The Feminist Mom and the Princess Party

A guest post, by Dana Hernandez.

Dana's daughter desires a princess party.

“Mommy, I want to have a princess party this year for my birthday.”

Suddenly the air was sucked out of the room and I waited for the oxygen masks to deploy from the ceiling as the living room nose-dived.

“What?” I coughed out, wide-eyed to my 4-year-old daughter.

“A princess party!” she smiled, cheekily. “And I can dress up as a princess for Halloween!” She took off in a happy spin as I plummet to the soon-to-be-memorial ground below us. 

Welcome to my surprising life as a stay-at-home mother of two daughters, who is grasping at the label “feminist” with all her might. I thought my role as the Coordinator for the SPARKteam, which stands for Sexualization Protest: Action, Resistance, and Knowledge, provided me with a shield that protects against anything that is sexualized, pink, princessy, and stereotypical for girls. I was wrong. Really, really wrong.

Let me introduce you to my 4-year-old. She’s the oldest and most graceful of my daughters, with beautiful long, curly locks that bounce down her back. She loves wearing her black tennis shoes, running through mud puddles, playing with cars (especially Lightening McQueen), soccer, swimming, watching baseball,  and drawing. Oh, and she wants to be a princess when she grows up. (Yes, I am clawing at the oxygen masks and the under-the-seat life preservers as I gasp for air.)

Now, I know she is too young to read our blogs at Spark Summit that battle against the sexualization of girls and counter the whole princess-movement for children. I also haven’t read her the Holy Grail of parenting books, “Packaging Girlhood” at bedtime either. And she’s too young for programs at the city non-profit Hardy Girls Healthy Women that I work for.  (Not much longer, I’m sure, once they see me hosting a fucking princess party.)

“She is so pretty,” is the most-often heard compliment I hear about my first-born. And yes, she is. Very. Much prettier than I was or ever will be. She reminds me of “Missy,” the most popular girl in my high school class that had the perfect curly hair and the just-right clothes. You know, the one I was taught to dislike because she was so perfect.

Let me make this clear as I brace for impact: I do not own one princess movie. My daughters’ favorite movie is Cars and there are more matchbox cars, books, and musical instruments than any other toys in our home. I admit, we do own various Tinkerbell fairies and her fairy friends. (Yes, Tinkerbell has lots of skinny, perfect looking friends, too, with perfect hair. Don’t hate.) But, each fairy has a talent and show bravery and courage at various times throughout the films. I also believe it teaches girls about friendship and forgiveness. So where in the hell is this princess shit coming from?

Get this: A book. One stinking old princess book in a huge box full of books on Craigslist that we bought for $10. It’s like giving Kool-Aid to a baby and expecting her not to like it. Seriously, one look at that dress, that damn carriage, and the dancing with the prince at the end and suddenly everything changed. It’s as if Disney created the brainwashing technique for the United States military. Who can battle a singing mermaid, a fairy godmother, a prince, and a beautiful blue dress with glass slippers?

I never called myself a real feminist before my work with SPARK. I mean, I chose to be a stay-at-home mom and homemaker. I believed that real F-cards were handed out to career-or-nothing-types, until I discovered feminists who taught me about real feminism.

SPARKteam Blogger Stephanie Cole said it best in “The Loaded F-Word” when she redefines a feminist as someone who “keeps an open mind, and tries to always be aware of patriarchy and sexism wherever it occurs. She or he also tries to educate others who are unaware, as well as speak up and take action against inequality.

And my friend Dr. Lyn Mikel Brown, co-founder of Hardy Girls Healthy Women, put me in my place when I questioned if I could be kicked out of the feminist club for allowing my house to become a pink castle. “Feminism gets a bad rap as being one very strict thing, when there are so many ways people are feminists,” Brown said. “My feminism is one that doesn’t turn people away from the honest struggle you are having.”

But, how can I be a feminist and a stay-at-home mother at the same time? Especially when I have failed in the princess debacle?! The answer is simple for me. I follow my gut. I was once on a path to save the world as a high school teacher. Yet, everything changed once I met my daughter. Everything. I left my career as a teacher and moved across the country with my husband to become a stay-at-home mom and homemaker. (Full disclosure, I suck at the homemaking part, but I’m a damn good mom.) Two years later, I had daughter #2–an identical piece of sass with curls.

It was a gutsy move and the best decision my husband and I ever made. I honor the fact that we’ve bloodily scraped by on a one-salary income so I can host play dates, kiss boos-boos, find blankeys, and read stories at naptimes. The monotony of my days is often monstrous and hard.  Though it’s not for everyone, I know it’s something I will always treasure..(Seriously, I don’t really know how “working moms” do their jobs either.)

I have activism in my blood. When I look deep enough, my feminism and my loathing of inequality has always been there. Am I political? Yes. Opinionated? Yes. Strong-willed? Yes. (My husband would say “Hell YES.”) I feel feminism is inherently found in the voice of a mother raising her children, too. I am fighting so hard for my girls to be strong, focused, secure, loving, and determined young women. I abhor a media that labels my girls “tom boys” because they love a good play in the mud or cars.

Real feminism is about choice, right? The choice for me to instill in my girls and others how powerful their lives can be, even if they choose to be stay-at-home moms who let their daughters dress as princesses.

“Why do you want a princess party?” I later asked, when I felt the crash landing had aborted.

“Because I want to be a princess,” she answered.

