Author


  • Princesses, "Perfect" Girls, and Pop-Tarts: What the New Culture of Girlhood Means for Girls and the Women Who Raise Them
  • Just Between You, Me, and My 628 Best Friends: Understanding Girls' Social Media Use in the "Performance Culture"
  • "Dare to Hair:" The Selling of "Empowerment" and Girls' Search for Authenticity
  • Girls Will Be Girls?: The Real Differences Between the Sexes and Why They (Don't) Matter
  • From "Rainbow Parties" to "Hooking Up": The Dark Side of Denying Girls' Sexual Pleasure
  • Forget Disney: What Fairy Tales Really Tell Us About Mothers, Daughters, and Life as a Woman
  • From "You Can Do Anything" to "You Can't Have It All": Navigating Women's Lives in a Half-Changed World
  • Perfect Mothers and the New Feminine Mystique
  • We're History: Memoir Writing for Women (workshop)
  • Writing for Craft: The Art of Literary Non-Fiction (workshop)



Peggy Orenstein, renowned journalist and expert on girl culture, is the author of New York Times best-seller Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture (HarperCollins). A contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine, her writing has also appeared in The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Vogue, Elle, Parenting, O, The Oprah Magazine, MORE, Discover, Salon, and The New Yorker, and she also contributes commentaries to NPR's All Things Considered. An experienced speaker who has delivered keynote addresses at numerous college events and conferences, she's also been featured on Nightline, Good Morning America, The Today Show, NPR's Fresh Air and Morning Edition, and CBC's As It Happens, among others.

Orenstein's previous books include the New York Times best-selling memoir Waiting for Daisy: A Tale of Two Continents, Three Religions, Five Infertility Doctors, an Oscar, an Atomic Bomb, a Romantic Night and One Woman's Quest to Become a Mother; and two works of journalistic nonfiction, the best-selling Schoolgirls: Young Women, Self-Esteem and the Confidence Gap; and Flux: Women on Sex, Work, Love, Kids and Life in a Half-Changed World. A cross-country cultural exploration of how, why, and whether pink and pretty leads to something far less innocent, Cinderella Ate My Daughter draws from Orenstein's own experiences in raising a "girlie-girl", and includes expert perspective from marketers, psychologists, biologists, other parents, and young girls themselves.

While the media has focused—often to sensational effect—on the rise of casual sex and the prevalence of rape on campus, in the forthcoming book Girls and Sex (Harper) Orenstein brings much more to the table. She examines the ways in which porn and all its sexual myths have seeped into young people’s lives; what it means to be the “the perfect slut” and why many girls scorn virginity; the complicated terrain of hookup culture and the unfortunate realities surrounding assault. In Orenstein’s hands these issues are never reduced to simplistic “truths;” rather, her powerful reporting opens up a dialogue on a potent, often silent, subtext of American life today—giving readers comprehensive and in-depth information with which to understand, and navigate, this complicated new world.

The Council on Contemporary Families recognized Orenstein for her "Outstanding Coverage of Family Diversity"; her work has also been honored by the Commonwealth Club of California, the National Women's Political Caucus of California, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The United States-Japan Foundation and the Asian Cultural Council have each awarded Orenstein with fellowships.

Born in Minneapolis, Orenstein is a graduate of Oberlin College and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, filmmaker Steven Okazaki, and their daughter, Daisy.

Praise for Peggy Orenstein:

"Peggy’s visit to our school was transformative. She sparked conversations between kids and adults that have been incomplete, censored or missing. Students brainstormed how to talk to their parents about sex. Parents considered expanding the conversations to foster healthy relationships. Three days later, students are organizing open space dialogue to explore the intersections of sexuality and other identities with each other. Girls and boys feel empowered to openly consider their roles and how they reinforce or break societal norms.”
--Catlin Gable School, Portland, OR

"Our parents are hungry for Peggy’s message. Many said that she was one of the best speakers we have ever had."
--Marlborough School, Los Angeles, CA

“Peggy’s talk was everything we could have hoped for! Our community was so engaged  - both during the presentation and after, talking to each other in small groups for a long time.  We loved how she included the students' voices and how she listened so well to them.”
--Mountain View Los Altos Speaker Series, Mountain View, CA

 “Our audience loved Peggy's engaging, informative and, at times, humorous talk. Her research, knowledge, and insights were so welcomed by our community. We could have gone on asking questions for hours!”
--Black Pine Circle School, Berkeley, CA

“Everyone felt Peggy’s visit was a total success, especially the students! Her message was perfectly prepared and directed for those in the room. She got terrific questions after her talk. And she stayed for at least 30 minutes after that to answer follow up questions and talk with students who didn’t get a chance to go to the mic. She was awesome!”
--Elon University 

“She spoke plainly to students about sex in the voice of their hip and funny favorite aunt who wears cool jewelry and might have toured with a band."
--Oberlin College

“Peggy is a wonderful presenter! Very engaging. Material was extremely helpful. Her research is crucial to our better understanding of issues faced by girls. Wonderful keynote!!”
--Renfrew Foundation Center Conference for Eating Disorder Professionals

Quotes from audience members at the Renfrew Foundation Center Conference for Eating Disorder Professionals

"Found lots of ideas which I can apply to my own body image presentations and groups. Peggy is phenomenal!"

