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Welcome aboard HMS Princess Euphoria

By Alice Bradley

For the next two weeks, Wonderland by Alice Bradley will hereby be known as Blunderland by Jenn Mattern. I’m not a pundit, but I borrowed a winged maxi pad from Alice once, which led to this temporary gig while Alice is on brief hiatus. Most of the time I can be found weeping copious word counts over at my blog, breed ’em and weep and writing unnecessarily gloomy plays.
I’ve been sworn to low-level secrecy, but at this very second, your beloved correspondent Alice is either
1) saving the world through a top-secret engineering project involving chopsticks, rubber bands, and nursing pads
2) rocketing into space, stroking a one-eyed marmot and cackling fiendishly through the oversized window of a shiny pink rocket that looks suspiciously like a Tampax Pearl
3) really busy
Yeah, in no time at all you’ll be flinging edamame and chicken nuggets at my head and demanding your leader back. I’ve seen your comments. I know you people are smart and you like to talk news.
The thing is, I don’t know how to talk news. I could have Cheney, Condi, seven foreign dignitaries, four pop-culture-savvy percussionists, and the Sunday editions of both The New York Times and The Boston Globe in my lap, and I’m telling you I still wouldn’t know how to talk news.
I was told that Wonderland is “a lighthearted romp through the week’s events.” Regretfully, my enormous aging breasts make lighthearted romping through a daisy meadow of the week’s events completely unfeasible, not to mention bovinely pornographic. Yes, I recognize that Wonderland is not yet available in webcast form, but webcasts are springing up everywhere with no warning. A female journalist in New Zealand recently gave birth to a live webcast named Emmalee Ayla, and you can imagine what a shock that was for everyone involved. A writer can’t be too careful these days.
Despite my journalistic limitations and fear of webcast sneak attack, I shall press on. I decided to rely on the writer’s maxim: Write What You Know, Then Make It Look Like News by Linking to Semi-Current Articles and Using Lots of Boldface Font.
I have two little girls, 6 and 3. That means that I know princesses. Thanks to my daughters, I know the Disney princesses nearly in the biblical sense, as I frequently roll over in the middle of the night to find a 12-inch topless Belle or a cheerfully nude Cinderella pressed into my rump. I’m not proud of it, but my job as a two-week, two-bit journalist is to deliver the cold, hard, plastic facts, Ma’am. Sir. Disney Lawyers. Whoever you are.
Like a lot of other wee lassies, my 3-year-old insists that she wants to be a princess when she grows up. I tried to explain that becoming a princess would likely involve a number of tricky steps, i.e., avoiding “The Bachelor” casting calls; marrying a properly birth-ordered prince and yawning with boredom in a $850 bikini on the royal yacht as you wait for the necessary family to die off; or purchasing your own somewhat cramped country and declaring yourself princess. My daughter remains undaunted by the challenge.
Yes, she’s 3. Yet I find myself ill at ease in Princessland, the borders of which seem to be expanding at the speed of wishes-come-true light. I know I’m not the only one puking up tiny chunks of Women’s Studies 101 when my otherwise spunky offspring lies “dead” for fifteen minutes straight, “because the Prince is coming to make [her] be alive again.”
Peggy Orenstein of NYT rocked HMS Princess Euphoria back in December 2006 with her piece “What’s Wrong with Cinderella?” According to Orenstein, there are now more than 25,000 Disney Princess items, and sales have skyrocketed to an astounding $3 billion (from $300 million in 2001), making it the largest girls’ brand in the universe (assuming alien invaders aren’t swiping Bratz in higher quantities when we’re not paying attention).
But what’s the real cost? Is there another, invisible, price tag? As Orenstein puts it:

As a feminist mother — not to mention a nostalgic product of the Garanimals era — I have been taken by surprise by the princess craze and the girlie-girl culture that has risen around it. What happened to William wanting a doll and not dressing your cat in an apron? Whither Marlo Thomas? I watch my fellow mothers, women who once swore they’d never be dependent on a man, smile indulgently at daughters who warble “So This Is Love” or insist on being called Snow White. I wonder if they’d concede so readily to sons who begged for combat fatigues and mock AK-47s.

