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September 10, 2012

What is a Princess?

We have a handful of books of classic fairy tales, and quite a few of them have “princess” stories.  We read them here and there, but the girls much prefer tales about cats and dogs and trains and firemen. 

I’ve made a very conscious effort to avoid character marketing.  The girls are huge Curious George fans, for example, based on the many books we have.  While I think they would love their very own plush Curious George, or a Curious George shirt or backpack, I’m holding out to the evils of marketing for as long as I can.

I have completely and deliberately avoided the “princess” marketing.  While the media seems to lead us to believe it’s a natural part of childhood, I don’t remember playing “princess” as a kid (in the late 70’s / early 80’s), and I don’t think I’ve suffered any ill effects.  The stereotypical idea of a princess makes me think of “entitlement”, and I don’t want my ladies growing up thinking they’re entitled to anything.  How do you get to Carnegie Hall?  Hard work, my friends!

The question of princesses has only recently come up.  I know the girls have heard it from a friend or two, and now maybe also from school.  They’ve asked several times, “Mommy, what is a princess?

We’ve been talking a little bit about government (as best I can on a three-year old level, anyway).  I’ve explained that some countries have a different government, with a king, a queen, a prince, and a princess.  So now, if you were to ask my girls about a princess, they would likely say something about the “British royal government”.

I’ve also shown them pictures of Princess Diana.  My hope is that they would answer the question, “Who is your favorite princess?” by saying, “Diana”.

I have told the girls what a beautiful mother Lady Di was to her boys.  I’ve shown them pictures of some of her humanitarian missions, and talked about how she helped less fortunate people all over the world.

 I’ve approached the subject each time very matter-of-factly.  Princesses are real people.  One of the most well-known princesses is Princess Diana, and here’s what we can learn from her.

I know I can’t avoid the “princess craze” in its entirety, but I at least hope I can put what I think is a more positive spin on an often pink-tulle-and-rhinestone-encrusted subject.

[I don't mean to pass judgment on princesses, or Dora, or Mickey Mouse...whatever.  While I didn't grow up with princesses, I was a huge fan of Sesame Street, the Smurfs, and Strawberry Shortcake.  I don't think I was scarred by that, either!  That's just not something I've felt missing from our day-to-day interactions.  I'm sure there will be a time and a place for that as the girls grow older.  And I may even be willing to let them put up a movie poster in their room one day.  HA!]


Mandy said...

The smurfs!!!
You know I'm with you on this topic. I'm curious to see how your ladies handle exposure from their peers. If they get more curious, or even demanding, of things.

Johanna at The Baker Twins said...

My girls learn what to like from their friends as much as from me. :( They found out who Elmo was way before they were 2 and started watching TV because their buddies had Elmo toys. They were introduced to the 12 inch princess dolls when they were nearly three (at a little friend's house) and were hooked.

I felt the same way as you do (and still guard my kids' wardrobe like a Nazi - no tacky character screened tees!), but it hasn't killed them to play with the princess toys. They even have some princess dress-up clothes (along with doctor, chef, pirate, and animals).

Now that they are in school, I'm waiting for the next unwelcome wave of peer influence... potty talk, bad words, and TV shows!

Marcia (123 blog) said...

Let's fight the marketing machine as long as we can!!!!

*raises fist in the air*

Although you're more hardcore than I am :)

Deanna said...

I guess I don't see it as being a huge deal. My girls aren't inundated with character-themed toys and we have no character-branded clothing. I certainly don't encourage the princess craze. But M loves to put on a dress and "twirl like a princess". She has a recent fondness for Tinkerbell and they love that Rapunzel is a princess on Tangled. Kind of like Johanna said, it's just one part of their play and it's something they enjoy, so I'm totally okay with it. (I do love the introduction to "real" princesses...I love Diana too!)

Just a thought (and please know I say this with sincerity and not judgment AT ALL!!)...if a stuffed Curious George (or substitute other item...) would thrill A & B so much, would it really hurt that much to get it for them? I understand your reasoning behind holding out on the character-driven marketing, but there is a lot of room for middle ground without "selling out". : )

Mama Mama Quite Contrary said...

Sing it sister!