I recently read a thought provoking post , but really the comments grabbed my attention more than the post.
I love Disney. Really I do. Rather, I really do. I’ve dressed my girls up as princesses and fairies many times. They’ve worn the dresses day after day, they’ve asked for the shoes, and the coats. Sometimes they get them, sometimes they don’t. One time in particular Ryan and I weren’t so keen on a certain toy because it looked, well, cheap. I didn’t want Ella to spend her hard saved money on something that would break straight away. But she wanted it. It was her choice. The toy broke. Now she asks questions about products before purchasing.
I don’t like being surrounded by labeled products, but refusing to allow my girls to experience any of those same products will only increase their desire – increase the appeal. I let them experience what they can, all the while talking about how a princess product might compare to a non-princess product. We talk about what they expect of the product, vs what the product actually is. As for seed packets specifically (see the linked post above), my girls would likely expect the flowers to resemble the princesses and would be very disappointed if they didn’t. We’d talk about those expectations before purchasing. We’d also talk about if they’d be happy with the package going in the garbage and no lasting princess likenesses, or if they’d be upset. They would be included in the conversation. And would likely choose different seeds. But if I just said, “no”, they’d likely throw a fit – and they wouldn’t have actually thought for themselves about the value of a product, media literacy, consumerism.
We talk about the difference between Disney princesses and real princesses (and real girls). We watched the Royal wedding together, enthralling my girls. They love looking at pictures of PRINCESS Kate playing hockey, being in girl guides. We talk about all the things a real princess actually does – and what makes a person a princess vs a regular girl. We also talk about history – were women always portrayed as needing rescuing etc. And ultimately I think it’s okay for them to have a princess fantasy. In their games Cinderella isn’t waiting for her prince to come, but she magics the wicked step-mother away and teaches the ugly step-sisters kindness and love. In their games they give Cinderella power Disney never dreamed possible. Why would I take that power away from them?
I think it sells our girls short when we tell them this character they love is worthless, that their idea of wonderful is worthless. Instead we talk to our girls: Do they really think all Cinderella did all day was wait for someone to rescue her? Or did she do other stuff? How do we know she was really so kind and good, she wasn’t very nice to lucifer (the cat). Then we discover there’s a whole lot more to the story than we see in the Disney movie. An old woman needed help, but didn’t have a lot of money. No one else would help her, but despite all the work she had to do, Cinderella offered to help. Why was Cinderella helping the mice? Well it turns out…The story goes on. Day after day they dream. They dream of what they might one day become. THey dream that today they are heroes. They dream that Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, are more than we knew.
I don’t want my girls to think there’s only one flat story to a person – any person. I want them to always look deeper. One day they might meet a perfectly coiffed young lady who’s very sad because her parents always expect X, Y, Z. I want my girls to approach her with compassion rather than contempt. Or they might meet a girl much as I was once upon a time, sad, lonely, with clothing that didn’t fit, hair straight down my back. Either way, I want them to approach all people with compassion. If all parents taught their children compassion, bullies would lose their power in the school yard. But the sad truth is as we tell our sons and daughters that princesses aren’t worthy, we really tell them certain types of people aren’t worthy.