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"The Cinderella Complex" offers women a real opportunity to achieve the emotional independence that means so much more than a new job or a new love. It can help you no matter what your age or your goals. You cannot read it without changing the way you think - and maybe the way you live. "The Cinderella Complex" offers women a real opportunity to achieve the emotional independence that means so much more than a new job or a new love. It can help you no matter what your age or your goals. You cannot read it without changing the way you think - and maybe the way you live.


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"The Cinderella Complex" offers women a real opportunity to achieve the emotional independence that means so much more than a new job or a new love. It can help you no matter what your age or your goals. You cannot read it without changing the way you think - and maybe the way you live. "The Cinderella Complex" offers women a real opportunity to achieve the emotional independence that means so much more than a new job or a new love. It can help you no matter what your age or your goals. You cannot read it without changing the way you think - and maybe the way you live.

30 review for The Cinderella Complex: Women's Hidden Fear of Independence

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mallory

    I thought Dowling made some very great points and from my race and class position, I could definitely apply some of these principles to my life. However, the suggestion to middle class women that they should hire housekeepers in order that they would have more time to pursue their own dreams and goals was outright offensive to me. It created this hierarchy that positioned middle class women above poorer women (likely women of color) who would be those housekeepers. The message is that these midd I thought Dowling made some very great points and from my race and class position, I could definitely apply some of these principles to my life. However, the suggestion to middle class women that they should hire housekeepers in order that they would have more time to pursue their own dreams and goals was outright offensive to me. It created this hierarchy that positioned middle class women above poorer women (likely women of color) who would be those housekeepers. The message is that these middle class women should pursue their dreams, but the housekeepers should simply clean the house. Isn't that the very same thinking she attempts to deconstruct in her analysis of husband-wife relationships?

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sheri

    I read this book in my early 20s. I can say that it did change my life (or got me started down the right path since my life wasn't much of anything at the time apart from being a student). I was subconsciously waiting for a man "to save me" and probably making some choices that reflected that. Because of this booked I ended up changing my direction in college/university and became more career focused. As another reviewer has said, this is likely written from the perspective of the earlier wave o I read this book in my early 20s. I can say that it did change my life (or got me started down the right path since my life wasn't much of anything at the time apart from being a student). I was subconsciously waiting for a man "to save me" and probably making some choices that reflected that. Because of this booked I ended up changing my direction in college/university and became more career focused. As another reviewer has said, this is likely written from the perspective of the earlier wave of feminism. It meant a lot to me then, and if a bit dated now, it left a lasting impression.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kate H