I shrugged, “But what do they doooo that you like?” I asked, drawing out the verb and trying to crack the code.  My daughter shrugged, “They’re princesses, Mommy! They wear those dresses and are pretty. Do you like princesses, Mommy?”

I think she already knew the answer… “I think they’re kind of boring. They don’t run and play sports, have fun or draw like you do.”

“Then I can be your princess, Mommy,” she said with the biggest smile in the whole wide world. “I can be all of it.”

Yes, she can.

I learned four lessons today: First, I have no idea what I am doing. Second, I am doing a pretty damn good job at it. Third, I just may be hosting a “You-Can-Be-It-All” Princess/Cars party in my future .

And last, my daughter is one awesome princess.

And yes, I am a feminist.

 -Dana Hernandez is a feminist, a stay-at-home mama to two, writer, activist, and SPARKteam Coordinator for SPARK Summit.

Comments

  1. We had a “no Disney princess’ rule – which meant mom and dad won’t buy Disney princes stuff. If others got them (and they did) then that was fine. We also were fine w/getting her dress up stuff – just not the pre-packaged (clothes and persona) of the Disney girls. My DD is now 7 and doesn’t really care for the DPs. She has a whole set of them that a friend gave her. Doesn’t play with them. She loves doing dress up as much as the next kid – and we love watching as she and her friends use their imagination. Though they’re wearing “princess” clothes, the stories seldom revolve around “princessing.”

    Oh, and last thing – from the time DD was about 2 and could understand words, we told her over and over that 1) being a princess is not something to aspire to in and of itself (unless they’re doing something HELPFUL) as many just mostly sit around worrying about how they look and 2) that most princesses in the real world are born to the job and it’s not really a vocations with a lot of openings.

    So far, so good.

  2. I love this. I was a feminist stay-at-home mom in the 70s with two daughters. They loved to dress up in their young aunt’s cut-down formals and wear tulle in their hair. They also loved wearing their jeans and playing in the dirt. They danced and they played with cars. They were as gender-free as possible and grew to be wonderfully independent and self-sufficient women with open minds, big hearts and a knowledge they can do anything they want to do. Back then I had to change the genders in stories and sometimes change the endings to fairy tales. I didn’t ban anything, I just made sure the message was gender equal. I share this with you only to support what you are doing and give you some encouragement. I wouldn’t trade those years and experiences for anything. Yes, we did without a lot of material things but when I compare that to all the things we gained as a family … well, it’s no contest!

  3. carole brown says:

    I had these discussion with my granddaughters… age 4 and 6. but still, their rooms are filly and pink and even I have been guilty of buying them puffy party dresses!! i was so glad to see your article. to know the discussion is taking place somewhere! my impression in Long Island, NY is that the 30 something moms and dads missed the gender stereotyping memo. I told my oldest granddaughter that princesses have great clothes but the dresses can’t fit into a sports car so they can’t really drive around – and they dont get their own bank accounts and have no ATM cards. “how can they buy things or go anywhere?” she asked. well, they have to ask the prince first. “even if she’s a grown up princess?” YUP i say….

    • I flew to South Africa a few years ago for a couple weeks and it never crossed my mind to ask my husband’s permission.

      And I agree, I notice geographic trends in Princess Culture.

  4. Two words; Studio Ghibli. Has your daughter watched Kiki’s Delivery Service, Ponyo or Arrietty? These films have girly characters who do cool practical things! I’ll leave you to research. My little girl is so wrapped in Ponyo and Totoro that she won’t touch Disney princesses! Apart from a cash-register toy and some flip flops that were both presents. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before I get requests for Cinderella dresses…
    Or alternatively, how about themed princesses? Pirate princess? Airship princess? Jungle princess? Or how about looking at princesses from history who led armies into battle?
    Just a thought…

    • carole brown says:

      not a princess – but the judy moody character inspired my granddaughter to stop combing her hair for a week! also what’s your impression of a female spy battling the bad guys on the day she goes into labor?? then brings her baby with her on missions!! (spy kids.. latest movie))

    • Now those are GREAT alternatives!

      • Stephanie says:

        Miyazaki’s films are awesome. It’s too violent for young kids, but Princess Mononoke is amazing and totally offers an alternative take on what a “Princess” is capable of. Good for older viewers. She’s the director’s only Princess, unless you count Ponyo as an ocean Princess of some sort. I tend to be a cautious Princess defender. I understand that what our culture defines them as, and presents to young girls, is very limited. But I think it’s better to offer an alternative and more realistic perspective rather than reject them entirely. I countered a pre-school girl’s clothing centric princess exception with a discussion of all the awesome things real, historical princess have done. I talked about what a princess actually is, how she has a position of potential political power, and can often become a powerful Queen. I then talked about Boudica and her daughters and the Vietnamese Trung sisters. Princesses can be awesome! Let’s not disrespect them by rejecting them wholesale instead of countering stereotypes.

        • I am not rejecting all princesses, just the version that is so heavily marketed to my daughter. I prefer she make up her own version. I’m all for imagination….and definitely fighting stereotypes!

  5. It’s true that I have softened a lot since my 20s on what Feminism means to me. But I’ve always believed that it is about letting everyone make their own choices, based on their own (as you said) gut. If my daughter wants to wear tutus, great. If my son wants to as well, great. If my son wants to be a T-Rex and chase his sister, you can bet she’s going to turn into a velociraptor and growl right back.

    I yearn for my career, still, but I made my own decision about staying home – because we have the luxury of that choice. That, to me, is what feminism has given me. I have the choice to do what I feel is right for me and my family.

