Friday, July 8, 2011

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

Sweet Pea has hit the princess stage.  The girl loves everything princess.  Everything.  Despite my (previously noted) efforts to not buy into the Disney princess propaganda, Sweet Pea is enamored with Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and to a lesser extent (and my dismay) Belle.  She L-O-V-E-S them.  Want to know how I wrapped up potty training for her?  That's right - I bought her princess underwear.  Sweet Pea loves her princesses so much that she wouldn't dare potty on them, even if that means going to a public bathroom.  If you understood Sweet Pea's fear of public restrooms, you'd know how big a sacrifice that was.  But Sweet Pea would probably do just about anything for her princesses. 

I don't think there is anything wrong with Sweet Pea's love of princesses.  Certainly, the marketing machine that is Disney knew what they were doing when they put Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and Cinderella on everything from underwear to sand pails.  Girls love princesses.  And in my opinion, the toy market for girls stinks.  Girls are given the option of playing with dolls, stuffed animals or "house" toys (i.e. toy kitchens, toy vacuums).  Boys, on the other hand, have building sets and science sets and fire engines in addition to doll-like toys.  Of course, you can buy "boy" toys for a girl, but they aren't marketed that way.  So as a parent, you have to push against marketing machines like Disney to convince your girl that she can make the awesome space shuttle shown on the "boy" tinker toy box, and not just the flower on the pink and purple "girl" one.  Working parents only have so much energy to give to fighting against marketing stereotypes -- at some point, you end up with something princess in your shopping cart.  And your daughter isn't any worse for it. 

But I think as parents we have to be a little careful in just how much we give in to things like the princesses.  The world has changed since the 1950s, but that doesn't mean our daughters will have smooth sailing into adulthood.  There's still a perception that girls don't like math or science.  And all four of us JD Moms know first hand how hard it is to make a career in the still male-dominated legal profession.  If our daughters want to become scientists, actuaries, doctors or lawyers, we have to instill in them a curiosity and a sense of ability.  Our daughters have to know that they too can make or do whatever they want to do.  And here, the princesses fail us. 

I don't want Sweet Pea growing up to think that to be successful in life she needs to be beautiful or sing like a bird.  And I don't want her to define success as waiting for a man to come along and fulfill her dreams.  Of course I want her to get married and have a family if that is what she wants, but I also want her to be able to have a career, if she wants that instead.  I want her to know that women bring a lot more to the table than dinner.  That she can negotiate with the best of them.  And that princesses can defeat "scary lady" (Sweet Pea's word for the villains in Disney fairy tales) with or without their prince charmings.   

The Huffington Post ran an article the other day on how to talk to little girls.  In addition to giving some frightening statistics about how young girls worry about things like beauty and weight, the article gives some good strategies on how to talk to our girls to help them grow up into confident, secure women who know how to use both their brains and their beauty.  It's a good read for parents of girls who want their girls to love their beauty and their brains. 


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