    Lean in, Cinderella… In 1981, Colette Dowling came to speak at our school. I was 16 at the time and her son went to school with me. She was a formidable figure, and her talk about her forthcoming book, “The Cinderella Complex” was delivered to us (I have a vague feeling it was just to the girls at our school) in what I remember as “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” style. She stressed the importance of financial independence, achievement at work, and spoke about an inner self who, if we were n Lean in, Cinderella… In 1981, Colette Dowling came to speak at our school. I was 16 at the time and her son went to school with me. She was a formidable figure, and her talk about her forthcoming book, “The Cinderella Complex” was delivered to us (I have a vague feeling it was just to the girls at our school) in what I remember as “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” style. She stressed the importance of financial independence, achievement at work, and spoke about an inner self who, if we were not careful, would awaken and ruin our lives. Her point of view was that we, as women, have held ourselves back from achievement and that was what had led to women not being paid equally, or represented in a variety of careers. I raised my hand and asked, “what if you’re an artist? What if you were to rely on someone else to support you, or survive on very little yourself?” She shot me an icy stare and then said that that was a very, very bad idea. So it was with horror that (thanks to the present age where everything is online) I recently read an article from 1998 where Dowling was interviewed in the New York Times and revealed that she was then 60 with no savings and no investments. Rather than leaning in, she had bought a house she could ill-afford, undertook a series of expensive renovations, and filled it with knick-knacks while puttering around not doing much of anything other than writing. She blamed it on that “inner Cinderella” that had prevented her from achieving or planning for the future. I felt compelled to go back and read her book! Over the years, as a working woman and mom, I’ve put many of my artistic inclinations to the side, thinking of them in the light of Cinderella, who might waste her time sewing a dress that she never wears to the ball, but merely looks at in her tiny bedroom, sharing a piece of moldy bread with her bird and mice friends, while checking her dwindling checking account. So this is an odd book. Dowling contradicts herself at nearly every turn. On the one hand, she complains that women don’t read; then she complains that all they do is read. She says they act tough and strong, but that this is just to cover up their phobias. She criticizes those who “paint” and “write” a bit but later sings the praises of an older divorcee who sheds her traditional career to become a novelist. She says it is inevitable that without awareness, our inner Cinderella most certainly will come out. But nowhere does Dowling talk about what I feel is a bigger problem: that the continued sexism that exists in the workplace, and in daily life, is often hidden and rarely addressed. Somehow I can’t imagine that women are unable to reach the CEO level because of their desire to paint posies and bake bread but that’s what Dowling chalks it up to. Anyway, on the one hand I want to say thanks to Colette Dowling for encouraging me to be independent at a young age. It’s made me feel that at least I’m making my own decisions in life, and doing my part for what I hope will be an easier time for my daughters. On the other hand, I think this is a book about Colette Dowling and not about everyone in the world--I think the world is an even harder place than she describes. As Peggy Olsen would say, “I don’t understand. I’m doing everything I’m supposed to do. And other people are doing horrible things and getting away with it.” And as Ms. Magazine used to say, “click!”

  4. 5 out of 5

    ArwendeLuhtiene

    Pro: Feminist self-help book about harmful emotional dependence - still relevant today This is a feminist self-help book which helps women become more conscious about the 'Cinderella Complex': The way societal constructs and patriarchal gender roles make women experiment both problematic emotional (and financial) dependence and a deep fear of independence. I think these issues are really important and not discussed often often enough, because emotional (and also financial) dependence still af Pro: Feminist self-help book about harmful emotional dependence - still relevant today This is a feminist self-help book which helps women become more conscious about the 'Cinderella Complex': The way societal constructs and patriarchal gender roles make women experiment both problematic emotional (and financial) dependence and a deep fear of independence. I think these issues are really important and not discussed often often enough, because emotional (and also financial) dependence still affect many women today. Some people have remarked that this book is somewhat 'obsolete' because it was written in the early 80s and refers to the 60s and 70s - But I think that it is unfortunately not 'obsolete' at all. Emotional dependence is a real problem that is still affecting many, many women today, and it's still very much alive and perpetuated 'thanks' to traditional (and very problematic) children's 'fairy tales' and the media in general (the glorification of emotional dependence in 'romantic' songs, books and movies, for example). I totally recommend that everyone read books such as this one, because it makes both women and men think about the harm that patriarchy and gender roles have done and still do to women. Con: Non-intersectional This book is mainly focused on white, American middle-class heteronormative women, though. The emotional dependence issue can still be very relevant to many women, I think, disregardless of other factors, but it's worth mentioning that it's not a very intersectional book in that respect, and that not all women would be able to get out of harmful relationships or get their 'freedom' (financial independence, jobs, education, etc) with the ease that the author sometimes describes. It's not just about becoming conscious of the way society has trained women to be afraid of independence - Privilege and position in society are as important when it comes to 'springing free'. It can already be quite hard for white, heteronormative middle-class women to get away from an abusive relationship, or to be able to become financially independent if they're trapped in a marriage where the husband holds all the financial power and likes to stay that way. It's way harder to do so if you add race, class or sexual orientation to the equation. Being conscious of the psychological problems which make women dependent is very important, but in many cases it's not enough to actually be able to 'spring free', unfortunately. It's mostly a problem of omission, seeing as the author does focus on her experience and women with similar upbringings, but the book does have a cringeworthy anti-intersectional moment when the author states that getting household help would help (middle-class) women get more independence - while throwing other (lower-class and/or PoC) women under the bus :/. There's also another anti-sisterhood cringeworthy moment with the mention of two women who, apparently as a way to become 'less afraid of independence', decide to have affairs with married men. Which is never cool in my book and also a bit hypocritical, considering it throws other potentially dependent and miserable (house)wives under the bus as well :/ As a last remark, I'd also like to mention that, while I agree with the fact that, as a result of patriarchal upbringing, many women actually contribute to the loss of self-confidence and independence they experience, the author sometimes seems to paint husbands/partners in too good a light, being stifled by their wives/partners' emotional and financial dependence, and actually encouraging them to get jobs/activities and/or become less dependent in other ways. It's very true that women often bring the dependence to the equation because of their upbringing, and the author does also mention oppressive husbands and men who hold all the financial and executive power, but she never seems to focus on the fact that many men promote this system and seem to be pretty happy with the arrangement, never actually encouraging anyone to gain more independence whatsoever. The book also seems to assume that women end up in relationships, be they emotionally dependent or independent, omitting the cases of women who actually prefer just casual encounters or who are just not interested in relationships. Once again, this is written from the author's experience and point of view, and so she does focus on the effects that relationships have on women. But sometimes one can get the impression that a relationship is still a given step in a woman's life, instead of just critisizing the fact that most women always feel they have to go for that because they've been taught to be dependent and to seek for someone to save them. It's true that a woman can be in a relationship while 'loving herself' and not loosing her independence, but choosing to stay without one in a 100% happy way is another possibility that, as I recall, is not mentioned. These comments aside, I wholeheartedly recommend everyone reading this book, because emotional and financial dependence is a deeply problematic issue that, as a result of our upbringing, can become very subtle and hard to be concious of, and it severely affects women's happiness, freedom and wellbeing.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lerié Yell

