Friday, 11 January 2013

Are pink princesses the new devil?

I have been aware of the concern expressed by parenting experts, psychologists, friends and in the media, that the princess fetish that products for girls seem to promote are terrible for little girls growing up. And I can see their point. I certainly don't want my daughter thinking her life consists of pretty dresses and waiting for a prince to rescue her. And the rainbow consists of more colours than pink.

But I am also aware that becoming comfortable with myself as a woman involved getting in touch with a bit more princessness. I grew up in a family sans Barbie and princesses. Anne of Green Gables was more my style and I used to pretend I was a farmer milking my cows in the backyard. By the time I was a teenager I also felt quite uncomfortable in my own body and puberty was not kind. I was a geeky girl who was a curvy girl and to be honest, I just didn't know what to do with them. They didn't seem to reflect who I was because the picture I had of my identity was not at all about the feminine. And coming from a Christian background, I wanted to be modest and felt like my body was betraying that. (Yes, that is a whole other issue).

When I hit my 20s and University I was blessed to become friends with some women who helped me to feel more comfortable in the body I have been given by just spending time with them. I could see that enjoying femininity and looking good doesn't undermine my strength and belief in all the other parts of me.

So back to princesses. Ella told me yesterday that she wants to be Sleeping Beauty. "Shock, horror" I thought. I don't want my strong and sparky girl to have that as her ultimate goal. But then I remembered that she says "Mummy, do you know what I want to be?" almost every day. And each time it is different. The list has included doctor, nurse, teacher, mummy, fire'man', farmer, vet and the list continues to grow. And I like that. At the tender age of 3 she feels she can dream of being anything she likes, including, God forbid, a princess.

I never thought I was pretty enough or that it was okay to dream of even being pretty, and forget any delusions of being a princess. I now think a healthy sense of the feminine is part of developing a total sense of self. Feminine doesn't mean skinny or blonde or any of the other stereotypes society and the media provide. Hopefully Ella grows up feeling great about all the parts of herself and no one model or ideal will be the example she follows cause she will be her unique self and no part of her will seem out of place. Maybe I am extremely naive but since she gets a big variety of toys, activities and is surrounded by awesome women, I think she has a good chance of not being swamped by being over sexualised.

And to be honest if I am a role model then is absolutely no chance that she will think she has to primp and preen to be acceptable. Heck, I don't even brush my hair most days!

1 comment:

  1. Funny that you picked Anne of Green Gables - she would have been on my list of characters to relate to as well (even though I didn't live in the country). Her, or one of the Babysitter Club/SaddleClub girls (definitely not Sweet Valley Twins/High).

    I was quite down the tomboy spectrum - loved blocks, lego, etc and also fell into the awkward-about-looks-as-a-teen category (not sure if that's a causal link though?).

    I'm kinda anti pushing the princess thing and focussing too much on a girl's looks vs her abilities but that being said, I think my broader issue is actually about priming them for *anything* (e.g. with boys just focussing on physical abilities) rather than giving them the freedom to be who they want to be (even if just for a day). I want them to have a wide range of experiences and opportunities and not put a serious adult tone of "So you want to be a xxx when you grow up!" on it.

    My son is really into learning about the human body at the moment and the number of people who say to him "ooh, maybe he'll be a doctor" irks me a little. He's into that right now (along with flying planes), and that's great but I'm not wanting to place ideas in his head about possible career paths, just want him to be a kid and interested in learning, playing and imagination :)

    Yay for Ella wanting to play princesses, would be fun to do dress ups.. I think my issue is more a complete wardrobe of tutus, makeup and tiaras that overdoes things.