More to the point, when my own girl makes her daily beeline for the dress-up corner of her preschool classroom — something I’m convinced she does largely to torture me — I worry about what playing Little Mermaid is teaching her. I’ve spent much of my career writing about experiences that undermine girls’ well-being, warning parents that a preoccupation with body and beauty (encouraged by films, TV, magazines and, yes, toys) is perilous to their daughters’ mental and physical health. Am I now supposed to shrug and forget all that? If trafficking in stereotypes doesn’t matter at 3, when does it matter? At 6? Eight? Thirteen?

But Pauline Millard of The Simon (among many, many others) thinks Orenstein’s take on the dangers of princess culture is a lot of hoo-ha:

Orenstein tries to make the argument that playing dress-up and being obsessed with princesses will hurt girls’ self-esteem by making them feel like they always have to be thin and pretty. She tried to link the effect of playing with princesses to both eating disorders and obesity.

Princesses do neither, but instead encourage girls to reach all their potential, even on a basic aesthetic level. Most grown women would tell you that they feel their best when they’re dressed and groomed well, not when they’re running around in sweatpants and unwashed hair. Companies want not only competent employees, but ones that present themselves well. If princesses excel in one area, it’s presentation. Who wouldn’t want a daughter who takes prides [sic] in both her mind and her appearance?

Turns out the princess phenomenon has jumped the pond to, you know, that place with actual princesses and princes.
I think they call it Great Britain:

Some mothers I spoke to were worried about the messages that pink princesses have been whispering in their tiny children’s ears. One little girl had said: “You couldn’t be a princess, mummy, you’re not the right sort of person. You’re not beautiful.” Another child, half-Indian, believed that princesses wear white because they have white faces, not brown. Although, the same child is also the proud owner of a Disney Jasmine doll—one of three ethnically diverse Disney Princesses—and she added that if princesses did have brown faces they would just have to wear blue instead. One mother told me, “When I was her age, my parents were buying me stethoscopes and space Lego, but my daughter is only interested in tiaras and make-up. What have I done wrong?” She fears letting her daughter out in public in case she is castigated for letting down The Cause.

My daughters have gobbled up the irresistibly sparkly princess bait, hook, line and sequined pink sinker. Where do you stand, Readers? Mired knee-deep in the bog of “The Cause,” or shrugging and sprinkling Princess Dust from the jewel-encrusted towers? Or wandering somewhere in the Ambivalent Forest of In-Between?
And here’s something I’ve been wondering daily: Is there an equivalent obsession for little boys?
Help me out here, or I’ll have to go back to writing about my true topic of expertise.

Alice Bradley
About the Author

Alice Bradley

Alice Bradley was a regular contributor to Alpha Mom, writing about current events as they related to parenting. You can read about her daily life at her personal blog, Finslippy.


Alice Bradley was a regular contributor to Alpha Mom, writing about current events as they related to parenting. You can read about her daily life at her personal blog, Finslippy.

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  • Lori

    April 20, 2007 at 12:25 pm

    In one word- CARS. I can expand that field to include anything that has wheels and/or is motorized. Although, my little 2 yr old boy does have a baby doll that he lovingly shares his sippy cup with, hugs, and pats her back. I am not afraid that my sons obsession with motorized and wheeled objects will negatively affect him. I do hear what you are saying about the princess syndrome. Scary stuff; and let me say again I am glad I had a son. DO not get PO’s mothers to daughters of the world- I only say this because I stare in shock at the clothes in the Limited Too or those lovely little innocent Bratz dolls. The name is Bratz- come on- who wants their pre-teen daughter idolizing BRATZ. TOns of make up, scraps of clothing. Way too sexual for little girls. And then there is the whole arguement that the princess frame of mind could go into effect. I think we all know what I am talking about here.
    I don’t know what advice to offer about all that though. Do you just let them play or sit them down and explain the virtue of independence and the whole feminist viewpoint? Ugh. Why is this parenting thing so damn hard?!?!
    Of course, I am sure my son will grow up thinking he will be the next prince of NASCAR and wanting to race go-carts in a year or so…
    Maybe playingh princess isn’t so bad afterall…

  • Janssen

    April 20, 2007 at 12:54 pm

    Great post! I couldn’t get any of the links to work, though.