    a must read for all women

  6. 5 out of 5

    Miss Ambitious

    Frankly, this book is a controversy to me; it's not a lousy book but it's not an excellent one either. I can't deny the fact that I enjoyed some of its chapters but there were so many things that I couldn't agree with because they just didn't make sense to me like the way Dowling built her arguments in favor of the idea that ALL women are afraid of independence. She uses double standards, overgeneralizes and she's biased against her own gender; she is a misogynist. In one chapter, she spoke of c Frankly, this book is a controversy to me; it's not a lousy book but it's not an excellent one either. I can't deny the fact that I enjoyed some of its chapters but there were so many things that I couldn't agree with because they just didn't make sense to me like the way Dowling built her arguments in favor of the idea that ALL women are afraid of independence. She uses double standards, overgeneralizes and she's biased against her own gender; she is a misogynist. In one chapter, she spoke of counter-phobic women and how they can't embrace their femininity like cooking, wearing dresses and falling in love, in another chapter she criticizes them for enjoying housework more than their jobs. Moreover, she considers what is naturally "feminine" such as wearing makeup and having a feminine voice and intonation as defects and weaknesses. It's like she wanted to create a species that is neither a man nor a woman. Another thing that she didn't consider was that fact that not all women want the same things; you can't force them to be violently ambitious or working mothers. And what about those women who are just happy being housewives? As I was approaching the end of the book, I got the impression that maybe Dowling got most of her opinions and arguments from men or simply, as I mentioned earlier, she's biased.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Harris

    I read this book in my very early 20s and it was life-changing. I still did some dumb things based on silly assumptions, but today I am a better woman and a better mother because of reading that book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Joy Airaudi

    This book made me a feminist!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Karen Kane