    And we do have Disney ladies and Pixar Space Cadets and Cowboys around the house (in moderation). In fact, my son’s current favorite movie is Tinker Bell. He traded Toy Story 2 for it. Go figure.

  6. I don’t think I could do it. I just couldn’t host a “Princess Party”. One of my friends was talking about doing a “makeover party” for her daughter’s 5th birthday, and I told her to make sure to put that in the invitation so the parents would know. And I wouldn’t let my daughter go.

    One day we accidentally walked down the Barbie/Bratz/Monster High aisle at Target. My daughter was asking for everything. So I explained that I didn’t feel those dolls were appropriate. She accepted it. What’s funny is that now when she wants something her first question is, “Is it appropriate?” Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no.

    I guess I’m not all about choice, at least not for 5 year olds. I certainly don’t think that justifies revoking my f-card. Actually, the opposite.

  7. I can’t wait for my daughter to grow out of princesses! She just loves the pretty dresses and is well-rounded generally (academic, loves sport, etc) so it doesn’t worry me as such, but I have resisted having a princess party so far and am hoping she’ll grow out of it before the next time.

    I’ve talked to her about how real-life princesses aren’t very common, don’t always wear pretty dresses, and have work to do although it’s different from her parents’ jobs. And I make an effort (not that it’s that hard) to compliment her on her achievements more than her looks.

    Today she went to school dressed up as a princess (sigh) for Book Week and said “I think I’ll be the prettiest princess there” (well at least she has confidence, right?). I asked her, “Will you be the princess who runs the fastest in sport? Who is kindest to her friends?” and some other attributes… just gently trying to broaden her horizons.

    • Always keep questioning like that, and making her think. Some amount of princess attachment is normal as gender permanance sets, as typical princesses are about as feminine as it gets.

      Keep her well rounded, and keep questioning her. That’s the way to do it!

  8. My daughter went through a kind of purple/pink baby dolls, princesses, fairies stage around 3 or 4. I was fine with – there was no character association – just a generic princess. I really do get the appeal of princesses to little kids, you get to wear pretty clothes and be special. A lot of little boys are actually interested in playing at being princesses too. My daughter is now 9 – on the weekend she has some sisters stay over aged 9 and 11 – the spent the whole time playing with cars and setting up a car yard for the playmobil people. I guess I don’t want my daughter to think there is anything wrong with looking pretty and feeling special because of it, as long as she doesn’t focus on just that or feel that her worth is in her appearance. Loved the post – laughed out loud at the “I’ve no idea what I’m doing” and “I am doing a pretty damn good job” – it is refreshing to read both of those statements.

    • I think that is what bugs me most about the Princess Culture, is that it so very rigidly defines what a girl can do and what a boy can do. I’m all for generic characters that leave TONS of room for the child’s imagination.

      I’ve been searching for a mermaid lunchbox for Amelia for weeks. Guess what happens when you Google search anything “mermaid”….? Disney Disney and more Disney. My problem with the princesses is that very few versions exists and are marketed outside of the Disney version. Almost like childhood and imagination don’t exist unless Disney says so first.

      So I don’t mind if Amelia wants to play princess for an afternoon, I just am glad her stories don’t revolve around gaining the prince’s affection as an achievement. I prefer my princesses to be a little more bad ass and adventurous.

      • I am something of a mermaid collector. I search high and low for non-disney mermaids. I actually found the GORGEOUS batik painting of a mother mermaid, her mermaid daughter, and her mermaid son: PERFECT for me! I had the image tattooed on my back. It’s hard to find mermaids that aren’t Ariel, but they’re out there. We also have three mermaid dolls that were sewn for me by a friend that are beautiful! Let me know if you want a link to the pattern.

  9. Awesome, Dana! You’re a great writer. I find it interesting though, almost seemingly a self-fulfilling prophecy that your bigger one ended up wanting to have a princess party and be a princess. I’ve never prohibited any princess paraphernalia from our home, I’ve purchased Disney movies, mostly because I love them and simultaneously have provided plenty of opportunities for car, block and outdoor play to my three girls. They enjoy a bit of dress up and ballet dancing on occasion, but for the most part, are very well rounded girls. I would not consider any one of them girly girls or tomboys. They manage to maintain balanced likes and dislikes for all things typically labeled boy-only or girl-only. I think my husband plays a significant role in this though since he will buy them car t-shirts and race tracks or “non-girly” things and will play with them with those items, which definitely increases their interest in things non-princessy because they want to spend time with daddy doing things he thinks are cool. They love their daddy, so it may be a reasonable assumption to allow opportunities to engage with all types of toys as long as they are given both sides of the story. If you’re having fun playing with cars, that means it’s okay for you to play with them. And although it’s fun to dress up in princess clothing, you should aspire to be more than just a princess for the sake of being pretty. They see me playing sports and being interested in non-girly things and then they see me getting dressed up for parties and will compliment me on how pretty I look. I think as long as our children are informed and we don’t fight the rest of the world in trying to prevent them from liking the things that most of the world wants to brainwash them into thinking is best for them, they will make reasonable and rational decisions regarding who they are and what they eventually want to be. My biggest wanted to be a baseball player for the longest time, no idea why, and now she wants to be a veterinarian. She spends hours a day reading and takes a princess backpack to school. She has never told me that she has any interest in actually being a princess. We’ll see what happens with the other two. But they don’t seem to be leaning towards the princesses either since my second was in love with Madagascar from the time she could talk and has now fallen in love with the Toy Story movies and Barbie is far from being her favorite character. Ultimately, I think the more we try to keep things from our kids, the more they desire them. It’s just like junk food; candy, soda, ice cream… all in moderation. Good luck with that princess party! I can send you a pin the crown on the Princess Aurora game, if you want! ;)

  10. I have two boys, whom I’m trying to raise to be feminist.
    This is part of a deep cultural change, which can be very uncomfortable for everyone involved.
    In the process, I struggle with the pervasive denigration of things that have been associated with the female. A child care worker I met once mentioned that she had a supply of dress-up clothes – “just for the girls.”
    I’d like to see it be just as ok for boys and girls to try being a princess (even for the length of a birthday party) as it is for girls and boys to splash in mud puddles and play soccer.