  • VenturaMom

    April 20, 2007 at 3:48 pm

    Immediately buy The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch. It’s a feminist take on the whole princess fable. Now my 3.5yo daughter asks each boy she meets if he’s a prince or a bum (you’ll have to read the book to get the joke).

  • Another Anna

    April 20, 2007 at 6:04 pm

    I’m not sure the princess thing is anything new, or necessarily all that bad (within reason). I loved Free to Be You and Me when I was little, and I probably wore my favorite pink skirt and frilly dress and lacy cape and sparkly tiara while I listened. As far as I can remember, my parents had a policy of tolerating my pink princessy obsessions as long as they didn’t get out of hand. No makeup before I was 12, only one generic barbie, and no inappropriate clothing. Most importantly, they always had lots of encouragement and support for my other interests. I think if they’d been too strident in resisting the pink stuff, it wouldn’t have been so effective. I moved on when I was over it. I turned out moderately girly, but I’m independent and confident and now I wear black a lot more than I wear pink.

  • Lisa Milton

    April 20, 2007 at 6:21 pm

    Look at you, hosting wonderland. Good for you, although you are a liar. You can too talk news.
    Anyhoo. I have stumbled mightily in land of ambivalence. I don’t want to squash my girl’s fun and make her the weird politico chick for my sake, but I do talk about reality and question the whole ‘one day my prince will come…’ kind of talk. With boys, I worry about the need to blow up/shoot/beat things. We watched maybe 3 minutes of GMA a couple of days ago and my sweet boy seemed enamored with this week’s shooter and his guns. It’s hard to distinguish between fighting evil, and just fighting.
    Where’s my map? The plan?
    Have a great weekend.

  • maria

    April 20, 2007 at 6:57 pm

    This is exactly why we don’t have a tv, don’t watch videos, and generally try to avoid the whole popular culture thing.

  • the Mater

    April 20, 2007 at 7:31 pm

    Now that I’ve been indoctrinated by multiple Barbie Princess DVDs and the whole Disney crowd … I found that these modern-day versions do mostly present princesses who can be heroic and intelligent and take charge too. I don’t think the fairy-tale will ever go away though.
    As long as we talk to our daughters and point them to other strong female role models as they grow up, I think they’ll move beyond the romance and fluff.
    I tried too, but cannot open the URL links.
    Good luck on your new gig! You’re off to a fine start.

  • oya baka mama

    April 20, 2007 at 8:12 pm

    I’m not sure whether or not I took the high road or the low road, but when my daughter was two I decided “no Disney”. At four she started preschool and met all those bland characters through her school friends. We read lots of princess stories–just not the Disney ones. We have princess dresses and tiaras..just not those shiny cheap dress ups made out of chicken wire. I came close to losing it when Ella was invited to a “Disney Princess Birthday Party”. It was gross. I tell her that Disney took all the good parts out of the story, that Disney is just a big company that wants her to whine in the store so that I’ll buy all that pastel princess everything. She whines; she may have even wept, but at five she is almost over it. She wants more complex and more interesting stories. It has taken a lot of work to avoid the “Disney” culture to a degree, but we have been lucky enough to find a few friends who feel the same way. There is so much more in the world than those cheapo toys and superficial stories.