"This was fantastic! Dynamic, funny, informative, insightful about the current culture...and so much more!!! So important! So empowering! Thank you!"

"This was a great addition to the conference. Most of us have the opportunity to influence young girls and we need the tools to do it in beneficial ways."

"Peggy is a wonderful presenter. Very engaging. Material was extremely helpful. Her research is crucial to our better understanding of issues faced by girls. Wonderful keynote!!"

"Awesome! Fun to listen to. Crucially valuable information. So knowledgeable and well-spoken. Loved it as a professional therapist and a mother to two girls."

“Peggy Orenstein's no-nonsense message hit home with our students. That's not an easy task at Oberlin College. She spoke plainly to them about sex in the voice of their hip and funny favorite aunt who wears cool jewelry and might have toured with a band. They heard every word she said. Days later, students are still thanking me for inviting her.”
--Suzanne Denneen, Program Coordinator for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, Oberlin College

Praise for Cinderella Ate My Daughter:

"Orenstein is such a breezy, funny writer, it's easy to forget she's an important thinker too."
-- Judith Newman, People (four stars)

"Orenstein has done parents the great favor of having this important debate with herself on paper and in public; she has fashioned an argument with its seams showing and its pockets turned inside out, and this makes her book far more interesting, and more useful."
-- Annie Murphy Paul, New York Times Book Review

"A feminist critique in the guise of a chat with a friend, Orenstein's book inspires parents to rethink girlie-girl culture . . . Orenstein uses a friendly, deceptively informal approach to present a well-researched case against fairy-tale-style femininity . . . Cinderella Ate My Daughter is entertaining as well as useful, not only for parents of daughters."
-- Christy DeSmith, Minneapolis Star-Tribune

"Orenstein consistently brings an opinionated, yet sensible sensibility to the hottest-button questions of contemporary feminism . . . in Cinderella Ate My Daughter, we see Orenstein at her genre-busting best -- and our culture's warped commercialization of girlhood at its worst. A memoir/journalism hybrid, the book intersperses Orenstein's poignant dilemmas as the feminist mom of a young daughter with facts, stats and Orenstein's self-questioning yet somehow non-self-deprecating reflections . . . Orenstein has no need to argue her case. The facts she unearths do the job."
-- Meredith Maran, San Francisco Chronicle

"In Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Orenstein wrestles with her own ambivalence about the princess culture . . . And that's part of the book's considerable charm. Her forays into the mysteries of child beauty pageants and toy design are often hilarious, sometimes troubling, always real." -- Kate Tuttle, Boston Globe

"They're back! Peggy Orenstein reacts to her daughter's embrace of the sinister Disney-princess agenda by reporting on how retro-feminist attitudes of the 50s are being hustled to innocent girls in the blood-chilling Cinderella Ate My Daughter."
-- Elissa Schappell, Vanity Fair

"The cultural critic looks at how beauty pageants, Disney princesses, and Miley Cyrus are shaping young minds. Hint: it isn't pretty."
-- Karen Holt, O, The Oprah Magazine

"A gripping, hilariously horrifying account of battling for your child's soul in the toy aisle, one that excoriates consumer culture while sympathizing with parents trying to make sense of it all. As a mother of two young Barbie-loving daughters myself, I was riveted by Orenstein's blend of self-deprecation and outrage ."
-- Mary Elizabeth Williams, Salon

"Reading Cinderella feels like what I imagine it might be like to sit at a cafe with Orenstein, whose writing style is engaging and conversational without being dumbed-down -- an ideal combo for taking on the cultural ills that threaten our daughters . . . There's real pleasure to be derived from reading Orenstein's sane and reasoned dissection of this phenomenon. . . . Orenstein is voicing more articulate, thoughtful, and better-researched versions of your own observations and concerns."
-- Myla Goldberg, Slate

Praise for Girls & Sex:

"With compassion and insight, Peggy Orenstein holds a mirror not only to girls’ experiences but to our own judgments. No less than the emotional health and physical safety of our daughters (and of our sons, by the way) depends on the kind of insight Girls & Sex provides."
--Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabes

Girls & Sex should be mandatory for anyone who cares about the present and future cultural landscape for girls, women, humans. I seriously want to quit my job and tour the country, furiously hawking Peggy Orenstein’s insightful, important book."
--Rashida Jones, actress, writer, producer

"Eye-opening…. Orenstein draws powerful, humane portraits of her interview subjects, self-reliant young women who find themselves trapped by sexist stereotypes about women’s bodies and women’s pleasure. [A] smart, earnest, and timely assessment.”
--Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Accessible prose and narrative style will bring the work of many thoughtful experts to a wider audience…. Young adults, parents, educators, and activists alike will find this passionate work a timely conversation starter.”
--Library Journal

"Orenstein has compiled an eye-opening study of the way that girls and women in America think, feel, and act regarding sex…. The abundant information she provides will give parents and young girls the power to make informed decisions regarding sex.”