    I read this book when I was just 23 and it had a profound effect on me. I recommend it for every young woman.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    As much as I'd hate to admit that I feel somewhat reliant on what a man thinks of me (and reliant on wanting to be "taken care of"), I am that way. This book explores what is known as the "Cinderella Complex", that little something that tends to keep women from seeking what they want, because they feel they don't deserve it. Parts of the book were hard to follow, only because it was a copy published back in the 80's, so a lot of it seemed irrelevant. Yet, if you took away the decade differences, As much as I'd hate to admit that I feel somewhat reliant on what a man thinks of me (and reliant on wanting to be "taken care of"), I am that way. This book explores what is known as the "Cinderella Complex", that little something that tends to keep women from seeking what they want, because they feel they don't deserve it. Parts of the book were hard to follow, only because it was a copy published back in the 80's, so a lot of it seemed irrelevant. Yet, if you took away the decade differences, it was easy to see how the same concepts still have a small hold on women of today. As women, we want to have that independence and strength of character, which men seem to have in spades. Yet, we often find that it's elusive and seek to find that "someone" who will offer us the support we feel we require. I found it to be interesting in forcing me to think about myself - my own values and views.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Aljan

    Having been written in 1981, I thought that this book might be 'outdated". I found though that it manages to be quite timeless and remains current and useful. Sad in some places in its accuracy. Having been written in 1981, I thought that this book might be 'outdated". I found though that it manages to be quite timeless and remains current and useful. Sad in some places in its accuracy.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Barbara Ab

    Badly structured, badly written, out of date, too much about American culture, writer's experience, interviews... After 120 pages I had to give up!! Badly structured, badly written, out of date, too much about American culture, writer's experience, interviews... After 120 pages I had to give up!!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Guy

    An astutely observed book. Very worth while read and re-read. It changed for the better my understanding of the opposite sex. And this was Jungian in its understanding and argument, even though I believe that Dowling is not a Jungian.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kidist G

    An eye opener , even if it was written in the 80's . A lot of the pieces are powerful and speak personally to me . it helps me to question my beliefs on contemporary thoughts of being independent and wanting to be taken care of . An eye opener , even if it was written in the 80's . A lot of the pieces are powerful and speak personally to me . it helps me to question my beliefs on contemporary thoughts of being independent and wanting to be taken care of .

  15. 4 out of 5

    Alex Ankarr

    Liked it. I don't agree with all her conclusions, some parts are annoying. But overall, it's fascinating to read her accounts of one woman after another looking for permission to make her own decisions and live her own life. Wow, people are idiots. Not quite as much fun as The Myth of the Money Tree, though. The champion of schadenfreude, bar none. Liked it. I don't agree with all her conclusions, some parts are annoying. But overall, it's fascinating to read her accounts of one woman after another looking for permission to make her own decisions and live her own life. Wow, people are idiots. Not quite as much fun as The Myth of the Money Tree, though. The champion of schadenfreude, bar none.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Özge Kurbetoglu

    One word: excellent! Firstly its must read not for women but also men! The book is generally about how men are raised in order to be independent and how women are raised in order to be depend on man. Yes there is an educational, societal and cultural effect on that but on the other side; half side is our mistake. We give permission to society in order to manipulate us in the way that they like. We hide ourselves behind a man. Its like there has been (and still there is) social contract between men One word: excellent! Firstly its must read not for women but also men! The book is generally about how men are raised in order to be independent and how women are raised in order to be depend on man. Yes there is an educational, societal and cultural effect on that but on the other side; half side is our mistake. We give permission to society in order to manipulate us in the way that they like. We hide ourselves behind a man. Its like there has been (and still there is) social contract between men and women and desperately we have accepted this. So nobody asks us; what do you want instead they direct us the way that they want. We, women are all afraid of to be independent because we don’t know what to do with it. Thats why we accept to live under shadows of a “Man” Not because we like, just because of its easy thing to do, and at least we know how to do it; we know the formula. On the other side; following dreams, working, struggling needs courage and self confidence. We don’t want to take a risk, so we sell ourselves under the price. What I’ve learned from this book that dont think too much, dont be perfectionist because real world works in a diffrent way and out there; nobody is perfect! If you want something, dont think; just go and grab it!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nanksy

