I was reading the archives of one of my favorite blogs the other day when I came across a post about her latest visit to Disney’s EPCOT Center. Being a mature adult, my first thought was “Ooooh! Disney!”, and I eagerly began reading about her trip.
About midway through her post, she lost me. She was hilariously describing the ripped and popsicle-stained princess costumes she had seen practically falling off of sweaty, crying, exhausted little girls when she launched into a feminist mini-rant about princesses and how this unattainable ideal is ruining what little girls should really aspire to be. Although she admitted that she couldn’t see these same little girls whirling around on the teacup ride dressed in Hilary Clinton costumes, she lamented that they were not encouraged to emulate stronger, more positive role models.
I’m not a feminist. I don’t think I ever have been. I believe that women are strong, influential and very, very powerful. But, unlike some involved in the feminist movement, I will never believe that women are better than men. Women should absolutely be afforded the same rights as their male counterparts. I firmly believe that a woman is in every way equal to a man, but I do not believe that woman is the same as a man. Thank God.
I revel in my femininity. I love being a woman. And I am so glad I had a little girl. One day she’s gonna look up at me with those beautiful blue eyes and squeal, “Mommy, I’m a princess!” And I will lean down to her and squeal back, “Yes you sure are, sugar-pie!” And then we’ll click together our sparkly glass slippers, toss around some fairy dust and collectively flip off all those bitter, non-lipstick-wearing ol’ meanies who tried to force on us their Indigo Girl albums and clunky black shoes.
Phewy, I say again.
I would venture to say, and I will right now, that most little girls go through a princess stage. I did. I remember playing princesses with my best friend, Stacy, when I was four years old. She wore the pink gown, and I wore the blue one. There’s a picture of us both sitting on her front stoop dressed in our princessey finest, with approximately 43 pieces of costume jewelry each stacked on our wrists and around our necks, flashing big, gap-toothed grins at the camera. We loved it. It was fun. It was childhood.
There’s nothing wrong with a little girl wanting to be a princess. There’ll be plenty of time for power suits and Mother Steinem and The Beauty Myth when she takes the Gender Roles class in college and decides she knows everything. While they’re innocent and young and want to play, I think our daughters should have less Cinderella Complex and more, well, Cinderella.
But, just in case you still need a post-modern, feminist list of reasons why your daughter can indeed have that Snow White costume she saw at BJ’s, looky-looky what I found in my pocket!
Katie’s Listy-List of Reasons Why Sleeping Beauty Rocks and Naomi Wolf Could Maybe Stand to Lighten Up Sometimes
1. Princess worship builds self-esteem. Now, I know that when you think of princesses, you, like me, think of Disney’s princesses. And when you think of Disney’s princesses, you’re thinking of a Caucasian beauty ideal. Even Pocahontas looked like a white man’s naughty dream of a Native American hootchie-mama. I’ll concede this. But a quick Google search will find you many, many books and DVD’s and costumes and jewelry boxes and countless other cheap, brightly-colored junk for little girls of all skin colors to whine about to their tired, broke parents. For almost every blonde and blue-eyed Cinderella, I can also find a beautiful, dark-skinned Princess Untombinde who lived on the dry plains of Africa. So.
Point is, when a little girl dons the the garb of a princess, whether it be a silvery-pink gown covered in glitter or a kimono made from the richest, finest cloth, or a head scarf with delicately embroidered depictions of Saharan wildlife, she looks at her reflection in the mirror, does a little pose, smiles and feels prettier on that day, comparatively, than she ever will on any other day of her life. Not only does she feel pretty, she feels important and magical and powerful and good about herself. And that, my dear friends, is what you call self-esteem.
2. Princesses are brave, smart and strong. No, really. Okay, think about it. I’ve devised a sub-list to help you (I do this because I love):
a. Cinderella: I would like you to take as much crap from your wicked stepmother and stepsisters, be stripped of your birthright, be forced to scrub floors and still get up every morning with the steely resolve to do it all again, always steadfastly looking and waiting for salvation. Hope requires a lot of strength, y’all.
b. The Little Mermaid (Disney-style): “Betcha on land, they understand/And they don’t reprimand their daughters./Bright young women,/Sick of swimmin’,/Ready to stand!/And ready to know what the people know,/Ask ’em my questions and get some answers.” I count bravery, intelligence, determination, curiousity, strength and ambition. And that’s just one scene. Ariel is SO my beotch.
c. Snow White (Although not a princess at the beginning of her story, Snow gets off on a technicality since she ends up marrying a prince.): For the love of little poisoned apples, the kindness, patience and fortitude it must have taken to cook for, clean up after and generally take care of SEVENlittle men! Can you imagine? And it must have creeped her out a little to sleep in the same house with all them, I would think. I mean, dwarves have urges, too, you know.
3. Newsflash: There are real princesses too!: I have a friend, you know her as SchmeAnne, who is the foremost authority on all things royal. Ask her any question, like, say, “Why is he Prince Phillip and not King Phillip?” or “What did King Henry have to do with the Protestant Reformation of England?” or “Dude, what’s up with that wave? That’s weird.” SchmeAnne will know. That girl is a walking encyclopedia, I swear. You may wonder how and why she knows all of this. Or, you may not. Either way, you’re gonna find out.
For all of her life, at least in her own head, SchmeAnne has been Princess SchmeAnne. She walks around with an invisible crown on her head and a royal robe draped across her shoulders. Her voice, in her head, is accented British-ly, and we are all her subjects. (God, I love her.) SchmeAnne is also an avid, avid reader. I do not exaggerate at all when I tell you that she has read every book in publication with the word “princess” in the index. In short, SchmeAnne’s love of princesses has led her to become an authority on the subject. Therefore, princesses = reading = not playing videogames all day.
(Incidentally, on her wedding day, SchmeAnne wore a tiara and a beautiful gown. She finally got her wish!)
End list. Whew! We made it through another one!
Look, with the exception of SchmeAnne, most little girls grow out of all this and move on to unicorns, then real horses, then the Jonas Brothers. Then they grow up all together and forget they were once sparkly princesses who lived in a magical fairyland. But they’ll never forget the Princess Jasmine costume you bought them that, while cheap and garish and plastic to you, was the most beautiful thing they’d ever seen.