    • Hear hear! :) My boys were never discouraged from that, and my oldest did go to a princess birthday party for a friend from school. He was so bored! He just plain didn’t enjoy it. He wasn’t hostile, just kind of clueless and bored. He also wasn’t included at all, neither he nor the three other boys at the 20+kid party.

      But that same son wants to be an artist. He is sensitive, loves babies, cuddles, likes putting pretty things in his hair (headbands, barrettes, flowers)…he loves the color pink and doesn’t care if his Silly Bandz are superheroes or princesses — he just likes the colors. Some girl in his class told him it was “disgusting” for boys to like pink. Clearly that’s not the cruelest thing she could have said, but it made me mad that at age 5, at the time, a girl, of all people, would perpetuate that crap. Or a man at the pool took my 4 year old aside and told him to “be a man — men don’t cry” when he scraped his tummy as I pulled him out of the pool. It’s absurd! Boys should be allowed to enjoy typically feminine things IF they like them. But it’s also silly, to me, to DIScourage a boy not to be “average.” If he likes wrestling his friends and playing with cars and Thomas, then so be it! I just happen to have one of each (both boys). One is an aspiring artist, the other is a perpetual superhero :) Kids come in all packages…

      • Heather –
        You provide a perfect examply of why Princess Culture can be so limiting to girls…because many times boys aren’t allowed/encouraged to play, while many times it is ALL girls are encouraged to play, and they grow up not being able to relate to each other. When experiences in childhood are dictated by gender stereotypes, we have problems. A little kid’s birthday party should be enjoyed and inclusive of everyone there.

        My 5yo girl’s last two birthday were ocean themed, and there was an even number of boys and girls in attendance, and everyone was able to have a great time.

        • My son LOVES Tangled. Sometimes he pretends he is Eugene, and sometimes he pretends to be Rupunzel. He watched the bubble guppies and the girl “fish” dressed as a princess in an episode and he was a princess all week. He also loves playing football with his dad. He loves his baby sister and constantly gives her hugs and kisses, plays with baby dolls and “changes their diapers” and feeds them too.

          I myself am a woman that LOVES pink and dressing feminine but also LOVES watching sports like football. I plan on raising my baby daughter the same way.

          As long as the child is well balanced who cares if they want a princess party or wants to dress like a princess?

  11. A theme from the article and comments reads as though the fact that my daughter likes to play dress up, likes a certain color, pink in this case (as well as many other colors) and likes princesses that she is somehow “less than” or excluded from the “feminist” crowd. I’d hate for people to come to my house, view my daughter and her bedroom and pass judgment on me and her. My 2 year old son also likes pink, who cares, its a color…so what does that make him in the eyes of the judges?
    Our “play room” is filled with trucks, cars, dolls, princess stuff, dinosaur stuff, footballs, play tools etc. We’ve been careful to observe her behavior in what she is naturally drawn to. She’s drawn to the girl stuff more so than the boy stuff no matter how many times I take the doll away and hand her a truck. We didn’t teach this. Our 2 year old pink loving son is the same in that he likes the trucks more than the dolls. We are careful not to influence their choices as much as we let them discover their likes and dislikes on their own.
    My daughter, while wearing her “dress up clothes” can hand me a Phillips head or a socket wrench. She knows the difference and loves to help me with my dad projects and working on the bike; we make it fun. She can also show her little bro how to safely handle a toad found in the yard. She likes to toss the football with me and can do so in her evil pink dress.
    In terms of “what is a feminist:” Well, what is one? What are the rules? Who decides the rules? Is my pink dress wearing little princess excluded from this club? Is my wife, a stay at home mom, not included in the feminist crowd? Is she less than? Perhaps I’m confused but what is more feminist than a mother staying home and raising kids?
    The Tinkerbell reference: Recently I was watching Tinkerbell with my daughter. I was particularly appalled at the scene where she cuts the excess material off her dress in order to don a skimpy cocktail-esque dress complete with hips and boobs ant pencil thin. The next scene the two boy fairies stop what they are doing and their jaws drop as they were used to not noticing her in her big dress. But now her figure is accentuated and barely covers her. In horror I watched my daughter silently calculating this message as to what beauty is and what the opposite sex demands. I hate this message for our girls. As far as princess movies, she doesn’t seem interested. She really doesn’t watch much TV anyway as she likes books more so I really don’t know what the heck are in “princess movies.”
    I do like the part that asks: “Real feminism is about choice, right?” That is correct in my opinion. That is why my daughter and son are free to choose their natural likes and dislikes now and throughout life free of my judging her as a “princess.”
    In the end, my daughter is 4. I let her be 4. I let her have her fun at this age in exploring her world, her likes, and her dislikes so long as she isn’t harmed. I know that she will grow out of princess phase, but for now she’s happy, she’s learning and she will be just fine.

