Big Shake Up In the Princess World

Mulan: Hasbro on the left and Mattel on the right.

Mulan: Hasbro on the left and Mattel on the right.

A big shake up in the world of twelve inch princesses – the license for the Disney dolls has shifted from one toy giant to another. What does this mean for the toy industry, but more importantly, what does this mean for your child and the marketing coming our way?

Via Bloomberg, “Hasbro’s researchers talked to thousands of girls at the company’s Pawtucket headquarters, as well as in Hong Kong, London, and Los Angeles, and found that girls thought about princesses in much the same way that boys viewed superheroes. Sometimes they liked a character because of her dress; other times they focused on her abilities, such as archery and sword fighting (Merida, from Brave) or the ability to conjure ice and snow (Elsa). “Sometimes they want a prince, sometimes there is no need for a prince,” says Frascotti. Disney didn’t have to reimagine the princesses, it turned out. Girls had already done it themselves. The dolls had just never been marketed like that.
 
You don’t say.
 
Disney wants more empowered heroines. Can princesses pull that off? Well, Andrea Hopelain is VP for global brand strategy at Hasbro, who now holds the coveted princess doll license, is quoted in the piece saying “We can reintroduce Mulan. We can play up that Tiana is a great cook.”
 
Tiana was a great cook. But in 2016, parents – and their girls – are looking for toy companies to play up that Tiana was a savvy female entrepreneur who went after her dream and became a dedicated business owner. Her business happens to be cooking.
There is a difference, and that difference is a very important one when we’re talking about empowerment and little girls.
 

Melissa headshot 1 fb sizeMelissa Atkins Wardy is a speaker, media consultant, and the author of Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween. She is the creator and owner of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a company that has been offering empowering apparel and gifts to Full of Awesome kids since 2009 www.pigtailpals.com.

Find her at www.melissaatkinswardy.com. You can connect with her on Facebook (Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies) and Twitter (@PigtailPals) and Pinterest (Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies). 

A Little Girl Defines Princesses

This story was sent in by PPBB Mom Katie N:

“She gets it! My seven-year-old daughter overheard me make a hypothesis.

Last night a young friend declared that princesses need rescuing. During my lengthy argume– discussion with him, it became apparent that this was very deeply ingrained. As far as he had been taught, princesses are always needing to be rescued. His dad is very anti-princess. My hypothesis was that his dad didn’t want his sister to be into princesses because he also believes that princesses are weak and always needing rescuing.

My daughter asked me why he believed that. I said he probably believes it because that is what our society teaches. That’s what video games show and what stories often tell.

She got a little riled up: ‘But princesses aren’t like that! Princesses are strong and brave! *throws up bicep curl/victory fist* So are girls. Girls are just like princesses!’

She walked on for a bit, seemingly over her moment of passion. But then she stopped to let me catch up. She told me that tomorrow we should have some girl time to see how strong and brave we are.”

Image via thedeadintern.tumblr.com

Image via thedeadintern.tumblr.com

Further reading: 

Historical warrior princesses vs today’s “princess camps”: A Princess Camp Worthy Of Our Girls

How parents can help redefine what “princess” can mean: Repackaging Princesses  and A Different Narrative

Pointing out how ingrained in culture “princess = girls” is: A Sparkly Mermaid Princess Did Not Remove My Gall Bladder

A book list that helps shift the princess image: The Redefine Princessy Book List

 

Melissa headshot 1 fb sizeMelissa Atkins Wardy is a speaker, media consultant, and the author of Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween. She is the creator and owner of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a company that has been offering empowering apparel and gifts to Full of Awesome kids since 2009 www.pigtailpals.com.

Find her at www.melissaatkinswardy.com. You can connect with her on Facebook (Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies) and Twitter (@PigtailPals) and Pinterest (Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies). 

A Princess Camp Worthy Of Our Girls

A few years ago I wrote about the Princess Camp that was offered in the little town I grew up in, where girls were invited to come to school for a week long summer day camp that had them sitting and making crafts in the school gym and ended the week with a celebratory tea party.

This year’s brochure had improved a bit, now no longer specifying the camp was just for girls by using the more neutral “child” in the program description. That’s a big plus because we know there are lots of Princess Boys out there. The camp is still pretty much centered around music, crafts, and story time. None of those things are bad things for the junior kindergarten to second grade children welcomed to the camp. But…..

An example of princess camps offered across the nation. Seriously.

An example of princess camps offered across the nation. Seriously,

 

But what defines “princess things” and why are we in general selling girls (and a few boys) a definition of princess that is incredibly passive and ornamental. While the camp has improved it is still absent of adventure and leadership, as most princess camps are from all of the descriptions I’ve read online. Why do the toys, most media, and apparel around princesses show them in just one light? Thank goodness for Merida, Mulan, Elsa and Anna.