  • slouching mom

    April 20, 2007 at 9:06 pm

    Welcome, Jenn! It’s great to see you here.
    This is one reason I am soooooooooo glad I have only boys. Maybe the only reason. Still.
    I too listened to Free To Be You and Me in my pink tutu while surrounded by seventeen incarnations of baby girl dolls, including one that peed. Oh, the days.
    I don’t think the Barbie princess phenomenon is going to ruin these girls.
    However, the Bratz dolls are another story. They are just kind of slutty, IMO.

  • Vikki

    April 20, 2007 at 9:22 pm

    My son is obsessed with sports and my daughter is obsessed with pink. As you can see, on the battling gender stereotypes front, I am a Feminist Mother success story. We don’t watch TV though we do allow the occasional movie. I think there are SO many influences in this arena. If and when the princesses come a knockin’, I’d like to think I will allow the experience in moderation. I’ve seen friends who banished them and their daughters wanted them even more. Just anectdotal but enough to scare me into moderation.

  • Nell

    April 20, 2007 at 9:42 pm

    Ah, Disney Princesses, the bane of my existence. Actually, it’s gotten better now, my older daughter just turned five and is almost over them, and somehow the little one has decided she likes Cars – the movie Cars, but still, at least she’s crossing gender lines. Also I have managed to train my children so that all I have to do is say, “Disney is…” and they reply, “evil!”
    VenturaMom – The Paper Bag Princess makes an excellent antidote.
    Another Anna – Free to Be You and Me is still around, a friend gave it to my girls for Christmas on DVD, don’t know where she found it, but it’s out there.
    And Jenn – I just wanted to tell you that I love your play about the Princesses.

  • Crystal

    April 21, 2007 at 12:32 am

    I have a graduate degree, consider myself a feminist, am politically active, and just don’t buy the “princesses are evil” bandwagon anymore than I buy the “porn is bad” bandwagon.
    I grew up idolizing some princesses, went through a disney phase here and there, but mostly my interest in princesses drew me into the fantasy genre at a young age. Reading fantasy spurred me to read more challenging books and I always read 3-4 grade levels ahead of my peers. I certainly read a wide variety of other work, some of it quality literature and some of it trash, but there were years when I read nothing but fantasy except when my teachers made me.
    I bought my 3 year old niece an adorable t-shirt that said “princess” across it. I hardly think that this means she’ll grow up and be submissive to a man’s will.
    When I have daughters if they like princesses and pink, they can have princesses and pink. If they don’t, they don’t. I’m much more concerned about the fact that most dolls are while and my daughters will be 1/2 irish and 1/2 indian and may not find many dolls that resemble them.
    Seriously, if you daughter wants to dress up like Jasmine or Ariel or Belle and is otherwise a great kid, and you’re freaking over it, you’ve got too much time on your hands.

  • Jill

    April 21, 2007 at 2:37 am

    Since my only child is a rambunctious, grubby-faced, 2.5-year-old boy, I have not yet had the joy of cringing over a daughter’s seemingly ill-advised choice of idol. Someday, though, it will come, and what will I do? The feminist in me wants to peel my skin off and boil it when I see a Bratz commercial, but the pragmatist in me tells me that if I deny my children something, they will want it even more.
    My beef with princesses, though, is not their looks or their riches – but their dependent attitudes. Every Disney princess has either given up something monumental just for a dude, or languished about waiting to be “rescued.” Neither of those things should have to happen in order for a girl to be happy. Men can love you for who you are, and they certainly don’t need to “rescue” you. In my dating days, I was repulsed when a man would tell me “I want to take care of you.” Sorry, sonny boy, this princess can take care of herself.
    I suppose all that’s left to do is try to trust that our children can make smart choices. Chances are, they don’t even realize the deep psychological ramifications of their toys…all they know is that it MAKES THEM HAPPY. My son is your textbook boy: rough-and-tumble, car-vrooming, finger-gun-pointing, mess-making, violence-relishing Man Cub. And as much as I would love to coax out his feminine side (much to my husband’s chagrin, believe me), I know that he is happy this way, and there’s nothing wrong with boys being boys…or girls being girls. Gender roles are only dangerous when we force them on our kids, but we also don’t want to force them to defy those roles when they are perfectly content in them.
    Let’s trust our kids. Sometimes, a Disney princess is just a doll.

