For information and resources on Raising a Princess Who is Not a Princess, check out the resource guide I’ve put together on princesses and fairy tales.
It’s hard to write about this subject without launching directly into a rant about the evils of marketing that’s directed at children, the lengths to which I’ve gone to keep my children unbranded, and the dangers I see lurking behind the faces of even the most innocent of children’s characters, such as Winnie the Pooh. ***Deep Breath*** I will try to stave off those subjects for another time…
I was a tom-girl growing up, no question about it. You’d sooner find me digging up worms than playing dress-up or putting on lipstick. Because of this, I’d largely assumed I’d have only sons. Of course, the universe blessed me with a daughter and I’ve known all along that, at some point, I’d probably have to figure out how to do the more girly stuff.
Let me say right up front that I don’t look down on the girlie stuff, the princess fetish, all that pink and frills… I just don’t naturally “get” it. I do get that many little girls need to go through a princess phase. In fact, it’s probably very healthy. I see it as playing with the extreme end of gender identification, the height of femininity, in order to find one’s place somewhere in the middle. What I don’t like about the princess thing, however, is how heavily marketed and pre-fabricated it all is.
The mass-media machine readily converts an interest in femininity and princess play into lots of ready-made princess roles — cinderella, snow white, the little mermaid, etc:
These pre-fabbed princesses come with very specific messages of what it means to be a girl, what it means to be a woman. The physical ideals are bad enough — large breasts, small hips, demure head tilts, etc — but the story lines are even worse… What’s the “hidden” message behind Beauty and the Beast? If you love a horrible, awful monster enough, despite all his horrendous behaviour, you’ll eventually change him. Oh, and the rest of the world thinks he’s this horrible beast too, but they just don’t understand him the way you do. Perfect storyline for the future battered wife!
How about Sleeping Beauty? Be passive, don’t do anything, you are frozen and impotent, but eventually, because you are pretty, someone will come along and save you. Way to take a hold of your own life!
Breaking down the story lines of Disney movies and fairy tales is the stuff of a dissertation, not a blog post, but I think you get my general point.
When my daughter turned three, she got some really nice presents, some of which were “princessy.” She hadn’t yet begun a princess phase. Despite the fact that it’s common, I personally don’t think it is a requisite for growing up “girl,” so I set the princess books and games aside and decided to wait until she expressed an interest in things of that nature. Along the way, I did toss out the Disney-specific stuff, but held onto items that were “princess,” but not loaded with so much other context.
This brings me to the title of this post, which introduces a new subject for this blog — Raising a Princess Who is Not a Princess.
As a conscious parent, especially a media-conscious one, how can I help my daughter embrace her femininity without feeding her into the giant maw of the Disney/Bratz/Anorexic-Ophelia-Drowning-Paralyzing-Passivity-Cinderella-Effect-Anti-Feminist machine?