What if we sold our daughters a version of “princess” that was less about ball gowns, the perfect courtsy, and grabbing princes with feminine charms and more about wise leadership, compassionate ruling, smart economics and daring acts.

I would never consider sending my child to princess camp or princess lessons (I know someone who did this this summer) as they stand now, but if my friend Anastasia were put in charge I could very easily change my mind……Take a look at her response to a “FAIRY PRINCESS BALLERINA CAMP!!” advertised in her town this summer: 

Every day on my commute to do drop-offs I drive past a big, bright pink sign that advertises “FAIRY PRINCESS BALLERINA CAMP!!” And every day I think about what *I* would offer for a princess camp.
Week 1- Geography and Cultural Studies: Come with your maps, Ladies! Because knowing the nuances in your neighboring countries’ culture and physical makeup can help you avoid a war. Or win one.

Week 2- Hand to Hand Combat: Body guards don’t always cut it.
Week 3- Dancing: From formal ballroom, to meringue , to African dance we’ll study the history and moves of dances from around the world and have fun keeping our bodies strong and healthy. 

Week 4- Economics: Your country is facing unprecedented inflation and your PM wants to raise taxes yet again. What do you do?

Week 5- Microbiology: Your country is being overrun by a plague. What’s the most effective way to isolate the strain and mass produce a vaccine?
Week 6- Dresses: The big ball is coming up and you want to be armed to the teeth *and* wear chiffon? Okay! We’ll sketch dream gowns and discuss tear-away seams.

Week 7- Fantastic Beasts and How to Make them: Have you always wanted a flying unicorn? The finer points of gene splicing and DNA. 

Week 8- Surviving Sibling Rivalry: Whether it’s vying for a favorite toy or the throne, we’ll learn the power of gentle words. And birthright. 

Week 9- Political marriages: Why or why not?

Week 10- History: “Let them eat cake!”, “We will invade Russia in Winter, what could go wrong?” This week we’ll examine the legacies of those who have come before us and hopefully learn from their strengths and avoid their mistakes.

{Anastasia Nicholson is a doula and birth coach who lives in Wisconsin with her husband and two young children.}

Queen Elizabeth I of England rallying her troops before a major battle. Her leadership is credited to earning England a major victory in 1588 against Spain.

Queen Elizabeth I of England rallying her troops before a major battle. Her leadership is credited to earning England a major victory in 1588 against Spain.

 

Boudica, ancient queen of Celts and ferocious warrior against invading Romans depicted through the ages.

Boudica, ancient queen of Celts and ferocious warrior depicted through the ages.

Queen Nzinga was an excellent military leader who waged war against slave-hunting Europeans. Her thirty year fight inspired leaders who came after her like Madame Tinubu of Nigeria; Nandi, the mother of the great Zulu warrior Chaka; Kaipkire of the Herero people of South West Africa; and the female army that followed the Dahomian King, Behanzin Bowelle.

Queen Nzinga was an excellent military leader who waged war against slave-hunting Europeans. Her thirty year fight inspired leaders who came after her like Madame Tinubu of Nigeria; Nandi, the mother of the great Zulu warrior Chaka; Kaipkire of the Herero people of South West Africa; and the female army that followed the Dahomian King, Behanzin Bowelle.

Tea parties and princesses when you are five are great, to a point. But there is a whole lot more that we can be teaching our daughters about what it means to be a woman in leadership and power. Start here:
Makers – a video collection of world changing women
Girl Scout alumnae page – discover girls today and the adventures they have while in Scouts
Famous Scientists – learn about ten women who made important contributions in their fields of science
Women in Government – find female legislators from your state and encourage your daughter to write a letter about an issue important to her
Women Thrive Worldwide – bringing voices of women living in poverty worldwide to decision makers in Washington DC
Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies is a small business owned and operated by Melissa Atkins Wardy in Wisconsin, where our shirts are printed and shipped with love.
 If you would like to order empowering apparel and gifts for girls and boys, please visit www.pigtailpals.com.
Find Melissa Atkins Wardy’s book “Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, Birth to Tween” on Amazon.
Join the PPBB Community in conversation on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. 

Stop Using Stereotypes To Sell STEM to Girls

We all get it, we desperately need more girls involved in STEM at increasingly younger ages. As they age, we need to keep them engaged there. We do a great disservice to them when we raise them solely on a diet of vapid princesses, beauty queens and sexualized fashionistas.

But when we use princess culture, pinkification, and beauty norms to sell STEM toys to girls and fool ourselves that we are amazing and progressive and raising an incredible generation of female engineers we continue to sell our girls short. It is the equivalent of covering broccoli in melted processed cheese and thinking we’ve very served a healthy meal.

Girls do not need the Pink Princess Hook to get them interested in building or engineering. They need to be handed building materials and the message, “Hey! You are a person with a brain and two hands. Go build, it is great fun!” Kids are naturally curious which makes them natural experimenters which makes them natural builders and creators. All of that comes organically. NO WHERE is the princess complex hardwired.