  • Kirsten

    April 21, 2007 at 10:24 am

    Yikes, when I think of you with Cheney and Condi in your lap, I get indigestion.
    As for the princess craze: call me nuts but I believe that young children strive to imitate some of the archetypal figures that can be embodied by princesses and knights: purity, loyalty, bravery, all values young children like to imagine themselves around. Enter Disney and the limiting images of Cinderella and her pals, and the whole experience no longer comes from the imagination of the children themselves, but are imposed on them by adults who want money. In our house, princesses, knights, pirates and all manner of other imaginary beings with their accessories(silks wrapped as costumes, knives made from cardboard, treasures made from dryer lint) and values are welcome. Disney is most decidedly not.

  • Jennifer

    April 21, 2007 at 11:31 am

    Forest of Ambivalence here.
    My girls are downstairs playing with their Barbies as we speak. They love unrolling a (Montessori) mat on the floor and setting up a whole house, room by room, on the mat…much more time and attention goes into the construction than is ever invested in the actual playing.
    However, the same is true of the outfits; they’re as likely to dress & redress the dolls and try to get me to pick which one is prettier. (By now they know to preface it by saying, “I know Barbies aren’t your style, but if you *had to pick*, which one do you like better?”)
    I hadn’t realized just how much they would pick up from their friends; they know the theme songs, plots and names of characters in shows they’ve never seen. They know show times and venues for movies or Barney “concerts” they want me to take them to.
    A lot of the time I just watch it all go by. I figure they don’t get too much of it in the home, and I’m not going to be able to control what they are exposed to at school. I think kids are predisposed to passionate interest in some topic or other; odds are, it’s going to be the one that all their friends are ga-ga over as well. And I don’t think it will damage their tender little psyches as long as they are also exposed to positive and more balanced role models.

  • Anne

    April 21, 2007 at 5:35 pm

    Oh God, we are steeped in Princesses. My daughter has just turned 4. This morning at the supermarket we bought Princess tissues and a Princess toothbrush. I’m not sure how much more of the Princess products I can take. Peggy Orenstein is probably right but I will try to redress the balance by making my sons wear her Disney nightdresses when they get bigger.

  • Brianna

    April 22, 2007 at 2:01 am

    I don’t have children yet, but I remember the games my sister and I used to play with our barbies. There were princesses and evil queens and an occasional handsome prince, but the star of every story was a princess, although sometimes she was a rock star. 🙂 We received Disney movies for Christmas and birthdays and I can remember watching them over and over. In addition to these influences, our parents instilled in us a great love of books and music. Instead of fairytales, I read romance novels now, which is pretty much the same thing. Though I would like to someday have my own family, I’ve never looked for a prince to come rescue me, I think that’s something that you grow out of, in time. My parents always told me that I could be anything I wanted, I never really thought that would be a princess, but a girl can dream. 🙂

  • anonymom

    April 22, 2007 at 4:40 pm

    I fall into the moderation camp. Both my kids (6 yo boy, 8 yo girl) play princesses from time to time. They also play astronauts, Narnia, trains, board games, spies, the list goes on. I limit tv and video time, just like I limit sweets. I have taught them to scrutinize commercials and packaging and be aware of how advertisers seek their $$. Mostly I just keep talking to them and gently reinforcing our values. Time will tell if I’ve found the “right” balance.

  • JChevais

    April 23, 2007 at 11:53 am

    I think my daughter (6) is smart enough to realise that Snow White has got nothing on Mulan. Mulan isn’t a princess but wow, she saves China!

  • G

    April 23, 2007 at 5:44 pm

    The Cheetah Girls have a great song about princesses. “I ain’t gonna be no Cinderella waiting in a dark cold dusty cellar for a Prince charming to come get me . . . I’m gonna rescue myself” or something like that.
    Here are the lyrics, actually, they’re pretty ok!