    • I think the point of the post was about balance and that feminism ISN’T about judging or excluding.

      No one is judging either of your children, and if you explored the blog a bit more you’d find that I also have a young son who loves dress up, pink, and sparkly nail polish.

      And no one said pink was evil. You are taking the post too far and becoming defensive.

      • Melissa: I apologize for my getting defensive and sincerely didn’t mean any offense; just some good old debate. Same goes with my “evil” sense of sarcasm.:) I like a lot of your blog, agree with most and disagree with just a little and that’s ok. To clarify, I just took some of the commentary as judgmental to my daughter who likes princess stuff. If you say that is untrue then I believe you and stand corrected. I commend your efforts and others like you even if I may disagree with some of them as I believe that parenting is the most important thing we can do. Keep up this great effort!

        • No apology needed for anything, I just wanted to be very clear we do not judge children. Ever. Our group is actually one of the most compassionate and tolerant parent groups I’ve come across, and a little debate never hurt anyone. :)

          I think when people are critical of “Princesses”, is it more about the Princess Culture that is currently shoved down our daugther’s throats, and that if our daughters don’t like princesses, then they must be gruff tomboys. It is the binary extremes and the hyper-femininity, with focus on beauty and attracting men, even sacrificing wonderful parts of themself to get a man, that people take issue to.

          Personally, it is the frustration I feel when my daughter gets together with certain playmates, and they don’t know how to play anything other than princess or “Justin Bieber’s girlfriend”. I think my daughter would have much more fun over in your well-balanced playroom. :)

  12. Hi there! A friend linked this to me on Facebook. I am a mom of two little boys. I just wanted to say that I’m glad I dodged the princess bullet in that respect lol BUT — I have to comment that it’s odd to me that as a feminist (i count myself among them), traditionally feminine things would be less desirable than traditional male things. Why is it better for girls to like cars over princesses? Are toy cars really more “useful” or preparatory for life than playing princess?
    I wasn’t big into princesses as a little girl, but I LOVED their dresses :) I always wanted one for myself :) I am now nowhere near a princess, one of the least style conscious people I know lol But I think what the Feminine, in any form or body, offers is the presentation and appreciation of Beauty. I think that’s fantastic. Yeah, wishing to be a princess seems to our adult minds as aspiring to be useless and decorative. But it’s also having an affinity with beautiful things, with being a friendly person, with using your beauty to bring justice into the world (Cinderella gets away from the evil stepfamily and remains loving, Belle takes care of her father in his old age and doesn’t fall in love with a playah, and modern Tinkerbell on tv — which my boys actually like lol — is a useful inventor. But she wears a cute dress, because she’s a girly girl!)
    It would be hard for me to deal with princess play. It would bore the hell out of me. But playing with blocks and train sets are boring to me too lol I prefer the classic story, science, history aspect of the years. But I have a little boy who appreciates beauty, wants to wear flowers in his hair, and loves the color pink. I don’t discourage it — his heart is sensitive and beautiful. And I hope it stays that way :)

    • Heather –
      The post and the theme for Pigtail Pals is that we are anti-limitation, not anti-girly, not anti-pink. Boy things aren’t better than girl things….we’re pushing for a balance and for girlhood to not be so narrowly defined. I’m often told my daugther is “weird” because she doesn’t care for princesses at all. She isn’t a girly-girl or a tomboy, she is somewhere in between. I believe it is called a “kid”. It isn’t better to like cars over princesses, it is better to have a wide variety of stereotype-free toys that child can use in any number of stories during playtime.

      • Your intention may be that “we are anti-limitation, not anti-girl, not anti-pink.” However, I think what some of your readers are trying to say – and I for one happen to agree – is that the message that is actually coming across IS anti-pink, anti-traditionally-girly things.

        Your post talks about needing/wanting “a shield that protects against anything that is sexualized, pink, princessy, and stereotypical for girls” – lumping pink and princessy with sexualized and stereotypical (and implying that something which is stereotypical for girls is also harmful and required protection). You claim that princesses “are kind of boring. They don’t run and play sports, have fun or draw like you do.” Reader comments included the claims that “many [princesses] just mostly sit around worrying about how they look” and that princesses “have to ask the prince first” before they are allowed to spend money. Now, if you are referring specifically to DISNEY princesses, many of those claims might be true. However, if you refuse to hand the definition of a princess over to Disney, those comments are all narrow, judgemental and stereotypical, and they demean many princesses throughout history who are working to change the world. I like the reader who commented that she discusses the positive impacts that real princesses have had on the world.

        You can call your readers defensive if you want, or you can take a moment to reread through the post and comments and consider if there is any validity in what they are saying. In any case, I appreciated the reminder to turn these (possibly?) commercialized desires down useful avenues when they pop up in my daughters.

        • And for what it’s worth, I am not criticizing your blog. I haven’t read through it all. I have looked in the store, and you have some really cool stuff that I would buy for my girls. I was specifically commenting on some of the things that I have read in THIS posting and THESE comments.

        • Hi Sarah –
          I just wanted to point out to you that I am not the author of this particular post, so her words may not exactly align with my own. It was a guest post for me by Dana Hernandez. So for me, personally and through my business, I can say with fairness that “we are anti-limitation, not anti-girl, not anti-pink”.

