As someone who studies gender stereotypes in children, and as someone who has an intense dislike for the princess movement, it has been a little frustrating that my youngest daughter always talks about wanting to be a princess. Her exposure is pretty limited, at least compared to other American preschool girls. I don’t allow Disney Princess movies, although she has seen them at other people’s houses. She has seen the occasional Sophia The First (which I don’t love, but I don’t hate), but spends a lot more time with Jake and the Neverland Pirates and Mickey Mouse. Regardless, she has developed a deep love for princesses.
Recently, I tried to get to the bottom of it. I asked her “Why?” she loved princesses. Her answer “Their sparkly clothes.” This rationale was reinforced when she told her older sister that the princess from Brave wasn’t a real princess because “her clothes were too dark.” Of course, the one princess I like, she rejects for being goth.
Then I had to face facts. I may not like princesses because they are helpless, do nothing for themselves, and only wait for a boy to show up and save them, but she likes them because they are sparkly. Perhaps we could reach a compromise. I am not a sparkly girl, but there is nothing wrong with liking sparkle. That isn’t my battle. I tried to think about (a) a female, (b) who wears sparkle, and (c) is powerful. My own childhood came back to me. WONDER WOMAN! As a kid, I wore Wonder Woman Underoos ALL THE TIME (If you are too young for that, I am sorry you missed out on the fun). I watched her cartoons, I watched the TV show. She has sparkle bracelets, and even a tiara. And she can kick ass.
I began to google images of Wonder Woman and show them to Grace. Lo and behold, she was hooked. Now I am showing her old episodes from SuperFriends. She loves Wonder Woman and her lasso and invisible jet. My next stop is to order her a WW costume to dress up for pretend play.
It may not be the perfect female role model. Marie Curie would be way cooler. But I am happy that she has found a sparkly girl to root for, one that actually does something worth rooting for.