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). 

Fairytales and the Next Best Thing

I love fairytales, like the one about a heroic unicorn my grandmother wrote and illustrated for me when I was a child, that I know read to my six year old daughter, Amelia. We are crazy excited to see “Brave”, and find out just how adventurous of a princess Merida really is. (Please, oh, please, Pixar, do not let my little girl down.)

We had inherited all of these Disney movies from my aunt, and I didn’t mind Amelia watching any of the princess movies now that she is older and has more critical thinking skills. We like Tangled, I knew she would like Mulan, and we still haven’t seen but are looking forward to Princess and the Frog.

It is no secret that our family is not big on passive princesses, like most of those of the Disney variety. In fact, my six year old has only seen two of the Disney Princess movies: Tangled and Little Mermaid. The first was my choosing, and we enjoyed it but I wasn’t in love with it. Little Mermaid was all my husband, he wasn’t familiar with the storyline and thought it was one of Amelia’s ocean videos. The child is convinced she is part dolphin, and recently has developed a love of mermaids. In my humble opinion, Little Mermaid is the worst of the worst of the DP movies, because a woman should never give away her voice or physically change herself to be with a man. I think there’s a difference between taking a little nap while your gallant prince fights for your safety, and say, giving away your most prized physical attribute so you can fall in love with a hot guy you saw on a boat. And yes, I get that my daughter probably isn’t drawing these same messages out of the story because she’s 6 and I’m 34.

The other day this conversation took place:

“Mom, the dad in Little Mermaid is so mean.” -Amelia

“How is he mean?” -Me

“He just yells at Ariel and doesn’t let her do what she wants.” -Amelia

“That’s because he is being a parent. It isn’t his job to be her friend.” -Me

“But she just wants to go on land and be with her boyfriend.” -Amelia

“Actually what she is doing is changing the most amazing thing about who she is, and giving that away to a person who is evil and manipulating her, all so she can completely change herself and abandon her family to be with a boy that she doesn’t know and who doesn’t know her.” -Me

‘Oh. Well, would you ever do that for Daddy?” -Amelia

“Good Lord, no.” -Me

“Your body got different when me and Ben were in your tummy. So that’s the same.” -Amelia

“That’s the complete opposite. Daddy had fallen in love with me for who I was as a person long before my body changed during pregnancy. Daddy and I were in love for six years before you came along. And having your body change while you grow a child is not the same as changing your body so someone will find you more attractive and hopefully fall in love with you.” -Me

“Well none of this matters because I’m never having babies.” -Amelia

“That is fine, and your opinion on that may or may not change. But you will most likely fall in love with someone and I want very much for that person to love and cherish you for you, for who you are as a complete person. You’ll be much happier in life if you surround yourself with people who value and accept you for being your authentic self.” -Me

Pinkwashed Preschool

I had some parents share their experiences with me on Facebook, and wanted to share them here.

“My daughter’s pre-school just repainted their rooms this weekend and in the two’s bathroom they had removed the Elmo potty pictures and put a princess (guessing) and Dora over one potty and spiderman and a dinosaur over the other. My daughter asked where’d Elmo go, and then was super excited about the dinosaur. I am worried she will be discouraged from using the toilet with the dinosaur because now it is for boys.” -Natalie

” I picked up my 4 1/2 year old twin daughters from pre-school today & they were both carrying pink plastic firefighter helmets. Their teachers told me that they had had a visit from the local fire dept. & got to check out a firetruck. While I was buckling them in their seatbelts, I casually said, “Cool hats. You both chose pink ones?” The response I got was “Mom, we’re girls so we get pink hats. Th…e boys get black hats.” My heart sank but I mustered up an upbeat tone & said, “Well, you can always choose whichever color you like best. Some girls might like a black hat & some boys might like a pink hat. Its your choice.” One of my daughters said matter of factly, “A boy is not gonna want a pink hat.” I said, “Some boys might & thats perfectly ok. Everyone has his or her own choice, their own likes & dislikes and thats cool.”
Arrrgh, have you ever seen a real firefighter wearing a pink helmet? Would a firefighter in a pink helmet be taken as seriously or viewed to be as competent & experienced or be paid as well as a firefighter in a black helmet? Why the heck do they even make toy fire helmets in pink? Arent actual firefighter helmets either black, red or yellow? I guess I’ll never know whether the girls were given the pink hats or if they chose pink…but sure felt that the pinkification process was bearing down on us hard today.”  -Diane