Stop believing the hype, “Well, if it gets girls building that is all I care about.” No. Just no. Have more faith in girls that they don’t need products dripping in the pink syrup and exhausted princess stories. Be brave enough to tell new, more daring stories. If you go there, the girls will come. They don’t need pink bread crumbs leading the way. Have the strength of your convictions.

I know it is a common belief at some very popular manufacturers of girls toys right now to use the princess hook as any means necessary to get girls building. I know the marketing around some of these companies has the Internet swooning and in love. I’m just not buying it.  I know that to publicly deviate from this thinking may leave me unpopular. But that doesn’t make me wrong.

You cannot create a toy meant to break down stereotypes when you start off with the ideal that “we know all girls love princesses”. That is a stereotype. Not all girls love princesses. Many girls are limited to and even force fed princesses. Many families stay far away from the princess industry. Don’t confuse these two ideas.

This difference is a company that thinly veils mediocre building toys as girl empowerment while still using the same marketing tactics that we can’t stand – namely gender stereotypes and low expectations of girls. As you view this slick marketing, ask yourself if the toy is really that engaging and complex. Is the toy even capable of the engineering concepts being shown and celebrated? I know people will say, “But this is a step in the right direction and we should support it.” Yes, but at the same time, with all of the awareness that is out there, all of the studies and articles published, is it fair that we ask for giant leaps in place of smalls steps? Have we arrived at a time when we can expect more than scraps?

Do the ends justify the means?

For example, this Lego nightgown that has girls “Building Beauty”. Is there a pajama set for boys named “Building Handsome”? Of course there is not. When my daughter builds with her Legos, she builds ocean side villages and tidal waves, science labs, schools, office buildings, and hospitals. We don’t focus on beauty or princess pageants, we focus on brains. It would be nice if these engineering toys did, too.

Lego Friends “Building Beauty” nightgown. (Photo sent in by Amanda Cowell Jones. Thank you!)

Yo Lego, this is building beautiful. And it has nothing to do with what my daughter looks like

 

 

I want all of you to soak this in. Print it out, push it up against your forehead, and soak. it. in.

“After grading finals yesterday, I put my finger on what was bugging me about the whole Goldie Blox argument of “But girls like princesses!” The prompt for the final was two questions: who am I and who do I want to be (referencing and reflecting on the literature we studied this term). Several of my students, who are bright, capable, talented young women, wrote about how they felt restricted or “less than” or “other” because of their looks, and how they didn’t want to or like to feel that way. They said that they felt like women’s accomplishments are tied in no inconsequential way to their appearances. One even wrote “It’s not enough for me to be a good athlete and a good student. Society says I should look beautiful, too, or I’m a failure.”
These girls grew up in the early stages of princess culture. They absorbed the message that their accomplishments don’t mean much unless they’re accompanied by a certain beauty standard. Another said “I’m afraid to draw attention to myself because of the blemishes on my face.” Another: “I know I should care more about who I am than what I look like, but I still think of achievement in terms of weight and appearance.”
Toys that emphasize girls’ appearances rather than their abilities, or that place appearance alongside ability, send toxic messages to the young women they become. It matters. And I don’t want my daughter — or anybody else’s daughter — to feel less than awesome or that she’s somehow a failure because her abilities aren’t paired with a perfectly made-up face or size zero figure or a boyfriend. I don’t want to read essays from my full-of-awesome students that break my heart with the baggage they’re carrying already about womanhood.” -PPBB Community Member Gina Caponi Parnaby

The messages we give our daughters in childhood matter. Make them healthy, empowering ones. And don’t settle for anything less.

 

Why my daughter will not be limited to a 1950's era house-cleaing, cupcake-baking, princess-and-fashion-worshiping sex kitten glitter bomb

One of the great many reasons I become so annoyed with marketers and toy companies reducing my daughter to a 1950’s era house-cleaing, cupcake-baking, princess-and-fashion-worshiping sex kitten glitter bomb is that the following is a list of topics we just discussed before I could get my seven year old to go to sleep tonight:

– Imperial colonization of Africa
– Trans-Atlantic slave trade
– how to build a rondoval
– how humans started navigating the Earth
– how different cultures pass diseases to each other
– what was life like in ancient Greece and Egypt
– how does time pass, starting with the cave people
– the stratification of wealth in Africa
– will I buy her the Star Wars game she wants
– can constipation kill you
– what did cave people’s feet look like
– how did the ancient Celts make underwear
– do I love her a smidge more than I love her little brother
– did cave people wear skins fur side in, or fur side out
– sanitation practices of anciet Egypt

When we limit our daughters, we limit our daughters. Luckily for me, I had great advice and a strong intuition not to limit my daughter to what the pink aisles held for her. Instead I offered her the world.

And each night, she goes to bed knowing the world is hers.