          I think what Dana was trying to say when she made the comment about “shielding” her daughter was not allowing her daughter’s childhood to be very narrowly defined by the gender roles the marketplace feeds our children. The Disney Princesses most certainly are sexualized. I think Dana was talking about shielding from the stereotypes and limitations, not all things girly.

          Again, I want to stress our big picture message which is girly things are just fine, but ONLY girly things, ALL the time, to the exclusion of anything else, is the problem we are trying to educate on. Also, the assumption parents make that their girls will automatically default to loving princesses, because “all girls do”. I have a beautiful and creative 5yo girl who doesn’t care about princesses. I’m told that makes her “weird”. I like to tell people it makes her a “kid”. I allow her the space to love whatever she wants, and it turns out to be science, whales and dolphins, and playing pet shop. She’s ‘girly’, she just isn’t a princess.

    • As a reader and ardent supporter of Pigtail Pals, I will say for myself that I am NOT “anti-pink” nor “anti-princess.” What I AM is anti-sexualization, anti-gender-limiting, and anti-whatever-I-think-as-a-parent-is-harmful-to-my-daughter. I don’t randomly and thoughtlessly ban things from my home. I carefully analyze media/toys/etc and then decide to encourage for my 5-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son what I believe will be beneficial for them and to “ban” what I believe is harmful for them.

      After exercising my media literacy skills and what wisdom I feel I have gained in my 30-something years, I have decided that the Princess Culture is something that is harmful for my children. My children are encouraged to explore play that is both stereotypically “feminine” AND “masculine” pursuits. They play “hair salon,” “restaurant,” “construction worker,” “mommy” and “daddy,” “scientist,” and yes, dress up in many different kinds of clothing including fancy dresses. They even play “king” and “queen.”

      Banning Princess Culture does not mean being anti-princess. But it REDEFINES princess in a way that I believe is more healthy for my children.

  13. I think its dissapointing that people would call anyone, especially a kid, “weird” based on their likes and dislikes. I don’t think its weird at all that she doesn’t like something and hope others will be accepting to her.

  14. By not allowing children to like what they like we are limiting them. Why CAN’T girls like things that are pink and girly? My daughter loves all things pink and girly and mud puddles and dinosaurs. She gets to choose what she likes. We are limiting our children by not letting them make their own choices. I think we often have stereotypes of certain types of toys and project our stereotypes on our children. They are innocent in all of it and just like what they like. Unless the focus is on a princess needing a prince and being helpless without him, princess dresses are just pretty and fun. And by the way, my son also loves princess shoes and dinosaurs, bugs and necklaces.

    • Momof2 –
      I you would read the end of the post again, it speaks directly to letting our children be who they are, and striking balance.

      No one is saying girls (or boys) cannot like ‘pink and girly’. We reject the notion of girls being limited to only those things. There is a difference, and the difference is an important one.

      Children are innocent, and they receive a great deal of social conditioning as to what they should or shouldn’t like. Toys that carry gender stereotypes and sexualization have no place in my home. It is our job as parents to steer them down the most healthy, most diverse path. Your children sound wonderfully well rounded, and much like my own.

      • I think the biggest thing is that the daughter hit the nail on the head, princesses can do it all. We, as parents, know what the stereotypes are, but kids are unaware. We make something that at this point in their lives is harmless, to be a big deal. I think we overestimate the power of the media and underestimate our abilities as parents to influence our children. (overall, I find this blog interesting and agree with most of it, by the way.) It just sometimes seems that we borrow trouble.

  15. I love this blog! Thank you! I want to tell you all that I grew up as the girliest girl ever– you would probably all have a heart attack if I had been your kid– and I am now a business executive with a power job at a relatively young age, a competitive athlete with muscles, and completely self-sufficient. I’m also a self-proclaimed feminist. ;) When I was a kid I had the best dress up clothes, refused to wear pants until the 2nd grade, and was all about looking pretty. Curly ringlets, huge hair bows and patent leather shoes were my favorite things. However, BOTH of my parents were high achievers and it was always a given that I was smart and talented enough to accomplish anything I was willing to work for. By high school I had grown into a leader at school and at my part-time job, and was known for being a high achiever…I was smart AND stylish. You can be both! I think that much more important than the Disney Princess movies and the pink frilly dresses is sending and LIVING the day-to-day message: that you are smart enough and good enough to be whoever you want. :)

  16. I am all for girls playing sports (both of mine do), reading any and every book they want assuming they are age appropriate (they both do), aspiring to any job (which changes day to day – an explorer, missionary, teacher, mommy, doctor, you name it!) and I stress the importance of education (they have watched me go through my undergraduate and now my graduate work). I also make sure to tell them “you are beautiful and smart and funny and silly and wonderful. And sometimes a little grumpy. And I love all of those things about you”. I am all about teaching them that they are more than JUST beautiful.

    But I will say that I have no problem with them wanting to put on nail polish, play princesses or play house. If that is what they want to do, then aren’t we squashing THAT part of their imagination to say no?? We have had princess parties, art parties, tea parties, you name it. This year my 9 year old girl had a bookworm party!! My 7 year old had a “Dispicable Me” party and it was a HUGE hit. I think we may be doing more harm telling them princesses are bad and cars and dinosaurs are good. Isn’t that just the reverse version (but same essence) of what you are scolding??

    I have also had the conversation that princesses are just pretend and it’s not a real job. I’ve also had to explain to my younger one (7) that mommies don’t get “paid”. I had to explain that while I am in school and not working, daddy earns all of our money. It’s not sexist. It’s the truth.

