This whole “Am I not raising my daughter to be a pint-sized empowered female because I let her sleep in The Little Mermaid pajamas?” concern that keeps parents up at night these days is a really stupid concern, because I’m here to tell ya, it’s not a concern at all. Your daughter has the attention span of a gnat and kids also do this really amazing thing, which is every year they grow, and not only do they grow taller but their minds grow, and they change, and they lose interest in things, and then one day they take all of your money so they can go to college and study hard and also vomit PBR into the bushes of the apartment complex they live in. The Disney princesses don’t stand a chance if we are focusing on raising strong daughters.
I’m a feminist. My boys, whether they fully realize it or not, are feminists. My 10-year-old takes this to sort of this weird militant level, because he is going through this super-analytical phase where every damn thing to him is either sexist. Or racist. It’s fine, I appreciate his enthusiasm for being wary of the world around him, but there are times when he carries a box of Cap’N Crunch upstairs to my bedroom at seven a.m and wakes me to inform me that “Cereal companies suck mom. Why don’t they have any girls on the boxes? Why can’t the Cap’n be a woman? Why can’t the Trix bunny be a woman? What about the BooBerry ghost? No, that’s not a woman, he is wearing a hat and a bow tie! This is bull mom. This is SEXIST” that I sort of wish he could be a little less amped to point out the injustices of the world via cartoon breakfast cereal mascots. (For the record, these same cereal companies are also racist, because the only diversity seen in cereal mascots may or may not be Count Chocula, due to his vaguely swarthy complexion, but he may also just be from Transylvania, so in order to fully dispute this argument with your child you then need to delve into the 1973 cinematic masterpiece Scream Blacula, Scream starring William Marshall, to show him that Yes, Virginia, there are African American Vampires. So yeah, in my house, we talk about things. We debate and analyze and we question. And even though I had read Peggy Orenstein‘s brilliant take on princessing in Cinderella Ate My Daughter and I was weary of letting my daughter engage in princessing due to the fear that Cinderella would turn her into some sexualized little femmebot, the Disney allure is strong, my friends.
So I did what any normal parent would do when confronted with pleas of wanting to watch the princesses in action in DVD form or buy the dolls or the Sleeping Beauty branded lipgloss (And holy hell, how I wish Anne Sexton were still alive to write us a new poem and incorporate the magical voodoo of sticky slick sparkle lipgoo flavored with factory created cherries) I caved. I gave in. I was no match for Ariel and her crew of curtseying and twirling glitter-encrusted rebels.
And my daughter is just fine. In fact, she is more than fine, because lately she has taken to wandering around the house lugging around a two pound world history schoolbook and exclaiming to no one in particular:
DID YOU KNOW THAT AT ONE TIME A WOMAN COULDN’T OWN A HOUSE AND THAT HER HUSBAND HAD TO OWN THE HOUSE?! That’s crazy.
DID ANY OF YOU KNOW THAT WOMEN WEREN’T ALWAYS ALLOWED TO VOTE? That’s awful.
And in addition to becoming a woman’s rights spewing fact machine, due to a Christmas gift of the gorgeously collected The Fairy Tales Of The Brothers Grimm by Taschen books, she is also a Disney mythology fact disputer because she wanders around the house telling everyone, including the dog, that:
DID YOU KNOW IN CINDERELLA ONE OF THE WICKED STEP-SISTERS HAD TO HACK OFF HALF OF HER FOOT TO MAKE IT FIT INTO THE GLASS SLIPPER?
Now, I suppose if you are the sort of family who doesn’t talk about and question things, there is a chance that due to over-exposure of princess culture that your daughter may grow up and base her entire self-worth on her bra size or how long her hair is, but I doubt it. Girls are really smart. They get bored with things. Her fascination with Aurora at age four could easily turn into a fascination with Anne Sexton at age 16. We all want to raise strong daughters.
I grew up with the princesses and it’s not like I’m sitting around, wringing my hands and waiting for my husband to come home to tell me what I’m allowed to think. I do wish there was more diversity with the princesses, but I don’t think they are as evil and as feminist-crushing as we worry about. So yeah, it would be nice if Disney made some movies featuring girl architects or brain surgeons or presidents, but as long as you expose your daughter to the fact that women like these exist in the world, she will be just fine.