My guest blog for Girl Guides of Canada ‘Pretty Powerful Princesses’ (http://girlguidescanblog.ca/2011/03/04/princesses/)* went up today. In the process of writing the post, two princess-related things came to mind that didn’t fit into the entry so I thought I’d share them here.
1) When The Boy was in kindergarten, I used to panic every time we were invited to a girl’s birthday party. I wanted to get the little girl something she would like, but my gut wrenched at the idea of indulging the fluffy pink princess fantasies that all of the little girls in his class seemed to be wrapped up in. I thought back to my own little girl self, and briefly entertained the idea of buying them spy kits and legos or a wonder woman costume like I would have liked. I talked to Moms of little girls about what else their daughters might be into. Then I grudgingly reminded myself that the gifts were about what the birthday girl might like, not about what I thought they should have.
I roamed the aisles of the toy store like someone lost, fighting against my natural inclinations the whole way. Then it struck me: I could indulge them and me, I could buy them some princess crafty things, or a crown, and a copy of Robert Munsch’s Paperbag Princess. Or I could get them them a pink cape and a foam sword for protecting their castle.
I could make them happy and keep my ideals intact. There’s nothing wrong with being a princess, as long as being pretty and pink isn’t your only goal. If you can be a ‘princess AND’ instead of a ‘princess only’ then you can really get stuff done. It was a good compromise.
2) A few years ago, I was driving Jan and a friend of hers somewhere and the boys were along for the ride. Jan’s friend was trying to impress us and he was weaving a story for the kids about a prince and a dragon. To really take things up a notch he was adding in details of things he saw along the way, so the prince was travelling past a local coffee shop and the dragon was named after another store. When the prince began searching for the beautiful princess, Jan and I quickly glanced at each other and we both said ‘Not me.’
Clearly, if you know us, you know that neither one of us are princesses. In fact, we both wanted to be the evil queen in the story. Better to be evil and powerful than be bargaining with life based on your looks.
End of stories, beginning of think-y bits.
But, here’s the thing. I think it’s okay for little girls to want to play princess**. BUT and this is a huge but, I think you need to help them contextualize the whole princess thing. Don’t let them away with ‘pretty’ as their only asset. Encourage them to be a Princess AND…(a doctor, a warrior, a chef, the boss of the world) instead of a princess only. This could be your chance to teach them about personal power, ask them what good things the princess is doing in her world. Ask them why Princesses are cool***.
Let’s not forget that pink can be a power colour – it’s all in how we let it play out
*Something wonky is going on and I can’t create a link, let’s run with copying and pasting, hey? Sorry!
**Yes, yes, I know. It’s a complicated thing to tease out what kids actually want to do versus what marketers and gender norms tell them they want to do, and when it is your individual kid you can’t spend all your time going on about gender or they’ll tune you out.
***Maybe you can even g.et them thinking about She-Ra, Princess of Power or Xena, Warrior Princess. Not perfect role models, but somewhere to start. 🙂