    I just worry that when we ban pink and fluff we are limiting who they truly may be. On another post I read a response by a gal who said she was in the army and loves going to the spa. By discouraging “stereo typical girl stuff” aren’t we telling them it’s NOT ok to be EVERYTHING you want to be??

  17. LOVE your blog! Found you through a friend’s Facebook post and just spent half an hour reading a bunch of your posts. I’ve really struggled with the princess thing, too. And, like you, I’m trying to find a balance. One thing I’ve found effective is to steer my daughter toward alternative princess narratives–stories and images where the princesses look pretty but real and actually DO something. Some of my favorites are The Apple-Pip Princess (the heroine looks like your daughter) and The Paper-Bag Princess. For older girls, there are stories like Ella Enchanted and Rapunzel’s Revenge. (BTW, I write a blog on inspiring books for girls, and I’ll be reviewing these and some other “precocious princess” books soon for a new series.)

  18. Love this blog and am on board with it’s message!

    I’m concerned about the ‘taught to hate’ the popular pretty girl Missy and ‘don’t hate’ tinkerbell and her perfect friends statements in this post….

    You know your baby had no control over being born with her perfect curling bouncing hair and her very obvious prettiness.

    Lots of pretty girls want to be sporty and fun- some aren’t coordinated, some don’t have a natural humor, some find their confidence in being pretty.

    Whatever the anti-feminist poster child represents, don’t teach to hate.

  19. Great blog, and I agree with several commentors. Not to say that I feel YOU are being anti-pink, but that we, as faminists, etc., have to be careful not to let the pendulum swing too far in that direction, as it’s just as limiting. I don’t have kids, so I have very little room to talk, but I was one once. A very, very PINK little girl. I loved frilly dresses and definitely wanted to be a princess when I grew up. This was before Diana. My mom didn’t give me any guidance whatsoever as to what a princess did or didn’t do. She just laughed, which is fine. But in addition to being a pink / princess / Barbie addict, I also loved pretending. I pretended I was in the army, or living alone in the woods and responsible for building my own shelter, gathering my own food, etc. I loved exploring creeks, riding my bike (fast, lots of scars from spills) and fantasizing about kissing boys in my class. Kids are going to like what they like. And they’re going to change their minds 100 million times before they grow up. If I ever have a little girl, I know that for every pink dressy outfit one auntie buys her, the other auntie will balance that out with green cordoroy pants and a frog hoodie. It’s all fine. Maybe my daughter will be the awesome kid who dresses herself and combines both these items into one amazing outfit. Because she’ll want to be the princess AND the frog.

  20. Love this. This is what I’m struggling with currently with my 3 1/2 year old rock star daughter. She’s gone princess happy because of her influences in preschool. It’s so hard to find the balance. I do smirk, though, when she refers to herself as a princess while mimicking her brother doing tae kwon do forms. She’ll be doing that, too, when she’s old enough. She wants to grow up to be a doctor when she’s not the Pink Power Ranger. And, she wants to ride Puff the Magic Dragon. I think we’re doing nicely…

  21. You should get the books Do Princesses Wear Hiking boots? DO Princesses Really Kiss Frogs? and Do Princesses Scrape their Knees? and The Princess Knight. Your daughter can be a feminist and a princess, because a feminist can be anything. Don’t sell princesses short, it’s not about what your born with – it’s about what you choose to do with what you have. Think of all the power and opportunity for good a princess has at her hands. Play the game you have the place treasury at your hands who will you help. Have the princesses crush the injustice pinata and distribute the largess to the masses. Make being a princess work for you.

  22. Not all princess stuff is bad. Real princesses are required to be educated and refined. Those are qualities worth teaching. There is a great book we discovered at the library called Princesses are NOT Quitters. My girls love Scooby Doo and one of my daughters told me once she didn’t really understand why Daphne had to be so stupid! I had to laugh! Just found your blog today and enjoyed reading a few!

  23. I hosted a Pink Alien party party for my then 3 year old and a Princess/Halloween party for her 4th. She has spent many a day in the sandbox with her princess dress on.

  24. I have 2 girls my oldest is 6, my youngest is 4. I’m a stay-at-home dad who tries real hard to make sure my girls grow up independent and strong. When my eldest was in Kindergarten she looked and looked for a Halloween costume and finally picked one: a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume we found at the local consignment shop. We pack it up and she brings it to school for the Halloween parade, I go and watch as they all march around the courtyard and take a couple pictures, But she looks upset. When she gets home she’s all happy again and I don’t think much more about it. So, actual Halloween comes along and instead coming down in her Ninja Turtle suit she comes down in a familiar blue ballgown. So I ask her what’s up she was so excited about being a Ninja Turtle, and she explains to me that some little boy at school told her that a Ninja Turtle is a boy costume and she can’t wear it, that’s why she was upset. I’m seething, but I manage to keep calm and explain that it’s a costume and nothing about it requires it to be worn by a boy or a girl, the characters were boys but anyone can pretend to be one of them or a new one altogether if they want. But at this point she’s all set on the princess dress so off we go and trick-or-treating is fun and all but some time goes and I have trouble shaking this and I’m thinking about how to deal with it when I see her coming down the stairs in that same blue dress wearing a hardhat, boots and carrying a tool box. I ask her what she’s doing and she says playing princess, now could I please leave her alone, because she has to go build her kingdom. Sometimes, maybe I worry too much.

    • Chris –
      This totally made me have a huge, giggling smile. I love that your daugther defined for herself what a princess does and how a princess can look. Now that kind of princess I can live with!

