• Tue, Jan 29 2013

Cinderella Won’t Eat Your Strong Daughters, She Will Just Slobber Sparkle Lip Gloss On Them For Awhile

taschen_grimm1This 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.

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  • Jessie

    OH MY GOD, THANK YOU FOR THIS.
    Finally, someone speaks some damned sense about this non-issue. Geebus.
    I’ve been into the Princesses since before I can even remember, still love them even now at age 24, and I am FINE. Why is that? Because my parents made sure that I knew those stories are just that: STORIES. Not real, and real women do not (USUALLY) act that way and do not all look pretty and perfectly made up in a fabulous dress every second of their lives, nor will a handsome prince magically come to rescue me if I get myself into deep doody. They made sure I knew that there were strong women in the world, and that I could be strong, too. Also, they made sure I had other movies and toys aside from the Princesses to play with, watch, and learn from.
    Although, as much as some may argue this point with me… I believe a good deal of the princesses are actually quite strong in their own ways and can teach some valuable lessons, at least they did for me. :)

  • Andrea

    I agree-my daughter is 2 and her favorite princess is Merida-the newest one who is a bow-and-arrow toting badass. I am glad that in this day and age there is finally a princess she can emulate (doesn’t hurt that DD has curly red hair) who is strong-when I was growing up I only had Snow White for a a brunette, and even at the age of six I could tell she was a wimp. Did I worship her as a toddler? You bet. Did I grow out of it? Of course. So no, I don’t worry about my child’s current obsessions with fairies, princesses and ballet.

    • Rattata

      Snow White was a 14 year old girl who survived the deaths of both her parents, an abusive stepmother who humiliated and tried to KILL her, and ran through a dangerous forest at night with no form of protection and survived. Don’t call her a wimp.

    • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

      BOOOM.

  • K.

    My mother was an old-school feminist who was scandalized by my interest
    in all things Barbie and pink. Even as an adult, I sorta liked “Twilight” even though it’s a feminist nightmare on every. single. page. But since my mom was a feminist, I grew up
    to be one too. Cinderella doesn’t hold much sway in comparison to a
    parent.

    Now, to be fair to Peggy Orhenstein (SP? Sorry!), feminism doesn’t really care about YOUR daughter’s interest in princessdom, in the same way that feminism doesn’t really care about a woman’s desire to get breast implants–feminism would say, “do whatever makes YOU happy.” What feminism DOES care about is WHY the princess culture continues to be so pervasive and WHY companies (such as Disney) are resistant to putting forth better role models for girls (ie, why are so many women choosing to invest so much money in their breasts versus all the other things they could do with it?)–in other words, feminism’s bag is broader and more sociologically focused. Although Disney is changing with more modern female characters, I appreciate Orhenstein for the issues she brings to light in her book and I agree with continuing to lobby for more successful role models in the cultural arena for young girls than say, a beautiful housekeeper with great shoes or a mute mermaid bent on getting the guy by looking cute.

    MY favorite cultural feminist icon for the moment? Definitely Leslie Knope on “Parks and Rec” :)

    • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

      I agree, and I love Peggy, but I still think we need to sort of let girls like what they like without telling them NO, they are told what to do enough in this world.I wrote about letting girls like Twilight here, you can search if interested, and the readers haaaaated me ;)

    • K.

      Oh no, I agree with allowing girls like what they like (and really, you don’t have much choice!)–my mother let me have the Barbies and watch Disney and all that while she grinned and bore it. But she still insisted on doing her own thing, which was old-school feminism (she’d insist on calling girls “gals”; she’d “one-up” me on my career aspirations, as in “I want to be a nurse” “Why not a SURGEON?” “I want to be a lawyer!” “Why not a JUDGE!”; and she’d challenge me about assumptions I didn’t know I had–”I’m going to marry Billy Jones and be Mrs. Billy Jones!” “Why wouldn’t you keep your own last name, honey?”)

      I love my mom because I think she had the right balance of being who SHE was while she allowed me to be the girly-girl that I was–I’m pretty sure that all the princess love was one way of expressing my independence from her and thank God she recognized the importance of letting me do that, even if it killed her that my favorite Halloween costume was being “a bride”…Seriously.

      I think my response to the article was more that I agree we should allow girls to like what they like and no, Cinderella alone will not turn your daughter into some dim hapless damsel; BUT I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say that the Cinderella-princess stuff–from purely a cultural and sociological standpoint–is harmless (although I also recognize the author isn’t really taking that on here).

    • TaargusTaargus

      The problem is, it’s not an issue of letting girls “like what they like”. They oftentimes aren’t even the ones making the decision at that age.

