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Monday, 14 March 2011
Ah, princesses.
I was a tomboy, an animal lover, a Little House on the Prairie watcher.  I don’t think I was ever enamoured of princesses as a child.  But then, I didn’t grow up in the current monochromatic pink landscape of today’s commercialized childhood, either.  A landscape where children are marketed to from the cradle, as the Big Companies seek to earn your loyalty from the womb.

And I will be frank, it ticks me off.
Our children being reduced to little consumers.
As the mother of a girl~ I resent and I rebel against the idea that my daughter *should* be some cotton candy headed pink freak wearing high heels and a tiara at age 5.
Notice I say *should*.
If my daughter chooses to be a cotton candy headed pink freak wearing high heels and a tiara at age 5, so be it.  The high heels and tiara will be up for discussion should they stray beyond dress up play, though, because I also think girls should be, well, little girls. The sexualization angle is a whole other rant.

It is all about choice.
Some little girls will always love the frou-frou girlie stuff.
More power to them.
We may be in a post-feminist age, but I am old enough to remember when choice was a novelty for girls and women.
What I object to is the idea of girlhood being reduced~ boiled down to some frothy marketing byte ~ the choices being limited to which Princess you like best.
More than once when a kindly stranger has engaged my daughter in a discussion, they have begun with something along the “aren’t you a little princess?!” lines.
She generally says “no.”.
One Sunday morning she did go to church in a crown and beads.
Every person who remarked it called her a princess.
And each time, she corrected, “I am the King!”.
Finally, frustrated, she asked me “Mommy, why do people call me a princess? I can be a king if I
want to!”. Yes, she can.

There is no doubt that the fairy tales of princesses and princes and castles and quests speak to something within us~ some archetypal awareness, longing, hope... I am not sure. I think like space,the ocean and dinosaurs, they represent a world beyond our ordinary and it is just fun to be there! But they have persisted for centuries for some reason.  All of which makes the branding, trademarking and smothering of the old tales in a neatly packaged (skinny, white, shall I go on...) Princess even more offensive.

The stories belong to us all.

They should be the stuff of child’s play~ but like the Waldorf figure with no facial details so the child can imagine it’s mood and appearance for themselves, the fairy tales should be open to interpretation by the players.

I know that this whole ‘princess thing’ touches a nerve with many moms seeking to bring up strong, healthy, positive, passionate girls who don’t need rescuing by handsome princes, or marriage to one to define their own worth.  I am awaiting my copy of ‘Cinderella Ate my Daughter’ in the mail. In the meantime, I thought would work through a series of posts about ‘Princess Proofing’ our girls.
This is the working list of ideas.I’ll tackle one or two, fleshing out the ideas with each post over the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned and please do add your thoughts, comments, objections, ideas to the comments on each post!

1) Don’t call me Princess
Get outside and get dirty.
Practice Empathy ::Consider other points of view
Share the classic Fairy Tales
5) Be Creative (act, sing, dance, make...)
6) Develop a variety of interests
7) Keep toys simple and open ended
8) Avoid the Pink Aisle/ Resist the Hype
Keep child’s play child friendly and child focussed
10) Love the Rainbow
The Real Thing
12) The Fairy Cheat


Julia @ Natural Parents Network said...

I very much look forward to all the posts in this series! I really want to princess proof my daughter and agree with the sentiment that if that is what she wants then fine, but I don't want to make her feel in any way that that is what she should want. She is only 2 but it is still everywhere even at that age. Right now she loves animals (especially owls and monkeys) and, while I have no problem with girly things, I just don't want the girly things to take over to the point of being her identity.

melissa joanne said...

Great topic, great post! I get so tired of people referring to my daughter as a "little princess" when we're out and about. I certainly agree that if she wants to play, we should let her play, but deeming her a "princess" before she can even speak, simply because she is female quite frankly ticks me off. I look forward to the posts you write on this topic!

Lori @ Beneath the Rowan Tree said...

Well, I am glad I am not a lone crackpot at least LOL I hope we can get some great discussion going, too about ways to help strike a balance in an unbalanced world!

Annicles said...

As the mother of an older child I can tell you it is vital that you start to address this now. My ten year old was quite happy to dress up as a princess one moment and a pirate or a king the next. I allowed her to go out dressed as she fancied and the comments were always - aren't you a cute pirate princess, you look so sweet. It drove her insane. Once we went around the supermarket with a sign hanging around her neck saying "I am a real pirate and I ate the princess"

Now that Abi is ten the messages about what a girl should be are even harder to fight. If I hadn't fought the pink when she was little then I do not know how I would even begin to explain that I do not like the clothes in the shops that make children look like hookers or that she has the choice to look different.

We live in England and most of Abi's clothes come from France and Germany where the choice is better and the expectation is not that the 8-14 year olds want to look like tarts.

My heart breaks to see children of Abi's age dressed up in high heels, little mini skirts and tummy revealing tops tottering around town.

That is an adventure for the future. The adventure they should be experiencing now is extending their independence and still, playing in nature, making potions, climbing trees, putting on plays, exploring everything.

Pumpkin Pie Baby said...

You're not alone, Lori, in wanting to allow your daughter to develop in whatever way she wants...not in the way that corporations dictate she should. I have been fighting with our family for years against buying every princess and pink thing in the stores. Have you considered hosting an online reading group for Cinderella Ate My Daughter? I'd love to read it too. Thanks!

Lori @ Beneath the Rowan Tree said...

Thanks Annicles, for the perspective from an older child~ vital info!
Excellent idea about the reading group! I think it would be so helpful (and kinda fun!) ~ must look into that!


Anonymous said...

I just purchased "Cinderella Ate my Daughter" - it is proving to be an interesting read.

Kristin said...

What a great post! I feel the same way. I get so sick of the princess garbage. Fortunately my five-year-old daughter and many of her friends are the kind to dress in pretty stuff and then go out and get dirty.

What really disgusts me about the "princess culture" is that it teaches girls that you must wait for a man to rescue you and make your life worthwhile. *shudder*

jen said...

I am now 60, so I grew up when fairytales were read in books, not shown in movies. I can't remember dressing up as a princess, but I do remember that my favourite colour was pink. I loved pretty dresses (made by my mum, and always very demure), playing as a cowgirl, complete with hat and toy gun, playing cricket with my brother and his mates. I also loved making cubby houses, climbing trees and jumping off roofs!

My sons both went through a phase of loving pink & my youngest had a pink bicycle helmet. They also had my dolls to play with.

My grandaughters love to dress up as princesses and the eldest told me that she didn't just 'look like' a princess, she was a princess, when she was about 4.

I think the best way to control the attitudes of your children is to limit the TV & to make sure that what they do watch is educational or suitable for teaching your perspective.

We must all fight the sexualisation of girls with a vengeance and I think that starts with the music industry videos playing on TV. Why do we have to see nearly naked singers performing raunchy acts on stage?

Today's mums have a big job on their hands and I commend you all for trying to overcome these invasions of our senses. Bless you all.

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