Princessification: Phase or Lifestyle?
by Leslie Morgan Steiner
I have two daughters. Between three to five both went through utterly insane “princess” phases. You know, periods during which they SLEPT in the itchy blue Cinderella dress and showered in the excruciatingly painful, lethally-slippery glass slippers (which were actually made out of plastic)?
Apparently my girls are not alone. They are part of an American marketing tsunami, according to a smart new book exploring the “princessification” of American girls: Cinderella Ate My Daughter. The author is Peggy Orenstein, who also wrote Waiting for Daisy and Schoolgirls. Orenstein lives in Berkeley, California, and has received awards from the National Women’s Political Caucus of California and Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Most definitely a feminist expert on all things girly-girl. The book is filled with thousands of words exploring the innumerable ways marketers sell princess products. The sexualization of girls by the media. The complicity of parents.
The seduction and deception perpetrated by young tv idols like Miley Cyrus, Jamie Lynn Spears, Demi Lovato and Lindsay Lohan once they surreptitiously hand in their promise rings for stripper poles.
The princess conspiracy cuts far deeper than pink tiaras, Orenstein explained recently on The Diane Rehm Show. Research suggests that obsession with all things princessy might lead to parents’ worst nightmares: an escalation to eating disorders, depression, distorted body image, risky sexual behavior, sexting, Facebook abuse, and lifelong self-esteem issues. Serious problems none of us ever want our children to face.
I’d do anything to help my kids avoid life-threatening psychological problems. I’m not a fan of fairy tales or tv-stars-turned-slutty-celebrities. The baggage outweighs the benefits: Snow White awakens with kiss of a prince; The Little Mermaid gives up her voice to be with a man; Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lynn trade god-given talent for teenage excess...It’s hard for an evolved mom in 2011 to champion these pastel fantasies.
However, parenthood and panic don’t mix well. Forget about raising an "ideal" daughter. There is no such thing. Kids are kids. They are not sociology experiments or political statements. Our daughters are not born to prove correct our college thesis on gender warfare.
The princess phase is just a phase (as long as parents don’t become overly invested in toddler beauty pageants or kiddie porn). Perfectly sound, lovely girls do weird things as five year olds, preteens and teenagers. Some measure of these dreaded problems seems suspiciously…normal. Even though many of us moms know, all too well, the pitfalls of princessification, I’m not certain the princess phase is something we should force our daughters to avoid.