      I just had a daughter and here is what I saw: everything from her nursery decor, newborn clothing, and pink-drenched toys began this mess before she was ever born. Now, at 1, everything is overly saturated in pink, bows, and princesses. She’s always told by relatives how pretty she looks and never how smart/funny she is (she truly is!). So, that’s for the first year and before.

      It takes a lot of work by her dad and me to keep that crap away from her in such large amounts, but I think we’ve kept it to a minimum.

      With that said, can we really say that a 4 or 5 year old girl “chose” to like Disney princesses all on her own? Doesn’t it make more sense that she has been conditioned from birth to like those things since everything like that is so over saturated?

      Just something to think about.

    • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

      I hear you, but I do think that retailers have gotten so so much better about decor and clothing for kids that isn’t completely saturated in frills for girls and sailboats for boys, at least it seems it has compared to when I had my first kid. and I love when people make an effort when meeting or speaking to girls to ask them questions and not just say “Oh you are so pretty!”
      You guys sound like you are doing a really good job. <3

    • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

      I hear you, but I do think that retailers have gotten so so much better about decor and clothing for kids that isn’t completely saturated in frills for girls and sailboats for boys, at least it seems it has compared to when I had my first kid. and I love when people make an effort when meeting or speaking to girls to ask them questions and not just say “Oh you are so pretty!”
      You guys sound like you are doing a really good job. <3

    • Persistent Cat

      My brother tried with both his daughters to forgo the Princess fascination. Their rooms are neutral tones, he asked us not to buy them pink frilly things, he avoided buying them dolls, etc. Didn’t work. The 3 year old is Princess obsessed. We’ll see what happens to the 1 year old.

    • Ashley

      Knope 2016!

      And thanks for the spot-on description of feminism’s concerns–it’s hard for people to separate the two sometimes (individual versus social criticism/analysis), but it can be done!

  • Ellie

    THANK YOU. This is such a stupid thing for people to get all bent over. You want your daughters to have the opportunity to choose what they want, so you limit their choices? Let the girl be interested in what she wants to be interested in! I grew up with the princesses, and I hate pink, and I still love princesses, and I re-shingled my roof by myself. Folks need to find real things to worry about.

  • CrazyFor Kate

    YES. My godson’s little sister (5) is obsessed with all things princess and sparkly, which confuses both me and her mother, as we’re very non-girly. The fact is, in a couple of months she’ll probably be on to something else (especially since hockey season is back). Not to mention that there are plenty of awesome princesses/queens/etc out there, in fiction and in real life. Role models come in many different forms. The Duchess of Cambridge seems like a very friendly and personable woman who does a lot of charity work – wouldn’t it be lovely to have your daughter turn out like that?

    • Sasha

      Same with my niece. My sister in law is totally a crunchy granola hippy type, and my niece just wants to wear make up and play with her hair and put on pretty frilly dresses, and gets so frustrated because no one in her family quite gets it, and they never want to do hair or nails with her. But they all let each other be their own person, with no judgements, so it all works. And yay!! HOCKEY!!! Finally!

  • Justme

    I find the backlash against the Disney princesses problematic as well. What a confusing message we send our daughters – don’t like anything GIRLY but God forbid don’t be a TOMBOY. Okay. I’ll just throw some sticks at my daughter and hope she’s satisfied.

    There are just some girls out there that LOVE everything pink and glittery, regardless of the parental influences. And it’s okay to be THAT kind of girl. Just like it’s okay to be the girl running around the creek barefoot with the boys catching frogs.

    I don’t think my problem is really with the Disney princesses per se, because it’s fiction and as they grow up, girls (for the most part) can understand that all those stories aren’t real life. My problem lies with the “princess complex” that teaches girls they can’t do hard work, must rely on a man, have to be waited on hand and foot, etc.

    I don’t think I did a very good job distinguishing between the two types of “princesses” but hopefully you guys understand where I’m going with all this rambling.

  • C.J.

    My older daughter was obessed with everything princess and wouldn’t even wear clothes that weren’t pink or purple. This lasted until she was 6 or 7. Now at 10 she hates pink and thinks princesses are stupid. I never understood why people freak out so much about princesses. It’s a phase, they grow out of it.

    • Ellie

      Sometimes. And some girls love it and keep loving it. And that’s Ok too.

