Princess Culture, Revisited

Almost three years ago, I wrote a post entitled The Princess Culture: View From a Former Princess.  You can read it here. In the post, I argued that modern society is creating a cultural phenomena of a generation of girls who grow up thinking they are or want to be princesses. I spoke at large about how I did not want to expose my daughter to the common societal expectation that girls should be the epitome of femininity, infatuated with all things frilly, pink, sparkly, and girly-girl. Visit any toy aisle or turn on the TV to see that princesses have invaded play, television, movies, and toys.

When my daughter was born I tried to keep her away from Disney princess movies and princess culture in general.  I decorated her bedroom with Snoopy and stayed away from pink as much as possible.  I cringed when someone called her “princess,” (although, admittedly, I caught myself doing it absentmindedly one day, I confess.)

I didn’t want her to get locked into the niche of girls who think that they are some character in a story with magic, music, and a Prince Charming who will swoop in and make everything OK.

What does this mean for modern girls? Will girls who don’t identify with this ultrafeminine image feel “different” than their peers? Will they feel pressure to or feel to obligated to conform to this gender stereotype? I don’t want some silly cartoon image or predetermined norm to affect her self-esteem or idea of self-worth.
I also don’t agree with the old-fashioned notion that a female needs a man to take care of her.

I want to encourage her and all girls to aspire to be an astronaut, an athlete, a chef, a CEO, a nurse, a pilot- whatever she wants to be.

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I want her to feel empowered, not entitled.

That was way harder than I thought it would be, and was, certainly, an impossible task. British royalty is all over the news, the TV, and the internet these days. It is difficult to go through a day without seeing photos of Meghan Markel and Kate Middleton. The new Frozen II trailer has gotten girls all over excited.

As she got older I noticed that she would make comments about not wanting to look at the “boy toys” at Wal-Mart or how she wanted “only girl toys.” I had resisted playing Cinderella or Frozen until she was older, but she was exposed to those movies at daycare and at her grandparents’ house.  She soon became obsessed with princesses like her friends at preschool.  She begged for stickers, dolls, dress up clothes, posters, anything you could think of. A couple months ago she asked me to take down the Snoopy decorations in her bedroom because, “I’m not a baby anymore, Mom. I love princesses and I want princess everything!” 

Woah, mom freakout in progress.

Pink, pink, everywhere. Frozen posters. Rapunzel cereal. Princess underwear. Disney songs. I can see why she likes it. It is fun to dress up.  They have catchy songs. I think she likes the movies because she is alternately scared of and fascinated by the villains. Other girls love the stuff and what girl doesn’t want to be like the others, at least a little bit?

I decided that I couldn’t fight it, but I couldn’t just “let it go,” either, so I would do what I could to counteract it. Please, don’t hate me, I’m not a total stick in the mud. I like pink. I like glitter. I’ve written about my childhood love of all things Cinderella, and I still hold that innocent girly admiration dear to my heart… but I want to raise a grounded, unentitled, daring, driven girl who doesn’t wait for Prince Charming and makes her own way in life. Hey, if she finds her prince along the way, it’s like a cherry on top – delicious, but not necessary to enjoy an ice cream sundae.

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So, I’ve begun to try to make her to understand that there are very few real princesses, but it is fun to play and pretend. In real life there are no animal friends to help clean house. There are no fairies to appear and grant wishes. I’ve tried to make a point that real girls and princesses alike shouldn’t be expected to just dress in pretty gowns and look beautiful. They should be educated about other countries and cultures. They should use their means and status to help others who are less fortunate; they should be an advocate for those who can’t speak for themselves. They should not be afraid to learn about, study, or play with, or do things that are stereotypically for boys. They should make their own way in life and work to make their own happy ending.


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