All you mamas of girls out there, I know you are already nodding your heads.
It’s incredible how it happens, the first position of royalty in a girl’s life. We’ve never watched Disney (well, except for Pooh.), and the only book we own that mentions the P word is The Paper Bag Princess, the most anti-foofy princess tale ever. Fern’s been exposed to empowered role models…Satsuki and Mei, Miss Piggy (Hei-YA!), Dorothy and Ozma.
My Beauty, in four tutus and Blueberry Lassi stained shirt and mouth.
But like a drug dealer waiting around the corner from school (what a tired cliche, does that even happen?), the Princess Archetype is so culturally pervasive that my daughter has been hooked after only a little exposure. The neighbors across the street that scream “Hi Princess!” whenever they see her. The tutus that have found their way into her wardrobe as gifts (don’t get me wrong here either, I love a good tutu). The few times she’s been to a mall or Target with all the Cinderella everything. And most recently, the exhibit at our beloved Discovery Museum, about the world of Fairy Tales that predominantly featured…Princesses. With tot sized dress up gowns and everything! Ugh.
I’m probably preaching to the choir here, so I’m not going to write a thesis on why I have a problem with Bibbedy Bobbedy Boo.
Instead, I’ll write you a list.
1. The princess is the primary archetype of power offered to little girls through media and advertising. It can be argued that underneath all the pink and sparkles, is a girl who can command the world and find her heart’s desire. But unless I want my daughter to be a Real Housewife , I would prefer it be modeled to her that she can just be a Person. With a Heart and Brain. Who is Capable without the zero sized waist and the boob job. Given who her mother is, it’s obvious that expression through fashion is not an issue. But there’s personal expression and then there’s emulation, and the latter is worrisome.
2. There’s this thing called cradle to grave that Disney figured out. Use cartoon characters and archetypes that children find attractive and put them on Everything with your brand on it, starting with diapers. From the time they are infants, entrain them to associate those characters with safety, pleasure and fun, and the business insures that the individual will feel compelled to buy their cheaply made plastic crap for the rest of their lives. Fuck you Disney.
3. Happily Ever After. I would almost buy the “Feminine form of Power” interpretation if it wasn’t for the way almost all princess stories resolve. Princess goes through major ordeal. Princess almost dies at the hand of hardship and challenge. Princess is brought back to life by the perfect dude. Princess lives happily ever after. As in, a girl’s life ends once her relationship begins. It can be argued that The Prince is the marriage of the young woman with her inner masculine. Which is a nice idea, but that’s not really how the mind integrates the message.I would almost laugh at my seriousness, if it wasn’t for the fact that I watch my twenty-something female clients do battle with this absorbed story line over and over in my office. Women have to find meaning for themselves through livelihood, vocation, empowerment and spirituality. Most of us try to eschew that by finding Mr. (or Mrs.) Right. Fairy tales send very strong messages to young minds, and I think this one is a big problem. Thankfully, this is beginning to change, just a little.
From this amusing article…
No, I see a more insidious development: the systematic marketing of princess-emblazoned junk to an extremely vulnerable, impulsive demographic prone to violent public displays of displeasure when its parents don’t buy it everything it wants.
The fact is, if you have, or if you are, a little girl in today’s America, you can’t get away from princess culture. Not even in Juneau, perched at the edge of a 1,000-square-mile wilderness. In fact, we recently met a family that lives in a cabin with no running water out in Gustavus, and mirror, mirror on the wall, theirs were the princessiest daughters of all.
It’s as if Disney’s licensed itself to the entire country of China. Princess products are everywhere: princess placemats, princess camping chairs, princess toothbrushes, princess toothpaste, princess sheets, princess pillowcases, princess pillow shams (btw, what’s the purpose of a pillow sham, aside from providing yet another surface upon which to silk-screen Snow White?). We own several singing princess books, as well as a princess phone, which, when left alone for 10 minutes, rings itself to remind my daughter to play with it. I’d remove the batteries, but honestly, I think it’s one of those toys that runs on pure evil.
Alright, I could go on and on, but what I want to know is this…
What are your own recommendations for offering role models to little girls? What stories and books and movies do you recommend? What myths have you found, particularly ones that feature rockin’ women? Two that I really like are Spider Woman and Artemis…but I haven’t found any good images or books, especially ones that can compete with glittery rainbow everywhere toys. Mothers of little girls everywhere… I want to hear from you!