  • meteor_echo

    Eh, Disney princesses are not all that fun to like at all, and the only female characters in Disney movies that I liked as a child were Megara and Kida.
    And anyway, Sailor Moon is a much better thing to be inspired by as a kid :P

    • Jessie

      … A whiny, lazy, 14-year-old brat (who is also a reincarnated princess, let’s not forget) who complains about everything, is often unwilling to fight and runs away from the enemy, is often having to be bailed out or rescued from trouble by the others, especially Tuxedo Mask, whom is the transformed persona of her boyfriend who is a bit too old for her (at least by American standards)? Yeah… GREAT thing for a kid to be inspired by. XD
      Don’t get me wrong, I actually LOVE Sailor Moon and always will, that show is what got me into anime back before I even knew what anime was, I’m just not so sure that she’s REALLY all that much better than any of the Disney girls, lol. Her story is a heck of a lot cooler, though. :P

    • Jessie

      Although, I suppose, the other Sailor Scouts can’t be faulted too much and are decent inspirational models. THEY’RE all reasonably mature, it’s just Serena who collapses into a whiny puddle at the slightest provocation half the time. XD

    • Kate

      I was always a Sailor Saturn fan. She’s just kickass.

    • meteor_echo

      YES.

    • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

      You guys have inspired me, I may hafta do a big sailor moon article

    • meteor_echo

      Oh hell yes, I’ll be looking forwards to this :3

    • Jessie

      I did say please don’t get me wrong, I really do love Sailor Moon myself, the story and show, just not so much her character. I prefer the other Scouts over her, because Miss Moon doesn’t actually turn into that courageous and sacrificing person until much later. The others are better from the get-go. AND YES, GO SATURN, I LOVE SATURN. :)

      Although, as far as the “dainty girls who let their princes do the fighting…” Okay let’s see: Ariel helps fight a sea witch and defends her father’s life, Rapunzel escapes her tower, saves her and Flynn’s lives, AND tries sacrifice herself to save her “prince” after her evil kidnapper STABS him, Bell gave herself up to free her father from the Beast and then stood up to her entire town when they were trying to kill the Beast (before they threw her in a cellar, anyway), Tiana is FAR from a dainty girl because she works her ass off to get what she wants and actually teaches the PRINCE how to behave and act like a real person and fights the villain herself, Mulan… I don’t think I even need to say anything there (while she isn’t a REAL princess, Disney still calls her one). Pocahontas STOPS A WAR simply by throwing herself over her love’s body in the path of her father’s killing blow.

      I could go on and on, but I think I’ve made my point. The Disney girls really are not so dainty and frail as everyone seems to want to believe. The only ones I can really pinpoint to allowing the princes or other characters do all the work are Aurora, Cinderella, Snow White, and Jasmine. The others all have a pretty good hand in it themselves. :)

    • meteor_echo

      The “whiny, lazy brat”, who, by the way, ends up ultimately rescuing the day and sacrificing herself for her whole team – multiple times. Not to mention that she stands up against enemies who can easily kill her. Also, at least in the manga, her boyfriend is in high school at the beginning of events.
      And what about her team? They’re fearless, stand up to protect each other, are not afraid to die for the justice to prevail, and use their strong points to win (Ami, anyone?). I’m not even talking about Pluto and Saturn, who both will die or suffer grave consequences if they use their powers, but still do it because their help is needed and everyone’s lives depend on them. So, sorry, nope – much better than dainty girls who let their princes do all the fighting :)

    • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

      OMG Yes! see, this is why I love you guys because you can drop in with awesome Sailor Moon comments!

  • Amy

    Love it. I was standing with a group of moms one day who were bragging that their daughters weren’t into princesses–”I bought my daughter all the Disney stuff and all she wanted was a soccer ball” one mom bragged. I finally got up the courage to say, “Yeah, well, I bought my son a soccer ball and all he wants are princesses.” That was a conversation stopper! (I write about him at http://www.pinkisforboys.com) I think it’s a non-issue for both genders, but it’s been interesting to hear parents of daughters speaking out. I can only imagine the day when parents will feel as judged if they have sons who are into violent toys.

  • Persistent Cat

    What saddens me is we don’t want our girls to be girly, like being a girl is a bad thing. My brother has two little girls (3 and 1) and he was hellbent on them not being girly. Bedrooms are in neutral tones, asked us not to buy them toys aimed at girls, don’t tell them they’re cute and beautiful, etc. Guess what? The 3 year old is OBSESSED with Princesses. OBSESSED. He’s horrified.

    I asked him what was so awful with her liking something like that. The new stories aren’t bad, the Princesses go on adventures and quests but they wear pretty dresses. Liking princesses doesn’t mean she’ll grow up into one. As long as she’s brought up to be strong and think for herself, she won’t be a princess.

    I was never a tomboy, I’ve always had a very feminine style of dressing, I played with Barbies, etc and I turned out just fine. I’m strong and independent. I just wish we could tell little girls that it’s ok to be a girl.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bj.t.fish Bj TheEnigma Fish

    I believe that Marida from Brave choosing not to participate in arranged marriage, but ride a horse and shoot a bow and arrow like a pro was a pretty cool example for my 5-year-old little girl… Disney didn’t screw them all up it seems :P