In Defense of Princesses.

Someone recently commented to me from seeing a photo of my daughter opening a present on Christmas that it looked like a pink bomb had gone off in my house. They were referring to all the princess paraphernalia strewn around my living room. At first I felt ever so slightly defensive because I know some people get all up in arms about the whole princess issue. In fact, plenty of people are actually anti-princess, figuring that princess stories where wicked step-mothers abound and only the kiss of a sweet prince can wake you from your forever sleep send the wrong message to our children. Here’s the thing: I’m all for raising smart, sassy, spunky girls who may want to grow up to be doctors, lawyers or TV producers but I don’t know why sleeping in a Snow White dress for eighty days straight when you’re four is mutually exclusive to growing up to be a firefighter. Is it because you will be too busy sitting in your castle waiting for Prince Charming or thinking true happiness can only be found by shacking up with dwarves?

 

 

WHY DO WE AS PARENTS HAVE TO TAKE EVERYTHING SO LITERALLY? WHY AM I SHOUTING? WHO AM I ARGUING WITH? I don’t know. Clearly a lot of people are on my side on this one or Walt Disney would have gone out of business a long time ago. Yet here we all are forking over twenty-five bucks for a Cinderella t-shirt at the Disney store. But there are some people who strongly believe that princess tales are bad for our little girls. Come on. To me, playing princesses is all about the glamour, the glitz, the singing, the dancing, the damn magic of it all. It’s make believe.

 

My daughter couldn’t even give a rat’s ass about the prince part. For her, it’s all about the ladies. She and her “friends”; Ariel, Barbie Fairytopia (pink and purple), White Castle Barbie’s (or maybe Diamond Castle – I get those two confused –but one has to do with yummy burgers) Alexa and Alana –“They sing a song Mommy!” go everywhere together. It’s like she’s part of a gang and their colors are pink and hot pink. Other girls recognize likeminded princess pals and it gives them something in common, something to gossip about, much like we grownups talk about shoes or purses or Dr. McDreamy –he not real either, Anti-Princess People!

 

To me, buying into the whole princess thing is a bit like believing in Santa Clause, the tooth fairy or the Easter Bunny. Are they real? No. Okay, not as far as I know. Are they implausible to us? Yes. Do our children love to believe? Of course. And we love for them to believe because that’s part of their innocence. Once that spell is broken they will look at life with much more cynical eyes because they will always be looking for the trick, the illusion. They won’t believe in magic, they won’t be fooled by a card trick or the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. When they see a ghost pop out they will always be looking for the wires.

 

MDTaz
02.14.09

I resisted (and for a while, resented) all the princess hoopla. Then I decided this was futile. It's everywhere; there's no escape. I can't keep my daughters from buying into the princess myth, any more than I can protect them from the disappointments the world will hurl at them.

Instead, I just try to give them perspective. I told my daughter that Sleeping Beauty could have very well been written the other way, with the prince falling asleep and the princess having to save him. I asked her if her best friend, the little boy across the street, had pricked his finger and fallen into an eternal slumber, would she be willing to slog her way through the thorny forest and fight the evil dragon to save him? "Sure," she said, "if I felt like it." That was good enough for me.

Then there's always Shrek III, an inspiring attempt at re-branding all things princess.

Writermom
01.21.09

I agree with everything you've said. I believe we are sorely lacking in dolls and princesses that are realistic and also varied in ethnicity. We are certainly not all Pamela Anderson clones nor should any of us want to be. I will concede that it is very possible that the way women like Pamela Anderson come to think that blonde hair, tons of make-up and huge boobs make up what society believes to be the ideal woman. BUT, that could also have a lot to do with Pamela Anderson's upbringing.
I didn't even go through a princess phase and wasn't allowed to play with Barbies yet I developed an eating disorder and thought that I was only acceptable thin. I believe that is a real problem in our world but I can't blame running around dressed as Snow White for that. It would take any and all responsiblitly off of myself to provide my daughter with positive strokes for being herself - being kind - a good friend - honest - brave and all the qualities that have NOTHING to do with her appearance. That is my job. But again, I think she can play princess and still grow up to be a good person. And by the way, she just saw today that a person of color is our president. She doesn't have any idea that that is out of the ordinary! I love that I'm bringing her up at a time like this!

nabbie
01.21.09

What's wrong with a little fantasy? Hell, if I could dress up in a pink gown and wave a"Magic" wand, do you think I would be sitting on my couch waiting for a repeat episode of the Mentalist???? I believe children become what they do because of childhood dreams. I want my daughter to be a princess when she grows up. And what I mean by that is...
When she finds her prince charming, I want him to set her high up on the tallest peidstal ever made in the world! And the day he puts her second, I want her to have the guts and courage to kick his worthless ass to the freakin' curb leaving brushburns in his miserable a-hole! I really do not have any hostility towards the male gender, just a few bad experiences which I have gotten even with the help of my Mafia-enforced relatives...only kidding! Anyhoo, let the babies be pricesses, before you know it, they will be grown up and moved on!

