In our house, we enjoy a little Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty. We know all the words to A Part of this World and all the names of Snow White’s dwarfs. I can fully admit that my daughter enjoys princess play. And honestly, so does her mother. I’ve enjoyed dressing up in a beautiful gown and dancing around my house since I was a kid.
But princesses aren’t our only interest. We also love superheros and dinosaurs and race car tracks. Believe or not, my pink-loving, Disney-sing-along girl enjoys things outside of the princess wheelhouse. Unfortunately, she can’t relate to them like she does to the bedazzled, neon offerings in the “girl section” of the toy story.
What’s our problem? Well, have you ever tried to find girl superheros and villains? In dozens of trips to toy stores, big box chains and department stores, we’ve found a very small Catwoman and a decent-sized Young Artemis from the latest Justice League reboot. The next closest thing we’ve found in Barbie in a bright pink dress with sword from Barbie and the Three Musketeers. In our house, she’s only referred to as “Hi-Ya.”
So what about non-gendered toys like dinosaurs and train sets? They actually still have a whole lot of boys action figures in their respective sets. Zero girls. Imaginext Dinosaur Land, an awesome set of dinos with battle armor and missile launchers, all have little men who ride on top of them. Then, of course, there’s the lack of female equivalent to Thomas the Train. After a while, my daughter simply starts to wonder, “Mom, are girls supposed to be play with these toys?”
As Mommyish has noted before, there’s a big difference between pretending to be a princess and getting lost in the princess culture that Disney and Barbie have created. We don’t want our daughters to feel like the only place they fit into the world is in a pretty dress, falling in love with a prince. But it’s impossible to ignore that these companies have created a world where girls feel welcome. Every little girl can beg her parents for a dress and some magic slippers and feel like she’s a part of this fairy tale. No other imaginative world has embraced young girls and female characters like the princess culture has.
Right now, Julie Andrews is promoting National Princess Week, in conjunction with Disney and Target. They’re encouraging girls of every age and size a chance to feel like part of a group. They’re making the word “princess” synonymous with the term “girl.” It’s an intelligent way to get kids dedicated to their products.
There’s no other set of characters, imaginative world or play culture that welcomes young girls so fully. So why are we so surprised that our little ones are taking the bait.
Playing princess doesn’t hurt your daughter, but letting her think that it’s the only option might. I can fully admit that I frequently fall into 1990’s Disney nostalgia, and I might even drag my daughter along with me. But I want her to feel just as comfortable when she’s playing with superheros or dump trucks or roaring dinosaurs. I want her to know that she fits into those worlds too. Unfortunately, the toy companies seem content to keep young girls in the princess bubble.