Sunday, June 2, 2013

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Disney Merida controversy: Resisting the "Princessification" of my daughter

Bellyitch Rewind

In light of the recent outcry over Disney's decision to upgrade and make prettier its image and dolls based on the Merida, the princess in Brave who taught message of strength over being rescued and marrying,  I thought I would re-share this popular post I wrote last January about my attempts to resist the "princessification" of my daughter:

Enjoy and share your thoughts below, please! Thanks:



After delivering two boys, I had no clue what to expect when I was expecting a baby girl back in 2007.  Of course, plenty people tried to tell me what I should look forward to.

"Girls are so much fun!" people told me. "They're so social and pleasant to be around."

"You're going to have a blast shopping for clothes because girl clothes are so much cuter than boy clothes," several others said.

Others had not so great things to say about girls:

"She's going to hate you when she becomes a teen but until then, enjoy her," some said.

"If she's a daddy's girl, she's going to play your husband against you," friends with daughters told me.

"Girls can be manipulative and vindictive," one mom told me. "They'll talk a hole in your head."

"You have to be extra vigilante with girls because they can get pregnant," one aunt warned me. "That's why I'm so happy to have boys."

It was all overwhelming.

JC Penny pulled this David & Goliath shirt after public outcry
Because I was a tom boy myself growing up, I was fine that the first few years, my little girl was rough and tumble and didn't really care for girly things and didn't have a preference for dolls and frilly things. Obviously, she was influenced much by her two older brothers and a mom who didn't mind that she wasn't a "girly girl."

Like author & columnist Geoff Kirsch wrote in a recent piece, I wanted to fight the "princessification" of my daughter.

In my womanist mind, I was secretly happy that she didn't yet care for all the dolls, tiaras and magic wands Disney tells her she must obsess over. To me, all of that is part of the early indoctrination and socialization of girls that grates away at their self-esteem. More so than boys, girls are constantly sent conflicting messages centered about superficial things like beauty, weight and hair. 

So often, the media and society teach girls that their worth is centered around how pretty and thin they are and whether they will be able to attract and get a man to fall in love with and marry them, rather than how smart they are, or whether they are capable of kicking butt in math and science class.

When my little girl went off to nursery school for the first time at age 2, I was lucky that she was in a classroom full of boys so she got more or less the same environment there as at home. She continued to play with trucks and blocks and occasionally wandered over to the pretend play kitchen area.

That summer, I learned quickly how socialization with other girly girls can and does impact girls a lot. When she graduated up to a class with older 2-year olds that was majority girls all of a sudden her favorite color became pink and she started getting interested in dolls and clothes and playing house. Next thing I know, because Kennedy had Twinkle Toes shoes, she wanted some too. Wha?? Peer pressure is a real thing.

Then, the indoctrination really set in when she started to take cues from my very girly neice who has an extensive Barbie collection and at one time used to ask her mom and everyone around her 10 times a day, "Am I pretty?"  A definite precursor for future self-esteem issues. [We've since worked her out of that].

Disney's Princess Tiana
Notwithstanding my daughter's new passion for tu-tus, kiddie heels, pretend make up, and getting her nails painted like mom,  she remained just as rugged, independent and self-motivated as ever--even while developing a taste in what most people expect of  little girls.

At the tender age of just 4, because I suck at doing her hair, she gets a bi-weekly treat and gets to go to the kiddie hair salon. She definitely is growing accustomed to being pampered so I am to blame for some of the spoil factor.

Still, to this day, I am not certain whether but for her being influenced by other girls, she would have embraced her inner "princess."

In the nurture v. nature debate, certainly nurture may weigh more and influence girls more.  I may be well losing this battle of the Princessification of my little girl.

As I type this, she has reminded me of my promise yesterday to take her to the nail salon to get her nails done. Oh boy! Here we go!

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