Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Princess Thing

So my kid is into princesses. All princesses, Disney princesses, fairies, girls with bows. Anything girly. How did this happen? I am a feminist, I went to Bryn Mawr College, a prestigious all women school known for strong academics (like women in the sciences) and militant feminists. I chose this school-- my parents did not choose it for me. It shaped who I am as a person. As a woman.

Sure, if I never let my kid watch TV she wouldn't know what princesses are. But we also go to the library and the bookstore (a lot) and they have princess books there. And we took her on a Disney cruise and to Disney World. Plus she goes to preschool and most of the girls there are into princesses and one or two can always be found wearing a princess shirt, or worse a crown or actual princess costume to school. I have a strict rule about no princess clothes to school but sometimes she will carry a princess ring in her pocket or wear a necklace or stick on earrings. It bothers me that the school doesn't have a "no princess dress" rule or a "no toys at school" rule for that matter but that's another post.

Anyway, the point is that she is exposed to lots of things, from animals to trains, to other TV influences. For a while she was into Pooh I guess but that was so long ago she wasn't such a fully developed person yet and really only liked to watch Pooh movies (it's hard to find movies that aren't scary and Pooh generally isn't) and read Pooh books or listen to Pooh CDs. She wasn't that interested in a Pooh stuffed animal or Pooh clothing or anything. but she embraced the princess thing full force.

The truth is, it doesn't bother me that much. It definitely bothers my husband. More so the Disney and commercial aspect of it and less the concept in general. I don't care what she likes. I'm impressed by the questions she asks when read princess stories. Even if we read the SAME story each night (that happened for a few weeks, I'm thankful she wants more variety these days) she asks different questions each time. It's clear to me that when she wears her princess dress she feels beautiful and special.

Originally I bought her a "generic" pink and purple princess dress that was not connected to anything commercial. She saw a friend with a Sleeping Beauty dress on Halloween and said that she wanted a Cinderella dress. I didn't get her one and then all of a sudden we were in Florida and she FREAKED out over a Cinderella dress in the big Disney store. It cost $60. I don't think I would ever have bought her that dress. Certainly I don't own any clothing that's $60, except maybe one or two pairs of shoes and maybe a dressy outfit (but the last one I bought on ebay for $25!). Anyway, we took her out of the store and she calmed down and we "talked about it" and truthfully, it was her father that bought her the dress. Probably if we hadn't spent $60 on the dress we would have spent $60 on smaller, less significant items while on vacation at Disney World. We ended up not really buying any other souvenirs.
But it's my husband that wants to limit the time she wears the princess dress. We hide it sometimes, tell her it's dirty and needs to be washed. Sometimes she'll wear it all the time and sometimes not for a few days. She is very careful about taking it off to eat or do anything messy. But she likes to wear it with a crown (generic), a wand (also generic), and princess shoes (Cinderella ones that are "glass slippers," make so much noise and are so big that she's going to break her neck).

She refuses to watch any of the princess movies and we have a bunch, since my parents used to own a video store back in the day. She's seen Cinderella a bunch of times but certainly not recently. She's seen The Little Mermaid once or twice and parts of Mulan. She *does* like to watch a Princess Sing-A-Long DVD, limited to once a day but she might watch it all the time if she could. The reason she won't watch the movies is because they are scary. One weird thing is that she is afraid of kings. I guess in Cinderella anyway, the King yells at the Grand Duke or something and she thinks kings are scary.

She plays Princess Polly Pockets all day long when we're home. She really plays nicely with them without any adult intervention. I know, if we don't support the whole Princess Culture, how did she end up with almost all the Disney Princess Polly Pockets? Pretty much because I'll buy anything that seems to occupy her. It's hard for me to hold back buying her something that I think will make her happy. If Ron wasn't so against purchasing/ acquiring/ having so much shit in the house I could be in trouble. The truth is we have more toys than a toy store anyway and that's with me holding back.

As I said before, I don't REALLY care about the princess thing. I think I feel more like I'm SUPPOSED to care about it. But I think it's a phase that is age appropriate and she'll grow out of it in a few years if not sooner. I fully support imaginative play in all forms. It's fun to watch her play princess. It has almost nothing to do with princes, that's for sure. They rarely come into her play, although she does talk about going to the ball in the beautiful dress. She will play out the Cinderella story about the sisters ripping the dress etc. I've amended the story when I read it I stress that prince wants Cinderella because she is so nice and smart as well as being beautiful and at the end I say she gets married, becomes a doctor and lives happily ever after.

All this being said, I'm making her a princess quilt next (a simple easy quick one hopefully-- I feel bad that I spend so much time quilting and not for her) and she's having a princess cake at her 3rd birthday party next month. I'm holding back making the party really princessy but I have to say it would be VERY easy for me to pick up princess decorations, find a princess craft activity and let all the kids come in their princess dresses. I still might.

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