    An eye opening book of well researched conclusions about women who sabotage themselves. More commonly than one might think, women willingly give up their independence for love. And that is without being asked to do so and without the knowledge or desire of the love object. Feminists hated this book and called it victim blaming but it is not that at all. I found it to be a compelling examination of the psyche of women. A study of an unsuspected need to be dependent on a man. Only by seeing and ac An eye opening book of well researched conclusions about women who sabotage themselves. More commonly than one might think, women willingly give up their independence for love. And that is without being asked to do so and without the knowledge or desire of the love object. Feminists hated this book and called it victim blaming but it is not that at all. I found it to be a compelling examination of the psyche of women. A study of an unsuspected need to be dependent on a man. Only by seeing and acknowledging this hidden need can it be overcome. It is the first step that must be taken to free oneself from an ingrained need to serve and to be protected. Women are natural nurturers. It is an easy to subvert ambition and personal goals to become a caretaker. The next step is the feeling that the reward for that sacrifice should be the protection and support of the person being cared for. When the sacrifice is not appreciated and the person turns away, depression and despair are the result. This book gives good information on how not to put yourself in chains or turn yourself into the girl who takes care of everyone and is rewarded by being relegated to the ashes, waiting for a Fairy Godmother and Prince Charming.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Naomi Ruth

    I only read this book because a man returned it to the library, and one of the men whom I do not believe returns things for a wife or mother, but only checks things out for himself. It struck me as odd that a man would be reading a book with such a title so I checked it out to myself, sure that I would have Nothing in common with the contents and I would merely peruse the table of contents and maybe read part of the first chapter. Instead I read all of it, stopping occasionally to word-vomit all I only read this book because a man returned it to the library, and one of the men whom I do not believe returns things for a wife or mother, but only checks things out for himself. It struck me as odd that a man would be reading a book with such a title so I checked it out to myself, sure that I would have Nothing in common with the contents and I would merely peruse the table of contents and maybe read part of the first chapter. Instead I read all of it, stopping occasionally to word-vomit all over a notebook or take pictures of relevant quotes. How was this published in 1981 BUT IS STILL RELEVANT TO TODAY'S WOMEN? I do not understand. And while I did not agree with all of it, and I think some of it has changed, a whole lot of it was still incredibly True to Life. It has given me so much to think about and made me realize some Incredibly Horrible beliefs that I have and has Changed my Life - I believe for the better. Definitely, definitely, would recommend this book.

  19. 4 out of 5

    TEELOCK Mithilesh

    This phenomenon or syndrome becomes particularly significant with regard to the question of why women may choose to stay in dysfunctional relationships. The Cinderella complex was first described by Colette Dowling, who wrote a book on women's fear of independence – an unconscious desire to be taken care of by others. The complex is said to become more apparent as a person grows older. The complex is named after the fairy tale character Cinderella. It is based on the idea of femininity portrayed i This phenomenon or syndrome becomes particularly significant with regard to the question of why women may choose to stay in dysfunctional relationships. The Cinderella complex was first described by Colette Dowling, who wrote a book on women's fear of independence – an unconscious desire to be taken care of by others. The complex is said to become more apparent as a person grows older. The complex is named after the fairy tale character Cinderella. It is based on the idea of femininity portrayed in that story, where a woman is beautiful, graceful, polite, supportive, hardworking, independent, and maligned by the females of her society, but she is not capable of changing her situations with her own actions and must be helped by an outside force, usually a male (i.e., the Prince).

  20. 5 out of 5

    Pilar

    Yes, the hidden fear of independence internalized in women by patriarchy :( :( A book worth reading, which could make both women and men reflect.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Selen

    This book is so underrated! Totally a must-read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Aline