deemccormick
01.21.09

Wow, I'm going to say this, I believe in live and let live. What i'd like for you ladies to do is look from another set of eyes. I'm not saying oppose the whole Disney Princess and Princess fairy tale fantasy thing. When is the last time you've seen a black Disney princess or any Princess that was considered "black". You have Mulan, you have Jasmine, and you have Pocahontas, and I'm sorry the attempt at using "Nala" from the lion king, an animal simply does not befit a black princess.

Black girls are not allowed or given the perception that black princesses even exist. Even though culturally and historically many princesses were black, they are never acknowledged.

Most little black girls that are not biracial do not have "long flowing hair" unless it's chemically processed. Most little black girls do not wear pink and blue eye shadow (because they'll look like circus clowns).

On the other side of that their caucasian female counterparts are allowed to have this innocence and fantasy and are treated like princesses. They eventually grow beyond this, however there is something that remains, there is an impression or perception that remains. One that is embedded in their subconscious, in all women's subconscious, and that is IMAGE is everything. Beauty is based on appearance. So you have caucasian girls and others living up to a specific aspiration of what someone else has determined to be "beautiful" and many of them attempt to live up to this unrealistic expectation.

On the flip side of that you have little black girls, that have been given the impression that they are not considered beautiful for their own natural looks, inner beauty and uniqueness. They don't have a symbol of beauty to assimilate to that is recognized by the masses and a damn near "cultish" following and products that target this group along with the masses. That's if you aren't considering all of the products that are available to remove all traces of ethnicity and uniqueness from these little girls (i.e. hair relaxers and skin lighteners).

It is my belief that we as parents have an obligation to our children to instill in them fantasy from reality and core values that will not have them question who they are as individuals and to have the confidence in themselves to not waver when dealing with self identification and the responses and impressions they will receive from real world circumstances and experiences.

vhaya12
01.21.09

I agree with you! My twin daughters loved princess stuff from age 3 on -- the sparklier, the better! Tiaras, boas, glitter, and sequins were all the rage. Now that they are 7, the allure is wearing thin. If/when your daughters do want to be princesses, remember that it's just a phase. As long as you don't go all "baby beauty queen" on them, they will be fine.

Writermom
01.20.09

You know, Neuromom, your points are actually well taken. But, if or more probably when your daughter enters the princess phase, take heart: it's not appearance oriented in the same way that adults process appearances. That was sort of the point of my article. My daughter is by and large completely unladylike, not afraid of dirt or mud or giant puddles of leaves. She doesn't really associate pretty in a "she's pretty because she's thin or has make-up on" she just sees glitter and bright colors and hair she can brush and comb. My daughter, herself, never talks about real people's looks nor is she able to distinguish between conventionally attractive people vs. conventionally unattractive people. Since I, myself, only wear make-up on special occasions (which is never) she certainly doesn't think one must have long hair, make-up or high heels to be attractive. Hence, make-believe. Just don't let her go on a diet at nine and you should be all set.

neuromum
01.20.09

I don't want to disagree with you too strongly- sleeping in a snow white dress for 3 mos straight is hardly the end of the world. But I will admit that if my daughter, currently just shy of 3, enters a princess phase, I will be disappointed. What bugs me about princesses is that they seem to be very appearance oriented. A lot of the princess paraphernalia that people buy are things that girls think make them look pretty. To me, this just seems like a weird thing for a preschool aged girl to be fixated on. I realize that girls and women are often very naturally quite conscious of their appearance. I don't suppose this is a bad thing, but worrying about how you look can prevent you from doing great things! There are many women who won't ride bikes because they think the helmet will ruin their hair, or won't swim because they are embarrassed about how they will look in a swim suit. Or they wear uncomfortable shoes that prevent them from running or even walking very far. I just can't imagine making choices like those and I hope my daughter won't either.

PyroChristina
01.19.09

I totally agree with lisaowen on this one. I love your posts good job! http://pyronnic.blogspot.com

lisaowen
01.18.09

Holy camoly! I am totally on your side. And honestly pink bombs don't go off in my house very often. But I have friends who get them quite a lot and sometimes they get a hard time from others. My daughter loves princess stuff...great! She loves picking up bugs...great! I want her to develop into who she wants to be on her own based on the things she instinctively likes not because I tell her she can't play with this or she has to like that. My 2 year old son likes to play with her dolls and take care of them...so what. I love your article and it's refreshing to see that others have such an open point of view on social and individual development! Great read!!!!