Looking for anti-disney resources to raise an unprincess? Check out the Princesses and Fairy Tales resource list.
Years ago, I babysat for a lesbian couple who had two little daughters. I was living on the East Coast and during my spring break, I visited San Francisco for the first time. While perusing an alternative bookstore, I came across “The Paper Bag Princess.” At the time, in the early 90’s, I thought this was an incredibly avant-garde book and snatched it up for the moms to share with their girls. Little did I realize at the time how I would come to appreciate this book for my own children and come to consider its “the princess doesn’t need the prince” message as a moral every little girl should learn, not just the daughters of lesbians!
I share that vignette as a note to how far my own perspective has changed over the years. I was raised fairly consciously about gender roles and grew up in an extremely pro-feminist area. Even with that advantage, I was so indoctrinated to the standard messages of the princess tropes in contemporary and historical storylines that it seemed kitchy and cute to get an empowering book for little girls (this was in the pre “girl power” days, when the idea of girl empowerment hadn’t yet been a readily accepted intentional movement, which was later co-opted by marketers and made totally hollow). Now, I understand that providing little girls with strong female role models in their earliest literary experiences is essential.
I think that in recent decades, marketing machines have become so savvy at targeting small children parents need to think early and often about protecting their children from, or at least counteracting against, the limiting definitions of gender. When I was growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, I think it would have been normal to become concerned about over-sexualized or over-feminine messages being pointed at middle schoolers or high schoolers. Now, the messaging is already strong in preschool. Looking for a good example? My daughter goes to a pretty progressive Montessori school in a well educated area, with fairly savvy parents. One of the little girls brings a Bratz backpack to school every day. Great. My daughter is exposed to little hookers every day at school. Cool.
So, what’s the solution for a parent of a little girl? A complete media blackout? No girlie things ever?
Absolutely not! I think all little children need to play with and explore gender identification by playing with the height of masculinity and femininity to discover where they feel most comfortable in the spectrum. I don’t want to deny my daughter the chance to be a girlie girl… I just don’t want it to be pre-packaged and pre-defined for her a-la Disney princesses (BLECH!!!).
So, my solution is to seek out fairy stories more than princess stories, to find the tales of the wise women and wise girls, the ones who aren’t waiting for rescue from a prince, but are out exploring the world on their own feet. In addition, I want to embrace my daughter’s girlie play, but with flowing skirts and poofy dresses that would befit any fairy or princess, not just those of Disney.
I’m not a super crafty person, but I find great inspiration on Etsy.com. Just check this out: