Disney, my seven year old is #notbuyingit.

The 7yo Original Pigtail Pal went to school today with unbrushed hair. Again. I asked if we could run a comb through it, specifically for the pieces sticking straight up in back. She flatly refused, saying she they were her crown and she wanted to show her friends that there are different ways to be a princess.

I asked why this was important to her, and she said “Princesses are supposed to be powerful and smart and daring. Have you SEEN what they did to Merida? I know, right? She isn’t ready to rule Scotland or Ohio. She is with a bunch of girls standing like they are trying to catch frickin’ boyfriends or butterflies. *gasp* Mom! I swore!”

“No worries, Smalls. It is pretty frickin’ insane,” I relied.

 

My 7yo Merida-loving girl is not in love with Disney’s version of Merida.

Disney, and specifically the Disney Princess brand, was a major influence when I was creating my company Pigtail Pals back in 2009. Back then we were Pigtail Pals – Redefine Girly with the tagline that girls are “Smart, daring and adventurous”.  I know have a seven year old girl who has been raised with empowering messages and has had a girlhood virtually free of Disney Princesses.

Until Merida came along. We fell in love with Merida. We purchased Merida toys, my first purchase as a parent from the Disney Store. Our whole family loved “Brave” and we spent the summer galloping on imaginary horses and shooting arrows from our pool noodle bows. There were early indications that Disney couldn’t help itself, and because the Princess brand is so narrow, Merida would be made over super dainty and “princessified” in order to fit in with the rest of the merchandise. What Disney doesn’t seem to get is that people loved Merida because she was different.

A child’s brand should not be sexed up in order to be more profitable, but that is exactly what Disney does. That is why my family does not do Disney. The “come hither” eyes and delicate poses and coy looks….No. That is not how we raise little girls into self confident and strong young women. My daughter’s worth is not her sex appeal.

My daughter has the natural born right to plant her feet firmly, look you directly in the eye, shoulders square, and claim her right to take up space in this world.

 

This is the Merida we love. This is the kind of image my daughter has been raised with.

The new Princess Merida, with sexy eyes, hair and curves. And requisite sparkles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s more from the Mary Sue and from our pal Peggy Orenstein.

You can pre-order my new book “Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualization of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween” here.

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UPDATE:

You can sign our petition HERE.

Academy Award winner director Brenda Chapman, creator of Merida, speaks out against Disney’s redrawing of Merida and give them a piece of her mind! Read HERE.

Disney, Where is Izzy?

Disney's Jake and the Never Land Pirates

A couple of days ago I was out shopping for a special t-shirt for my 4yo son to start pre-K with next week, just something simple to help ease his nerves. I was happy to find t-shirts with his favorite characters Jake and the Never Land Pirates, on sale to boot, at JC Penney. My enthusiasm last twenty seven seconds, at which point I realized NONE of the 2T-5T tees carried by JC Penney featured one of the shows main characters – the girl pirate named Izzy.

This show is really popular with the preschool and early elementary ages, and while it fits nicely into the Smurfette Principle and only a couple of episodes pass the Bechdel Test, for the most part I approve of it for my children. There are episodes when a pirate princess (of course she’s a princess!) and mermaids help to balance out the gender scale. I talk with my kids about why there are so few girls in the show, and what more girl pirates could be doing in the episodes if they were on the show.

The situation with the t-shirts made me really sad. Not one shirt featured Izzy on it. Not. One. She is an important cast member, and the only female. I then remembered that I was in the Boys section, and thought surely they would have girl designs. I walked across the room to the Girls section (because boys and girls have to be segregated,  you know) to look for the girl version of the Jake and the Never Land Pirates. Nope. Nada. No Izzy, no girl pirate shirts.

What?! This show is super popular with boys AND girls right now, why would there be no shirts for girls, and no trace of Izzy on the shirts?

Your answer is: because of sexism and gender stereotypes. Did Disney and JC Penney think boys wouldn’t wear a shirt with a girl on it? When I showed Benny his new shirt, he got a huge smile on his face, immediately followed by a look of confusion. “Where’s Izzy?” he asked. I told him I guess she wasn’t on the shirts, and I thought it was the strangest thing. He got really mad, and said he didn’t want the shirt and to return it.

Disney's "Izzy" from Jake and the Never Land Pirates.

“I doun wanna wear a shirbt that doun has allub my frenz.” He didn’t want to wear a shirt that didn’t have all of his friends. He said Izzy’s feeling are probably hurt, and he wanted to be a friend to all of them and not make her sad. My 6yo daughter Amelia came in the room, and the first thing out of her mouth was, “Hey! Why is Izzy not on that shirt?”

Kids notices these things. Girls notice when they are missing, and so often they are missing.

What message does this send to little girls who love the show, saw the shirts, and realized there was no representation of Izzy? What does that teach these girls about the value a girl holds?

What message does that teach boys about girls?

Why is there only one girl character to choose from in the first place?

Why the ever-loving hell would a show built on cross-gender friendships and teamwork intentionally remove that element in its merchandise? Why only sell to boys? Why not market to girls, too? Why not market to children instead of sexes?

To be fair, there are selections exclusive to the Disney Store on their website that feature Izzy, and I’ve been told by several parents those shirts are sold out. No wonder.

But why does that not carry over to their licensed products to other retailers? The shirt selections I saw at JC Penney and Target had no Izzy on them.

 

Coincidentally, Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies has a girl pirate design for a tee, because we know that lots of girls LOVE pirates!

 

The cast of Jake and the Never Land Pirates, sans Izzy.

While I was shopping, the discovery of the shirt above made my head explode. Apparently whoever licensed and produced these tees for JC Penney decided boys would absolutely not wear a shirt with a girl on it, so in this depiction of the cast, they replaced Izzy’s head with a gold doubloon. The gator and the coin get a spot over Izzy. We get it, Disney. We know where females rank.

Thankfully, I’ve taught my kids to reject this kind of thinking, and after viewing the t-shirt choices from the Disney store, both immediately went to the kitchen table to color Disney a very strong message of complaint. I asked Benny if he was sure he wanted to return his shirt and he said now he wanted to keep it but also wanted a shirt with just Izzy on it, like the one we just saw from the Disney store. But even the Disney store has their apparel selections notes “For Boys” or “For Girls”.  Amelia said she wanted a shirt with everyone because you don’t exclude people when you are on a team. Benny then asked how to spell “Boss of Everything” and Amelia asked permission to use the word “jerks”.

Benny telling me why he is upset that Izzy is not on his shirt.

When we talked about this with the PPBB Facebook Community, there was lots of folks upset and expressing frustration. So many parents are sick and tired of the gender divide in childhood.

Janessa Hall: “This conversation reminds me so much of looking for Dora outfits when my oldest was a little younger. He loved Dora, and they only came in pink, sparkles, bows, etc.”

Katt Mikaboshi:  “My daughter loves Yo Gabba Gabba and saw a shirt in the “girls” section,but when she opened it up it only had the boy charters on it and no girls(?) I never encountered this before,but it hurts my head. My daughter asked me “why did they forget the girls?” 🙁 “

Purposeful

“At some point you have to wonder if this crap isn’t purposeful. And then you have to wonder why they’ve chosen to do this to our little girls.”

–PPBB Community Member Miranda Lollis

 

In response to the image below, from this post about Barneys NY and Disney teaming up.

Disney's Minnie Mouse we know and love.

Disney's new unrecognizable Minnie.

Disney Almost Gets Brave

With any children’s movie made these days, it is a sure bet that the products meant to bring ancillary revenue will immediately follow. And so it is with Pixar’s “Brave”. I loved the movie, and have been anticipating the roll out of the merchandise. You may have already read my comparison of Mattel’s sexualized Merida doll to the toys offered at the Disney store, which is where we will be shopping for the very first time this weekend.

“Brave” is actually not the first movie we have seen as a family that has rubbed off on my kids. Other movies that my six year old daughter has loved:

1. “Nim’s Island” — she carried a blue rubber iguana around for months

2. “Land Before Time” — she was obsessed with dinosaurs and volcanoes for two years

3. “Free Willy 4” — an exhaustive internet search found a Bindi Irwin scientsit surfer girl from the Sydney Zoo

4. “Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer” — fueled Amelia’s passion for mismatched socks and disgusting names for sandwiches

My daughter saw “Brave” on opening night, and we are going again as a family + grandparents this weekend. Both my six year old girl and four year old boy are in love with Merida’s character, and because I have advocated and waited so long for a heroine like this, I’m going to eat some crow and let them pick a toy from the Disney store. I’m thinking we’ll pick up some of the little action figure toys, as I’ve been saving cardboard boxes and plan to spray paint them in order to turn them into a castle and bear’s lair.  I always like to be an educated consumer, so I took a look on the Disney store website so I will know what to expect when we get to the store.

First, I noticed that with the box office success of the film the options for merchandise have quadrupled. I think Disney was holding back to see whether or not the film flopped. Second, I still really like the dolls and plush toys from Disney over what Mattel created for the big box shops. I am really pleased that Disney left Merida looking natural and just like a sixteen year old girl should look. Third, I immediately noticed some disconnect with the princess I saw in the film, and the princess Disney is marketing to my kids. Mostly, I cannot find a bow and arrow set, but do have the choice of a bedazzled magic wand.

Disney, you almost got it.

The princess dresses are your standard Disney fare that I was expecting. There is a lot that could have been done with the dress up collection that wasn’t. Shame.

I cannot recall Merida wearing feather bejeweled kitten heels in the movie. I imagine those would have made her action scenes a tish more dicey. Also, those heels make me think of the Playboy Mansion so we’ll be leaving those at the store. The description for these is ridiculous, as golden jewels do not a heroine make.

Brave slippers for girls from Disney. Indeed.

Great moogly boogly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next is the golden gladiator sandals which, again, Merida never wore. That’s the thing about 10th century Scots, they weren’t big on the bling. But Disney sure thinks it is in the genetic code of 21st century girls! Squee!

A step up from the bedroom kitten heels.

This description does encourage some adventurous play. I wonder if the constricting sandals would allow it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, I’m wearing gladiator sandals today (magenta pink, to boot) and I suppose I could run and play in them. I’m not sure I could fight a bear in them, but then again I’m also not willing to try. I do like the description for these better than the heels, as at least this focuses on what a girl is doing, rather than how she looks. I would like Disney to have the foresight to create deep green soft-soled ballet flats just like Merida’s from the movie, adorned with a Celtic knot….something to run and climb and jump and play in, just like Merida.

I’ve saved the best for last. I paid very, very close attention the movie. I recall Merida climbing a waterfall, commanding her giant horse, wielding a sword, and showing time and again that she is an expert archer. My daughter really loved the archery theme to the movie, so I was looking for a bow and arrow set she could play with outside while she defended our tree fort. Would you believe Disney doesn’t carry one? Amazon does, so I’m hoping Disney just sold out of theirs. Because I missed the part when Merida was holding this:

What. In. The. World.

Wouldn't shimmering jewels and flashing lights attract bears? Me thinks yes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I still plan to let my kids pick out some little figures from the Disney Store that they can use in the castle we build, but I won’t be getting them any of the dress up clothes. I need my little Scottish adventurers to be running with wild abandon through my backyard (using pool noodles for bows I suppose). And because I’m writing a book on the gendered marketing towards girls, I won’t have the time to fix busted children’s high heels or torn jeweled sparkle dresses.

So while “Brave” sits at #1 across America this week and is earning an A rating from audiences everywhere, one could assume Americans were ready for a self-rescuing, doesn’t-need-a-prince, adventuring not-focusedon-my-looks princess. I guess Disney wasn’t.

