Quote of the Day:
“I like to be a free spirit. Some don’t like that, but that’s the way I am.” —Princess Diana
TB came across this article today about the subliminal messages being delivered to little girls through their playthings, princesses in particular. I was interested because I happen to be living through the unexpectedly blissful phase of life most anyone with daughters can identify with–princesses. I love ’em. They, with a not insubstantial assist from the Little Scamp, make me smile without fail.
When the singin’ Cinderella Barbie screeches out her two-line tune for the seven hundred-forty-third time of the evening, I smile. When the Scamp pleads to watch Tinker Bell “just one more time,” I secretly, happily accede to her wishes. When her tea party is meticulously and hyperbolically arranged for the princesses and the baby dolls and the bears, I sit and watch and glow. Whether my invitation to the party is delivered or not.
I see all this and I revel in the Scamp’s joy, but even more in her peak, yet rapidly diminishing age of innocence. The freedom of make-believe, the desire to befriend all, the single-mindedness of her playtime–these are the things a four year old has yet to be trained to diminish in value. At some point the pure innocence, as it must, will begin to wane.
So stumbling upon an article about a book (Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein) that purported to show how princesses and all things pink are really the first step in boxing my Scamp in to a future of unhealthy self consciousness and a narrow view of gender roles initially left me skeptical and dismayed. Well, it turns out the author left a little wiggle room for Scamp and me. She posits it’s the over-emphasis on all things pretty and pink that is the problem.
Says Ms. Orenstein, “Some of these things, like the Disney princesses, and all the princess culture that it’s spawned, seemed innocent, protective, easy, harmless — and maybe it is. And maybe it’s not. But I think that parents need to have more context about girls’ culture to understand the decisions they’re making and make them so that they’ll be in concert with their values.”
Makes sense to me. As I read her interview (not having read the book), it seems she is suggesting moderation, awareness and diversification. Good lessons to learn, I’d say. Little different than how an adult ought to enjoy chocolate cakes and cookies when I have them, but not to have them all the time. The Scamp is getting that lesson. Santa brought her a good bit of princess and pink for Christmas and she got more shortly thereafter for her birthday. But there’s a green “rollerleader” too that she loves.* And a purple stationary bike video game controller. And a blue scooter.
The Scamp gets just as excited about taking off for the park on that gender-ignorant scooter as she does sitting at her pink table dispensing tea, maybe more so. I smile pridefully at her obvious natural agility and determination each time she flies fearlessly down the first hill. She’s still beautiful and innocent on that Scooter, but those aren’t the qualities at the forefront. I think she’s getting enough balance in the ever-present, mostly unseen messaging battle we all try to fight for our kids.
So the princess phase can go on about it’s business and play out at its own pace. Good news for the Scamp. And me.
*Rollerleader–this is a made up word, which I now trademark, that my daughter came up with when she first saw one of those big balls with the handle on top that little kids jump around on. Who the hell knows what they are called, but the Scamp loves hers and “rollerleader” has proved to be a good name for it. (Hasbro, Fisher Price, etc….call me.)