I find it increasingly hard to swallow the notion that Disney Princesses are ruining today’s young girls. Suffice to say, I grew up on Disney and I’m running a company comprised of intelligent and self-assured women and men. Somehow I can’t translate that into an entertaining children’s story… Wendy… Peter Pan? I don’t know.
Contrary to trending beliefs, having childhood princess fantasies did not crush my self-confidence and it did not infect me with the idea that I needed a man to wisk me away into some kind of royal domestic bliss. I remember when a new Disney movie would come out and how all I wanted was to hold that shiny plastic VHS case in my hands so I could watch The Little Mermaid over and over and over again. But believe it or not, my thoughts on female role models and romantic relationships were almost entirely shaped by those I witnessed in real life. I remember from a pretty tender age seeing women who were in my family, or friends of our family, who felt really trapped in their marriages, unable to make independent decisions, unable to speak freely, unable to spend their own money and generally feeling pretty oppressed. Maybe they weren’t the breadwinners of the family, maybe their relationship had just degraded to this sorry state from years of neglect, there were hundreds of factors in play. For some reason, I don’t think that watching Cinderella as a child was one of them. Because I freaking loved Cinderella, and I knew exactly what kind of relationship I didn’t want with whatever man I chose to be in my life.
I have seen a lot of women choose to de-feminize their bodies and images, sometimes as an outward demonstration of their sexuality or gender orientation, and conversely, I have to say that I feel more than justified celebrating being a feminine woman. It doesn’t mean I’m a disillusioned diva who thinks that new clothes makes her a better person or that I expect Prince Charming to pay my bills (I do expect him to mop though). Embracing some stereotypically “female” interests does not mean that I was culturally forced to do so, or that embracing them makes me a dumb broad. Labels are so annoying. What do we really know about Cinderella anyways? She had a crap childhood, she wanted a better life, she looked amazing in glass heels… and for all we know, “happily ever after” means that she’s wearing the pants in that castle. Her and Prince Charming could have a mutually respectful relationship, full of healthy disputes and compromises, and I have little doubt that Prince Charming spends plenty of time in the doghouse too. Just sayin.
Anyway, after witnessing my two boys terrorize the house pretending that they are both Spiderman, an experience which I would never deprive them of, I really honestly cannot see how pretending to be a princess as a child is so harmful. Will dressing my sons in pink mean they’ll turn into drag queens? I doubt it. Am I going to buck society and dress them in pink anyways? No, unless they start dressing themselves in pink, which they are more than welcome to do. I know that as long as I’m not fanatical about what they are exposed to or not, and if as a parent I offer consistent and healthy guidance, my children will ultimately make their own choices about what they want to and who they want to be. Sure, Mattel may make a few bucks off me, but hey, that’s business.
Eva doesn’t even know what a princess is, even though every morning Aedan wakes up and says, “Hello, Princess Eva” and gives her many kisses on her feet and she thinks that’s delightful. One day I’m sure she’ll wear sparkly pink dresses and (gasp) put lipstick on, and within reason, I will let her. Because I know that she’s not going to want to grow up to be Cinderella. She’s going to grow up and want to be like the strong women around her.
(And as long as Eva’s the princess, I’m the queen!)