  • Mom101

    April 23, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    I thought the most important, most memorable revelation in that article was the notion not that princesses are inherently bad, but with the ratio of princess items to non-princess items, girls hardly even have a choice any more.That is inherently bad.
    Nice job Jenn. I likes the Blunderland.

  • Ailidh

    April 24, 2007 at 10:46 am

    my concern is that the princess stories culture women into a narrative where success and happiness are dependent on male attention. not only does the happily ever after not necessarily follow marriage, boys are not being taught their side of this cheesy romance. this gender divide continues into adult pop-culture productions…. and contributes to the problematic gender/culture divide. not that any of that presents a solution!

  • wickedstepmama

    April 26, 2007 at 10:10 am

    Hm. My SS is 8 and he loves to play knight. He’s always off fighting dragons and orcs. His best friend is a 9 year old girl, and when they play pretend she is usually the princess…but a princess who’s darn good at archery. And when the knight rescues the princess it’s definitely the princess who’s telling him what to do, and fighting the monsters from the tower.
    There are certainly aspects of the girly culture that bother me (I can’t stand Braatz dolls ), but I’m not overly concerned with princesses. Try reading your daughters Patricia C. Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles (start with “Dealing with Dragons”). Princess Cimorene was my personal favorite princess as a kid.

  • geminimama

    April 26, 2007 at 5:06 pm

    There is an equivalent boy obsession (or obsessions). From age 1-3 it’s the internal combusion engine (my first favored farm tractors, but also loved the road equipment and firetrucks, my 2-y-o twins seem to prefer airplanes); from 3-5 it’s all forms of weaponry (I tried to ban guns, but he just built them out of legos and pens and crayons taped together, so I gave up. I read that playing or depicting violence is not violent; perhaps the girly corolary is playing or depicting prissiness is not actual prissiness); from 5-almost six it’s bodily functions. I think the ultimate would be a motorized farting machine with rocket launchers. I wonder what’s next? He did ask for a Cinderella dress once (which I failed to acquire, being too tired to look for one and too cheap and anti-Disney to pay for it). We downloaded my old Free To Be You and Me record onto a CD and he pulls his chair right up to listen to it, so I hope something sinks in. However, when I read him the Paper Bag Princess, he just couldn’t get why the princess didn’t want to marry the prince. Sometimes I just want to run away to the wilderness, but usually I hope that I can provide enough positive influences to counter-balance the scary stuff (and hope his horror of loud noises will keep him away from 4-wheelers and guns his whole life).

  • Sonja

    April 27, 2007 at 12:45 pm

    I think it starts with the parents. I don’t know for sure, as my oldest is only 20 months, so perhaps too young for princess obsession. But when I became a mom for the first time 20 months ago, I became friends with other women with babies, and I was astounded by how much princess stuff they put on their baby girls, who were obviously too young (at under 6 months) to be asking for it. “little princess” this “princess in training” that. It was EVERYWHERE. And also the girls were in head to toe pink. I was definitely the odd ball out in that I had VERY little pink clothing and I refused anything that had the word princess on it. On top of the parents dressing their baby girls like that, there’s all the people who come up to you in parks and stores, etc., exclaiming, “What a beautiful baby girl! She’s such a little princess!” It’s practically jammed down girls’ throats.
    With all this, is it any surprise that they grow up wanting princess stuff?
    I’m lucky in that I’m a stay-at-home-mom, so I can control (for now) what my two girls (20 months and 9 months) are exposed to. They have never seen a Disney princess movie, and they never will in this house. Since they aren’t in daycare, they aren’t exposed to all of their friend’s princess stuff either. I’m not a fanatic – or maybe I should say that I’m not a crazy fanatic. Of course they’ll see a princess movie somewhere down the line, at a friend’s house or a relative’s, and I’m not going to rush over and shield their eyes from it. But princess stuff won’t be a part of their daily experience at home because I make very pointed purchasing decisions. For instance, I was at Babies R Us after the xmas rush, so the supplies were lacking. I wanted to get a toddler armchair, and the only one I saw initially was a pink and green armchair with “little princess” written on the back of it. I was like, “No, I will not buy it.” Later, I found another, plain green armchair in another part of the store. It was twice as much as the “little princess” armchair, but I paid extra for it happily just to keep the princess crap out of my house.
    Again, my oldest is only 20 months, and the day will probably come when she asks for princess stuff, but for now, we’re keeping it out of her realm of experience.

