This weekend, Lola was showing her Beauty and the Beast Squinkies (AKA Little Brother Choking Hazards) to her grandpa. She said “This one is the princess.” And Grandpa said “Just like you are.” To which she replied “I’m not a princess; I’m Lorelai.” And it made me feel a little bit proud of her. How nutsy is that!?
There are several sides to the whole Princess thing. And I know that just typing that makes me sound like the world’s most obnoxious parent. I can hear people everywhere saying “There don’t need to be any SIDES to the ‘whole Princess thing’ you wack job. Find something more important to over-analyze.” And well, that’s definitely one side that I can see some merit in. But I’m gonna talk about it anyway.
Why does everyone seem to assume that the pinnacle of happiness for little girls is to be princess-like? I’m sure this was discussed ad nauseam when the book Cinderella Ate My Daughter came out. I actually haven’t read the book, and I probably should. I also missed all the hoopla, so I didn’t read all of the much more eloquent discussions of the topic. I only know my own feelings and experiences. And I see several sides.
Now, part of the reason I haven’t read the book is that I can see where some people can be a little psycho about this. I mean, little girls like to play princess; grown ups like to encourage it; what’s the problem? It’s just silly stuff. Have we REALLY come to this, now, with parents being in a huff over every flippin thing? I can see that side. I really can. I am not going to dress down every poor well-intentioned person who calls Lola princess or buys her princess stuff.
But I am biting my tongue.
Here’s why. Try not to roll your eyes too hard. Your face might stick like that.
Basically, I don’t think princesses are particularly good role models. I mean, in pretty much every instance I can think of, they mostly spend their time being rescued by men, or told what to do by men, or looking for a man, etc. Tangled is a big hit in our house. Which is not entirely Lola’s doing; I love that movie and that damn “I’ve Got a Dream” musical number is INFECTIOUSLY HAPPY! But even that one- she needs a boy to come along to make her realize she can leave the stupid tower. Princesses are also representative of a very narrow view of beauty and femininity.
There’s something more to it for me, though. Something to do with the assumption that all girls aspire to be princesses and that’s it. It’s the stereotypical gender role thing that pisses me off. I have had people dismiss my suggestions of, say, pirate books as “for boys” in favor of something pink and princessy. But Lola likes pirates. She also likes many many other genres of toys and books and whatnot. Some of them are “girly,” some of them are not, but she is much too complex to be reduced to Girl = Princess.
Now, Lola certainly has princessy stuff. It started with a hand-me-down Cinderella dress. My very generous cousin passes on a lot of her girls’ things as they outgrow them, and when she gave me the Cinderella dress, I told myself to stop being such a weirdo and just give my kid the damn gown. And then Lola repeatedly begged to wear it. I’m not going to tell her No, obviously. I just want her to make her own choices. And sometimes she chooses princess stuff. Maybe she is just inherently drawn to it. Maybe her sizeable brain power is still no match for the marketing evil geniuses.
Over the years, mostly via gifts, she’s acquired some princess things, and she really likes them. (It’s cute, too. When she hangs out in her Princess tent with her Cinderella dress on and her hair in a bun? Holy Super Adorable!) Fortunately, she’s also been gifted lots and lots of other toys. She hasn’t been pigeonholed. My favorite is that two separate people have now given her swords. This particular thing warms my heart, because the whole “medieval” thing is FULL of troubling gender issues, and I love that her loved ones are subtly telling her she can enjoy wielding a sword just as much as wearing a gown. She can even do both.
We went to Disney World last year. Lola was just as content having lunch with Pooh and friends as meeting Snow White.
Also, see? Piracy and swordplay:
Not sure that the Dread Pirate Lola is going to be very successful with TWO hook hands, but don’t tell her.
I hear those days are numbered. Apparently, if I take her to Disney World again, I should be prepared for the ENTIRE trip to be about princesses. Those damn Disney marketing people are RUTHLESS. So maybe she will want to spend half the day at the Bippity Boppity Boutique, and she’ll shun Donald Duck. I suppose that I will bite my tongue. But I’ll silently beam with pride if she tells them she’s not a princess, she’s Lorelai.