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Update: I love to make things and craft with my kids, so I knew if I spent enough time on Pinterest I’d a way to make our own bow and arrow so that the kids can pretend to be having adventures right along side Merida. It took me all of 15 seconds to find this project, which we’ll be doing this weekend! I think I’m going to have the kids include the colors from our family’s tartan and draw our own Celtic knots to adorn the bow.  Find the project HERE.

 

Make your own bow for a little Highland Games action in the backyard!

Being A Teapot Is Not A Career

Mrs. Potts, from Disney's "Beauty and the Beast"

Career Night for the Class of 2024….

I know what your thinking, it sounds a little, oh, precocious?  

I guess it was inspired by the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It was supposed to be a night to celebrate the pre-kindergarteners finishing their first year of schooling, and get them excited to…be grown ups? Play pretend? Dress up? Begin on the path to college prep? I’m still trying to figure it out.

So we walk in, Amelia (5yo) and Benny (3yo) are handed little passports they are to get stamped at the different stations that are supposed to feature different careers. We walk around and it ends with an ice cream social in the lunch room.

First station – baseball players, a football player, another baseball player, and someone who was supposed to be an umpire but called herself a referee.

Second station – a cheerleader and a ballerina (except neither adult was dressed like a cheerleader nor a ballerina)

Ten minutes into the gig my husband is glaring at me, but the kids seem to really be into collecting their stamps, so I give him a sweet smile and the “We can tough this out because it is for the benefit of the fruit of our loins” look.

Third station – a woman standing at a table inside the theater. On the stage someone is playing piano, and there is a cello and a bass guitar…..

She leans forward and asks the kids what is around her neck. Amelia looks at her puzzled, and answers correctly, “A necklace and a bunch of other junk.”

Teacher: “Oh yes, sweetie, but what is ON my necklace?”

Amelia: “Uh, a ball.” 

Benny: “Gold! Stamp me!”

Teacher: “No, sweetie, look closer. WHO is on my necklace?”

Amelia: “Uhhhhh…..Mom? I do not understand what she is asking me.”  I can tell Amelia is becoming uneasy.

I grit my teeth, because I know what is coming….

Teacher: “Sweetie, it is Mrs. Potts. From ‘Beauty and the Beast’?”

Husband: “Uh ohhhh…..”

Me: “Yeah, we actually don’t watch that movie.”

Teacher: “What!? All little girls love that movie! Sweetie, it is Mrs. Potts. From ‘Beauty and the Beast’.”

Husband: “Okay, thank you. Look guys, a big blue cat!”

Amelia: “I don’t watch that movie. What are you supposed to be?”

Me: “I’m confused, too. You’re standing in front of a stage with musical instruments, inside a theater….My daughter isn’t going to grow up to be a teapot. A teapot is not a career.”

Amelia: “Why would someone be a teapot?”

Benny: “Stamp me, Lady! Sta-ah-am-ah-am-ah-amp ME!”

Husband: “Babe….I think we’re all done now…..”

Me: “Really. Mrs. Potts? I don’t even understand what you…..How is this relevant to a career?”

Amelia: “How would someone even become a teapot?”

Me: “I’m not trying to be rude, I’m just thoroughly confused as to the reference. How is a teapot a career?”

Teacher: “Well, most girls know that movie and they understand.”

Husband: “Ohhhhhh no.”

Me: “Understand. What.”

Benny: “Uh uh uh uh Lady! Stamp me, Baby!”

Amelia: “Mom, I just want to grow up into my science brain.”

Teacher: “Most girls know the movie, and they, know…..”

Amelia: “Well, not this girl. Mom, I don’t want to be a teapot.”

Me: “Amelia, I don’t want you to be a teapot either. I’d like you to grow up into your science brain too.”

….and then to the teacher, “But Disney doesn’t have a movie about that. You’ll have to get a new necklace for girls like my daughter. We have bigger plans for her than singing teapots who dance for a girl being kept hostage by a verbally abusive and physically intimidating beast.”

When I get all steamed up, then I shout….