And on the way to preschool:

“I’m writing you about is your choice of morning commercials. See, we don’t teach about dieting in our house or about when people are “fat” or “skinny”. We try to teach our daughter to respect everyone regardless of what they may look like. We teach her to love and respect her body, eat healthy foods to power her awesome brain, and exercise her strong muscles. We teach her to be proud of the body that she has and remind her of all the amazing things that she does and can do with her body. This morning on the way to her school, after listening to endless commercials about diet pills and filling shakes and ugly fat, she pinched whatever bit of extra she could find on her 4 year old, 30 lb body and said,”Mom, this makes me ugly??”. My stomach dropped. I wanted to cry for the ideas that had just invaded my daughter’s head. For the girl in her class I saw a few weeks ago when I volunteered who pinched her very own precious cheeks and said,”These are just too fat”. I know that your commercials are set to earn money for your show, I am not ignorant to the ways of advertising. But commercializing this constant need for perfection, to be pretty, to fit the norm… it’s doing a great disservice to our children and to ourselves. I pulled the car over in the school parking lot today and reminded my daughter how beautiful she is. How smart and funny and full of awesome. I made sure she understood that she is BEAUTIFUL because of her kindness and her gentle heart and her amazing sense of humor. I reminded her of all the outstanding things that her body is able to do. And I changed the radio station.”  -Stephanie

And around town:

“My going on 5-year-old daughter have an on-going conversation about the colour pink. And the last few months she has been espcially focused on the idea that pink and princesses are for girls, therefore, she loves pink and princesses b/c she is a girl. Today at a playground, in response to me asking, “But aren’t colours for everyone?” she said, “Yes.” (And I silently breathed a sigh a relief for the breakthough.) Then she continued, “Except for boys. Colours aren’t for boys.”   -Laura
“Today we took our 2yr. old to buy some hiking shoes for our summer camping and the salesperson said “ummmm, this is all we have.” One pair (and yes they had pink on them) . We went straight to the boys section to see a variety. Obviously girls don’t hike. We did pick out a great pair with fish on them ! She was so happy with them she wore them home and for the rest of the day!”  -Marney

Book Review — “Princess Recovery: A How-To Guide to Raising Strong, Empowered Girls Who Can Create Their Own Happily Ever Afters”

I love this book from Dr. Jen Hartstein!

 I’m told the first 35 years of parenting are the most difficult. I tend to agree. Today’s parents face the extra challenge in our culture of wading through the omnipresent Princess Culture with their daughters (and maybe sons). Some little girls are drawn to frilly and princessy things, and that is a wonderful part of childhood for the young imagination to explore.

But there is another side to princesses. It is often called “Princess Culture”, and is defined by the obsession of all things pink, hyper-girly, beauty-focused play, and a sense of entitlement. Lacking from this is the idea of teaching girls to be confident, competent, and able to rely on themselves. It leaves our girls with a skewed sense of the world and their place in it. 
I have many parents email me asking for help with their girl who is princess crazy, and demonstrating some undesirable behaviors as a result. Maybe the little girl is too focused on her looks, is behaving with a sense of entitlement, or insists on playing the same princess story line over and over and over again. Parents want to know how to break the focus on beauty and vapidness, or maybe expand their daughter’s definition of what it could mean to be a princess and offer her different ideas of play.
I now have the perfect book to recommend to them — “Princess Recovery: A How-To Guide to Raising Strong, Empowered Girls Who Can Create Their Own Happily Ever Afters”  by my friend Dr. Jen Hartstein. This book is fabulous, I loved reading it (three times now!). My girl isn’t a princess girl, but I see how the info in Princess Recovery can help me navigate the waters of girlhood because the marketing to our daughters on how they should be a girl is relentless.
Dr. Jen’s book takes parents through the idea of using media literacy skills, creativity, and tangible tips and activities to get girls in the mindset of being strong and empowered and writing their own stories that get them to their own happy ever after. She takes us through the problematic lessons girls learn from Princess Culture, to the steps she’s termed ‘The Princess Recovery Program’, to chapters that give a Princess Symptom and a Heroine Value.
The book isn’t so much about tearing princesses away from our little ladies, nor does it advocate raising girls in a protected bubble. This book is all about striking balance, and making sure our girls are getting the best out of childhood and their interest in princesses, and giving them lessons and experiences that build them up and leave them prepared and ready to take on the world. Because this book has such a balanced approach, I feel confident in recommending it to our Pigtail Pals Community because as we all know, there are so many ways to be a girl.
Princess Symptoms like “Appearances Are Everything” and “Entitlement” and “Rescue Me!” are countered with Heroine Values like “Smarts Pay Off” and “Hard Work” and “Set High – but realistic – Expectations”. This book does such a great job of helping parents draw out the best from their girls, while not taking anything away from them or telling their girls that what they love is wrong or silly.
Even if you don’t have a princess girl, I think this book is still a great resource for raising girls in today’s culture. And to be honest, I even picked up some tips for helping me with my son. When I first met Dr. Jen and she told me about her book, I was a little leary it would be off-putting to parents who would feel like they would be on the defensive for their princess girls. I am so pleased I was flat wrong. I promise you, this book will leave you feeling optimisic and excited about new ways to challenge your girl, and open her world even wider. I read this book once because I had to in order to be able to review it. I read it twice more because I loved it.
I asked Dr. Jen why she was inspired to write this book, and she answered: “I work with lots of young women in my private practice, and I notice that many of them (too many) are focused on their appearances, what other people think of them, and how they present themselves to the world. They look to the external world to provide them with a sense of self, meaning, and understanding.