    The book is controversial, as it describes quite accurately how patriarchal society raises and socializes women to be always expecting to be saved. This pattern, though, I assume, is only traceable for white women, especially white middle-class women. Women of color are perceived by society in a much more raw, 'dehumanized' way, due to colonialism and racism, added to the sexism factor. It is quite a mistake not to make this point clear, not to include race in the analysis. But, to be honest, th The book is controversial, as it describes quite accurately how patriarchal society raises and socializes women to be always expecting to be saved. This pattern, though, I assume, is only traceable for white women, especially white middle-class women. Women of color are perceived by society in a much more raw, 'dehumanized' way, due to colonialism and racism, added to the sexism factor. It is quite a mistake not to make this point clear, not to include race in the analysis. But, to be honest, the whole 'analysis' made by the author is quite anecdotal. She actually makes a point as to profoundly associate gender and biology and does this by simply putting some cherry-picked, biased anecdotes, in an attempt to confirm her hypothesis. I find this quite a disservice to feminism. Gender is a social construct, there is nothing biological about it. It is a tool created and used by patriarchal societies, to make women inferior. Of course, there are women who do not want to pursue careers. The reason is very simple: as women achieved to have careers, these careers only became one extra layer on all the domestic and reproductive work that society expects women to do, which just ends up overloading women in quite a destructive way. Capitalism wants us, women, to work as if we did not have kids, at the same time as expecting us to have and raise children as if we did not work.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Afrijewel

    I found that "Perfect Woman" by Dowling was more organized in writing style and spoke to the real plight of women. Nonetheless "The Cinderella Complex" reminds me of many women in terms of playing the victim card and self deprecating. This was a bit of a choppy read for me. Yet still, the below is what range true: p.122 the entire page p.182 the entire page "I have learned that freedom and independence can't be wrested from others - from the society at large, or from men - but can only be developed, I found that "Perfect Woman" by Dowling was more organized in writing style and spoke to the real plight of women. Nonetheless "The Cinderella Complex" reminds me of many women in terms of playing the victim card and self deprecating. This was a bit of a choppy read for me. Yet still, the below is what range true: p.122 the entire page p.182 the entire page "I have learned that freedom and independence can't be wrested from others - from the society at large, or from men - but can only be developed, painstakingly, from within." p. 183 "She is free, at last, to love others - because she loves herself. All of these things, and no less, belong to the woman who has sprung free." pg. 184

  24. 5 out of 5

    Hara Joy

    I'm not how relevant the information of this book is today, seeing as it's written in the 1980s and contains even older information (e.g. from studies conducted in the 1960s). However, there is value in reading this book, as it provokes self-reflection. Whether how relevant the information it offers (statistics, psychological readings etc.) is today, it provides food for thought, and can also offer a picture of the situation of the time in which it was written. I'm not how relevant the information of this book is today, seeing as it's written in the 1980s and contains even older information (e.g. from studies conducted in the 1960s). However, there is value in reading this book, as it provokes self-reflection. Whether how relevant the information it offers (statistics, psychological readings etc.) is today, it provides food for thought, and can also offer a picture of the situation of the time in which it was written.

  25. 4 out of 5

    ~Theresa Kennedy~

    Here it is. One of the very first books that helped us women learn about ourselves. I love this book. I learned so much from reading it when it first came out and then years later. How I fell into so many of the traps of dependence. A great book, for any woman that is as fresh and valid today as it was when it was first published.

  26. 4 out of 5

    MahsaMsoomian

    I have the same problem, it’s useful for me and I think I should read it for the second time .

  27. 5 out of 5

    Carly Kade

    An eyeopening look at the ways women have been socialized to underestimate our power and potential for independence.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Romany Adams

    Very accurate and opens the mind.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sejoka Zeo

    A thought provoking read. It definitely has something to say. I found myself agreeing with many of the points stated in this book. I think all women should try reading it.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lili

    "The study shows at least tentative correlation between psychological independence and the ability to experience orgasm. Women who are psychologically dependent can find terrifying that moment of merger with the other, when the boundaries of personality and identity dissipate. Unsure of their identities to begin with, dependent, vulnerable, and helpless, they find the moment of passionate abandonment unbearable, and refuse to give themselves up to it. " :) "The study shows at least tentative correlation between psychological independence and the ability to experience orgasm. Women who are psychologically dependent can find terrifying that moment of merger with the other, when the boundaries of personality and identity dissipate. Unsure of their identities to begin with, dependent, vulnerable, and helpless, they find the moment of passionate abandonment unbearable, and refuse to give themselves up to it. " :)

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