Getting to the Bottom of the Princess Obsession

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.

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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.

Is Guns for Girls what gender equality really means?

I am always complaining about the lack of gender equality. It irritates me that I have to go into the boys’ aisles to find a tool set for my Maya or Grace. But, I find that this new trend toward gender equality is even more irritating. Now, not only can you buy Legos in pink and purple, but you can also buy a Nerf Gun in pink and purple.

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I don’t think this is the kind of equality so many of us want. First, it is still a “Girl” toy, obvious to anyone with the color and models on the box. It still strongly signals to children that only girls should play with this toy (and conversely, that only boys should play with the other Nerf guns).

The toy may be the same, but the segregation remains.

Second, I just don’t want my kids (whether they be boys or girls) to play with guns. I know that makes me sound prudish, but guns are just not an okay toy in a Sandy Hook world. Guns ultimately kill people (even if you think people kill people, it is still people holding guns). Nowadays, those guns are often being wielded by children. Why should I want my daughter to play with a toy that simulates killing? I wouldn’t want my sons to do that.  Regardless of people’s opinions about gun control, it seems this type of play and “fun” should be a shrinking trend, not a growing one.

Why don’t we see more “prosocial” toys cross the gender aisle? (God forbid we actually we get rid of the gender aisles). I would love to see dolls marketed to boys. Boys could definitely use more practice care-taking and being nurturing. Or make tool sets available in the girls’ section. I want my daughters to be competent with tools. These are important skills all children should develop. Firing a gun, less so.