  • Jen

    April 27, 2007 at 3:41 pm

    As a mom of three boys…the first was a train boy, the second was a dinosaur boy, and the third was also trains.
    I can’t help but feel that watching (mostly old) Thomas videos emphasizing being “a really useful engine” does give a different message than say Disney princesses. ;-D
    They all like(d) cars, legos, books, and swords.
    But, the two olders now say that “Mulan” is “the best Disney movie ever.” Their middle and high school age guy friends agree. who knows what that means?
    I’ve gotta agree with the other moms above though, limiting screen time and upping good book time, can’t help but be good, no matter what the obsession.

  • liz

    April 27, 2007 at 4:20 pm

    My five-year-old is still obsessed with princesses and Barbies (we have 17 Barbies at last count; only three purchased by me). However, she also has an ungodly number of Matchbox type cars (they vastly outnumber the Barbies) and when the boys play superhero she informs them that’s she’s Spidergirl and proceeds to kick butt. Some boys in her class told her that the stuffed lizard she brought to school for show and tell was a boy toy. She informed them that lizards are girl toys too. The teacher told me that on her birthday, she wore her princess tiara the whole day and spent recess grossing the boys out with roly polys.
    Ultimately, you have to give the girls the self-confidence to be able to like whatever they want to like, regardless of gender issues. And then leave them alone and don’t worry about it.

  • Beth

    April 27, 2007 at 10:18 pm

    Hmmm, interesting. I dread the princess phase, though my daughter, at 15 months, is obsessed with airplanes, so maybe we will have an Amelia Earhart phase instead?
    My rule is: no licensed characters, period. We’ll see how long it lasts once she goes to school.
    And I totally agree with the posters who lament the lack of choices for girls. It is impossible to find clothes and toys that aren’t gender-branded. Even with generic, non-licensed toys and higher-end clothes, everything is either pink and lavendar or has dinosaurs or sports equipment printed on it. This just wasn’t the case when I was a kid — most toys were brightly colored crossovers.

  • Melanie

    April 27, 2007 at 11:36 pm

    We are mired in dinosaurs and Playmobil pirates and toy cars and monsters and 1000 other boy stereotypes. It’s just as bad over here.

  • Rhonda

    April 28, 2007 at 12:46 am

    Liz, you are totally right about self-confidence to like whatever they want to like.
    My daughter was 3 when she picked this stuff up at preschool. Suddenly it was Princess this, Hello Kitty that, Barbie whatever. After my immediate fit of revulsion, I tried to distract her with other toys, but it didn’t work. Then she had a birthday party and we invited her friends and guess what kind of presents they brought?
    I figured a little pink never killed anyone. A little princess play is no big deal. I bought her the occasional tasteful Disney or Sanrio item, and pointed out devious marketing messages.
    Now she’s 7, and the Barbies sit in a shoebox. Which is fine with me.

  • Tammy

    April 28, 2007 at 2:16 am

    “Most grown women would tell you that they feel their best when they’re dressed and groomed well, not when they’re running around in sweatpants and unwashed hair. Companies want not only competent employees, but ones that present themselves well.”
    Ha! Did a person who purports to engage in what the rest of us like to call “rational thought” actually say that? Did someone actually make the specious claim that being obsessed with one’s outward appearance is the cornerstone of a strategy to end up in the CEO chair?
    HOW ON EARTH have men been managing to get to the top for all these years without the educational support of princess dolls? Unless G.I. Joe also comes with pink platform heels and a blowdryer…
    I totally agree with Mom101, above, who said:
    “I thought the most important, most memorable revelation in that article was the notion not that princesses are inherently bad, but with the ratio of princess items to non-princess items, girls hardly even have a choice any more. That is inherently bad.”
    That IS bad. My two-year-old son is going through a heavy-equipment phase right now — which, trust me, is annoying in its own right — but if front-end loaders and backhoes and excavators were pretty much the ONLY toys available in stores, I’d be pretty pissed.