When I stood back from it, I realized that these feelings are rooted in their childhoods, so I started to do some research about what kind of influences start so young, and are so powerful, that these young women, who have so much to offer, cannot see it.

This brought me to the princess culture, and to Peggy Orenstein’s fabulous book, “Cinderella Ate My Daughter.” Her book highlighted what the problem was, and motivated me to provide a guide that could help parents begin to know HOW to deal with the problem, in the hopes that these young women would feel more in control of their lives earlier in their lives.

Next, I asked Dr. Jen about the feedback she has gotten: “The feedback that I have gotten from parents has been really phenomenal. I think most have been able to utilize the strategies and ideas with their daughters, and have found the recommendations to be practical, useful and easy to implement. In fact, some mothers have stated that they are starting to think about how they are going to utilize some of the ideas for themselves!
Overall, I think people have really received the book well and are finding that they can utilize the ideas to shift their princess to heroines…and they girls can wear their tiaras as they play in the mud.”
Dr. Jen Hartstein
Dr. Jen is a nationally recognized child, adolescent and family psychologist based in New York City. She is also the mental health contributor on CBS’ The Early Show and regular contributor on the Anderson show with Anderson Cooper.
You can find Dr. Jen and her blog HERE.

There Are So Many Ways To Be A Girl

Pigtails Pals was launched almost three years ago with the idea that girls needed to be presented with more positive imagery and messages on apparel. I wanted images showing girls doing smart, daring, and adventurous things. With close to 25 girl-empowerment designs that have gone viral and been shipped all over the world, I feel really good about accomplishing what I set out to do. There is always room to do more….

I introduce today a new design that I’m really proud of. This design was created by our facebook community when I asked the question, “Tell me ALL of the different ways your daughter is a girl.” I took notes on all the descriptions given by our amazing parents — sports and dance and various shoe styles and artistic interests and messy hair and fancy pigtails and love of color. This design is YOUR girls, because my Pigtail community knows there are so many, SO MANY, amazing ways to be a girl.

You can purchase these tees HERE.

A brand new Pigtail Pals design!

Every single detail in this design (illustrated by my wonderful artist Katie) represents a girl in our Pigtail Pals community. There is no limit to who our girls can become, and having a girlhood rich in diverse experiences and friendships will show our daughters just how incredible this world is, and how much is out there waiting for them.

During the discussion, the idea was suggested that “little girls are made of sugar and spice and everything Full of Awesome”. One mom even posted a photo of her daughter, looking like a true Pigtail Pal: colorful outfit, hair messed from a hard day of play, and a big smile on her face. (Thank you, Penny Collins, I’ll be sending your little lady a gift tee!) I liked that phrase so much, I added it as a second option for this design!

A second version of our brand new design!

 I have more designs and some surprises coming out during our Birthday Week beginning May 6th, but I just couldn’t wait on these!

I hope you love them just as much as I do! And a huge thank you to Katie, my artist, for turning all of my notes and scratches into something beautiful for our girls!

You can purchase these tees HERE.

As always, these designs are offered in sizes Toddlers – Ladies, with fourteen color choices. Enjoy!!