I was whipping a cart through Target when my 2-year-old spotted the suit. “Oooh, so pretty,” she said. “And her hair is exactly the same color as mine.” My daughter has dark brown hair and Ariel’s hair is a shade of red you don’t actually find naturally. Something about her bubbly delight combined with her hilarious use of the word “exactly” softened me to mush and the suit went right in the cart.
Back in the days when parenting was still a theoretical concept for me, I was firmly in the anti-princess camp. Why would we want to expose our children to old fashioned and limiting stories of frilly girls waiting to be saved by a prince?
But in real life, the quick calculation in my mind went something like this: “Wow, that mermaid is in a skimpy bathing suit, they have to be kidding… On the other hand, opposing a mermaid seems harsh and humorless, like being anti-unicorn, and I don’t want to create a forbidden fruit issue.” So the bathing suit came home, and became an instant favorite.
Then we visited a cousin who shared a princess book with my children and my 2- year-old came home with a new word which she took to yelling, “pinnnn- cesssss.” Suddenly, the various princesses were appearing in the most unexpected places. We would be calmly pushing the shopping cart through the grocery store and I would hear the shriek from the cart, “pinnnnnn-ssesssss.” My untrained eyes started scanning while my little one motioned desperately up toward a shelf of toothpaste, breakfast cereal, bread, whatever…. and then I would spot it, a tiny picture of a princess on the side of some random made-in-China plastic thing. It could be anything, a mini-water bottle, bandages, shampoo, vitamins, the images appear in the most unlikely places and children can train their eyes to see them all.
Thinking and reading about the effect of princess culture on young girls (and boys) was the kind of thing I had time to do before becoming a mother. But things move so fast and there is not enough time to read these days, so I wind up making important decisions too quickly, with an eye on revisiting them later. I am not sure if I am making the right call on this one but here is why I am allowing them in the house for now.
Why I’m allowing this princess stuff in my house:
1) If I am casual about the whole thing, I hope it will blow over early and she will be done with them before it really matters.
2) While she loves princesses, this morning she happily went out to do some “farm chores” with her dad and brother wearing a flannel shirt and jeans that she picked out from her brother’s dresser.
4) I am concerned that guarding against it strictly might create a backlash.
5) Since we live on a farm and she has female role models like me who are decidedly un-princess like, I feel it might create a balance that is ok in our house, for now. But I am not sure.
6) I will keep reevaluating this one and I am open to finding out I need to be more proactive in keeping the whole pin-cesses thing at bay.
I did find a couple of resources from people with the time and expertise to think this issue through when they are not pushing grocery carts at the same time. I hope to find time to read them all before it spirals out of control around here. I would love to hear how other Kveller mom’s navigate this one. Does Mayim keep the princesses out? Should the rest of us?
Here are the resources I’d love to read, once I find the time:
– The American Psychological Association report and all the press that followed: Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls.
– Cinderella Ate my Daughter, by Peggy Orenstein,
– The Christian Science Montitor Story: Little Girls or Little Women, The Disney Princess Effect