  • Holly

    April 28, 2007 at 8:40 am

    It’s all about balance. My daughter loves Ariel but she also loves trains, gardening, playing in dirt. She had a Cinderella easter basket but eggs full of matchbox cars.
    I grew up watching the Disney movies and loving Disney. I still do. It’s a fantastical place of enchantment…but I do recognize where things can go wrong for kids if parents let it. My mother raised us to be strong, independent feminists. I pride myself in teaching my daughter the confidence that she will need to form herself into a well-rounded person.
    What does worry me now though is the sexuality that is sensationalized at such a young age. She is two and already boys try to kiss her on the lips and put their arms around her. I even saw one with his arm around her waist- at preschool! The teachers laugh and encourage it. My daughter pushes the boy away or hits him across the face and she gets in trouble for it. That’s a whole other blog.

  • Suburban Kamikaze

    April 28, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    Ambivalence and hindsight.
    See “Royal Controversy” at

  • AmyO

    April 29, 2007 at 1:15 am

    The princess craze is, in a word, annoying. I did not expose my three year old daughter to Disney, and did not buy books, toys, or other products featuring princesses – mainly because I’m pretty conscious of gender-typed media for little kids and prefer to avoid it. Well, as soon as she started preschool she started talking about princesses and fairies, and telling me about certain girls who wear tiaras and fairy wings to preschool EVERY DAY. This is a bit excessive people. Seriously, almost every morning that I drop her off, some other girl show up wearing a tutu or something. When my daughter asks if she can wear this stuff I always tell her that she has to wait for Halloween. That seems to satisfy her for now. I dread the future battles though…

  • Dianne

    May 3, 2007 at 12:05 am

    Princesses? How about disguising princess culture as an educational tool? Suburban Kamikaze has a great post on the American Girl dolls. AMERICAN CHURL:

  • Liz B

    May 4, 2007 at 10:56 pm

    It’s in how you use it. We encourage it as a jumping-off point for our three-year-old’s imagination. Her first princess obsession was Mulan, and she wanted to run around the house attacking Shan Yu with her sword. (After this, Shan Yu would decide to be a good guy and apologize.) Then we had Belle, whose only apparent purpose was to provide the music we sing when she dances with Daddy. (Everyone with me, now: Awww.) Now it’s Cinderella, and in a twist, she pretends to be the evil stepsister and either I or a doll play the part of Cinderella having her makeshift dress and jewels stripped from her before the ball. Her favorite color is pink, she loves to play dress up. I’d be distressed if she didn’t race upstairs after school each day to change into her Superman pyjamas and spend half an hour or so stalking evil robots around the living room. It’ll all work out.

  • volcano

    May 5, 2007 at 10:20 pm

    i’m so glad to read this post since i’m totally hooked on finslippyness, blunder/wonderland words that make me laff.
    jeez louise the freakin’ princess thing is half the time driving me crazy and half the time i’m just going with the flow. My daughter “is” a princess almost every day. i try to tell her that princesses have to work for the people of their land, protect them, help them, feed them etc. but she ain’t buying it….its all about the dresses. She loves to decorate herself and always notices piercings and hairdos when we are out. I love decorating myself too, we do facepaints almost every day. I used to love high heels and slutty clothes and have taken in quite a bit of messed up high school gender crap and low self esteem stuff.
    I just want her to feel strong and powerful. I refuse to have barbie in the house or disney. She says “mommy why don’t you ever buy me princess things?” “why don’t you like princess things?” she’s onto me.