Princess Power

"Orenstein: When you look through the princess products there's a lot of makeup, there's a lot of 'my princess wedding,' you know, things that are pretty retrograde on that level. But while they're not sexualized per se, they're certainly appealing to what goes kind of hand-in-glove with that, as girls are going to get older, which is about consumerism and narcissism." -

My 3 year old daughter becomes ecstatic at the sight of Disney princess characters, dresses, make-up - and all things girly-girl. After reading a number of interviews with Peggy Orenstein, Author of "Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches From the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture," I began to question what I was, or was not doing to set my little one well on her way along the path to KNOWING that she is beautiful because of who she is, and not what she may look like. I want her to KNOW that she is a person with inner strength, and that only she can KNOW who she is, and grow into the woman she is destined to be. No matter that the barrage of advertising is trying to convince her that shallow, narcissistic, and slutty gets you your prince. As if a girl needs to wait for a prince! We women know that it is the prince who is really in need of rescuing. HA.

Before she was born, we knew she was a she. No surprises for this control freak. Back then, I insisted on gender neutrality when I could. Her car seat was orange, her tummy play mat was green, little dresses were blue... you get the picture. Then she arrived, and I became hyper-sensitive to any and all of that nonsense. No bikinis for my baby, thank you very much. I even went so far as to admonish my husband for saying "good girl", because what if she didn't WANT to be a girl? Yeah. I know, he was a saint for just nodding. But seriously, I didn't want us as parents to be guilty of implying through casual speech that she was expected to define herself by labels chosen by us, or any other outside source for that matter.

When she was just short of year two, in my sleep-deprived, hormonal stupor (had a new infant to deal with) I pulled out an ancient VHS tape of Cinderella (I needed her to sit still while I dealt with her new sister). Stronger in me than the seemingly ever-present sensitivity to offensive early sexualization and the princess complex, was the nostalgic urge to expose my child to some of the same joys that I experienced in my childhood. This one exposure to Cinderella snowballed into every area of her interests at an alarming velocity.

In her room today, you can find a vanity set with accessories and make-believe make-up, a dress-up box filled with princess paraphernalia, Dora (aka Spora; once she gets in, she multiplies like mushroom spores) decals on the wall, a princess and castle decal. Thankfully it stops there. I guess I could have let it get worse. Wait - it did get worse, I forgot. I have a very LARGE box of Barbies and Barbie related accessories in the basement (freebie at a garage sale, couldn't stop myself yet again). And last Christmas' clearance racks at Canadian Tire sported a package of 7 Disney Princess Barbies. Originally $150.00, on sale for $45.00. Come on! Who could walk away from that? I thought it could be her 3rd birthday present.

So, why am I not exposing her to different if not better role models? I mean there are REAL HUMAN princesses out there. Even that would be better than the plastic variety. Have I just been lazy? Uh, yeeeah! And I seem to be shopping for my inner little girl self. Recently we have limited make-up play to in the house only. Any Disney princess themed clothing that find their way into our house become jammies. Is this silly? Misguided? Farked if I know.

Even if this is just a phase for her- phases are times of exploration of self. Who knows what she will take from it; what impressions will form as a building block for her id. I desperately wish for the best for her. My heart aches when I think of all that can hurt a young girl; the kicker being that the most heinous of hurts is usually psychologically self-inflicted.

This parenting shtick sure demands a lot of solicitude. What I'd like to know? Why in the world is my inner child contradicting me, the Mommy? Harumph.

I must be missing something.

Like sleep.


Belly said…
So funny, as I was talking about this just this morning, with a Dad whose daughter loves pink and dresses and all things princess.

I think that TRYING to remain gender neutral for our children's things/clothes and views is admirable...just unlikely. Some mothers seem to manage it beautifully, but I honestly question their motives - are you seriously concerned with equality and gender neutrality or are you simply looking to one up, all "Animal Farm" like?

SO happy to read this, by the way. Keep bloggin', Mama. You're good.
MamaBHive said…
"simply looking to one up, all "Animal Farm" like?"

Esplain Lucy.

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