    • This is obviously too late but just a note because I have heard this come up before… there was a 4th live-action TMNT movie made a while back, featuring a FEMALE turtle. If, like me, the Turtles were a huge part of your childhood that you want to pass down to your kids, just make sure this movie is part of your collection!

  25. This is a wonderful post. Please add the +1 button to your site!

  26. I can understand the attitude against princesses but I do my best to encourage openmindedness. If that means my three-year-old wants to be a princess for the day, so be it. She has lots of dolls and even Disney Princess movies. But she also spends whole days at a time being a dinosaur, a dog, Buzz Lightyear, and most recently a cowboy who saved the damsel in “stress”… so I feel like letting imaginations run wild and encouraging whatever is in the mind is important.

    I think I feel this way because I was the only girl in a family of 4 children and was a complete tomboy. I don’t think I owned anything pink until high school. I played football and GI Joes and stomped through mud puddles while the girls on my street played Barbies and braided each others’ hair. There is a part of me that always wanted to be a little “girlier”… but never to forget the experiences I’ve had that have made me more well-rounded (as I see it) since I am not a “girly girl.” I don’t completely understand the extreme feminist ideas in the world today but I understand where they come from, and it saddens me. I don’t want to see a world where tomboys who never owned a toy pony because their parents wouldn’t let them try to mix with the princesses of society and the results are disastrous. That said, kudos to those of you who are trying to teach your girls to think outside the box, to use their brains instead of their bodies, and to be their own person and not what society wants them to me. That’s the best we can do as parents, and I see a lot of great parenting reflected here.

  27. A good friend who I consider ‘very feminist’ had a daughter go through a ‘princess phase’ around 4-5 years old. She privately questioned where she went wrong, but let her daughter play what she wanted, even bought some of the dress-up costumes, and basically didn’t make a big deal about it either way. The daughter is now 9, wears jeans, loves science and enjoys throwing a baseball or football around with her brother and dad. My friend now wonders where the fascination with science is coming from (both parents are in communications), but is supporting her daughter in all her interests. My own daughter (4.75 yrs old) went through a very brief ‘girly/princess phase’, but now will only wear her brother’s hand-me-down clothes. I figure eventually it’ll all work out.

    My conclusion is that following and not judging a child’s interests allows them the freedom to explore different roles. And as long as you’re communicating (like the mom above who had the discussion about what princesses can actually do), you can trust that your child will make good decisions.

  28. My middle daughter (age 7) frustrates me to no end because she will go to the library and look for any book with princesses on it (especially Disney) and that’s all she wants to check out. However, she recently picked out one that left me pleasantly surprised. It’s called the Secret Lives of Princesses by Philippe Lechermeier, and it not only has amazing illustrations, but it is definitely not your sterotypical princess book. I highly recommend it.

  29. Dear Dana,

    I live in a country where for almost the last hundred years princesses turned out to become the Queen. They did and do their duties very professionally. Their husbands had and have no influence at all. In our opinion, being a princess is just a job. Your daughter will learn that when she gets older. Having dreams about the world being a place where you can have all you want a be what you like, without costs, is not wrong when you are 4.

    Greetings form the Netherlands,

    Anne-Marie
    a very active stay-at-home-mom after getting an university degree

  30. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this post. I just found this blog but this could be one of the best posts I’ve read about how I feel as a mother of a baby girl. Granted she’s only 5 months but this gave me a “hell ya, this is how I want to raise my daughter” moment. thank you :)

  31. You should have seen my daughter last year. Her brother wanted to be a dragon, she wanted to be a princess. A giant princess who could take down that dragon. My parents found her an amazing hoop skirted, sparkly blue dress that she wore with pride.

    This year she decided to be a princess again. She was invited to a costume party birthday party at a local sports facility. All the other kids wore typical storebought superhero and cheap Disney princess costumes. You should have seen her playing soccer in her hoopskirt!

    I was in a wedding three weeks before Halloween, and the bride asked us to wear bright orange dresses. My four year old looked at me in this dress- I felt ridiculous- and said, with stars in her eyes, “Mommy, you look beautiful. Let’s be princesses together on Halloween. I haven’t felt that beautiful in a long time. We went as giant princesses together… ready and able to take on the world(and her brother, who went as a mummy) together.

    You know, there’s a princess in Free to Be You and Me. And one of my favorite princess stories is Petronella. I can’t keep Disney out of the house, but the kids know how the story of The Little Mermaid really ends. It’s tough- harder with my little boy, who wanted a pink unicorn party, because I was afraid the other boys wouldn’t accept him- but those kids showed me! Every single one, boys and girls, wore a sparkly unicorn horn.

  32. kids like what they like. just encourage them to try and be good adults. me, i liked batman as a toddler, then nancy drew as a twelve year old, then shaft and dallas as a young adult. now. i’m a happily divorced middle aged man with a feminist bimbo girlfriend who loves watching porn with me. it’s life. and yes i said feminist bimbo. her words not mine

Trackbacks

  1. […] piece was cross-posted from Pigtail Pals. Filed under: Women […]

  2. […] is one that I’ve stumbled across several times this week online – once in this article about a little girl  who wants a princess themed birthday party, a few times on a discussion board about raising girls, and most recently here, in an article about […]

  3. […] and here’s one of the articles I read about the princess culture and a feminist mom. This entry was posted in .USIH Blog, Uncategorized by Lauren Anderson. Bookmark the […]

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