Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Princess Problem

Patricia Coppard has written an article about the 'Princess Problem'. She writes about how her daughter is influenced by the books and movies she reads and sees about princesses:

There's a princess in my house. I know she's a princess, because she wears a purple fun-fur-and-silver-glitter tiara, changes her clothes five times a day, and issues regular commands in an imperious voice.

I'm not sure if that's the fault of the media the kid's exposed to or more a sign of parenting; I wish I knew if she ever told her daughter not to speak to people in that tone, for example.

I am slowly but surely trying to instill my feminist values into her -- to absolutely no effect.

One day, she's poring over the Toys R Us flyer when she spots two Barbie-type dolls, one with long blond hair and wearing a bikini, the other dressed like a ballerina with brown hair in a bun. "I like this one and this one," she says, pointing to the dolls. "Do you like them, Mommy?" "I like the ballerina, but not the other one," I say. "Why not?" "Because she's a bimbo." "Well, I like the ballerina AND the bimbo, Mommy."

Okay, say what? Why is a girl in a bikini automatically a bimbo? Do ballerinas never go to the beach? While I understand the need to instill positive values in kids today, I don't think it should come at the cost of looking down at any sort of girl. Bikinis are not inherently bad. It's not like the daughter wasn't interested in the ballerina; she just liked the bikini doll, too.

This is not coming from a bimbo girl. When I was growing up, I had Barbies, sure. I also had She-Ra, Princess of Power, who ran around with a sword beating bad guys up, and I played with Battle Beasts, anthropomorphic animals in armor with weapons. I had Lego, too. I think girls can do anything they put their minds to - being scientists, mathematicians, and ballerinas. They can still go to the beach.

The article gets better when Patricia lists off books that she feels are 'Anti-Princess' such as 'Princess Pigsty' by Cornelia Funke, 'Princesses Aren't Quitters' by Kate Lum, 'The Princess and the Packet of Frozen Peas' by Tony Wilson, 'Sleeping Bobby' by Will and Mary Pope Osborne, and 'Princess Smartypants' by Babette Cole. Of course she mentions Robert Munsch's 'The Paper Bag Princess', too.

I probably would have loved those books as a kid. I did love Paper Bag Princess and continue to think it's a great book. I just don't think little girls should be taught to be disdainful of others. I like the ballerina doll better because I admire ballerinas; there's no need to include name-calling.


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