“I so Pretty, Mama!” – Raising My Daughter in a Princess Culture
I should have known the first time I took my daughter shoe shopping. At barely a year old, she took one look around that store and gleefully exclaimed, “Shoes! Shoes!”
Today, she puts on her faux-leopard fur lace-up boots (yes) or her purple sparkle sneakers, often with a dress or a dress and a skirt or two and some leggings (she is my Betsy Johnson in training), and she exclaims, “I so pretty, Mama!”
And I don’t know what to do.
PRINCESS CULTURE: THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY OF RAISING A LITTLE GIRL TODAY
When I learned I was having a girl, I was overjoyed. And terrified. We’ve come a long way, but women and girls are still often measured by the size of our waists, the shine of our hair, or the sparkle of our smiles. I worry that today’s princess culture puts too much pressure on girls to assimilate, to be pretty, to be perfect, to like all things pink and purple.
And it’s not only the influences of the world we live in that I was aware I’d be bucking. Not all of the grown-ups in my daughter’s village feel the same way that I do. Some embrace princess culture or cheerleading or Barbies. Some don’t. They didn’t all bristle the way I did at the “Girls Activities and Toys” aisle in big-box stores.
THERE’S NATURE, THERE’S NURTURE, AND THEN THERE’S REALITY
I’ve always been determined to raise a girl who’s free to choose what she wants to be, how she wants to look, what she enjoys to do. A girl who knows her value is so much deeper than the style of her outfits or the size of her thighs (or thigh gap). My daughter would not be a princess culture automaton. My daughter would prefer classic Rainbow Bright over that updated version (I mean have you seen her?!). And I don’t even know what to say about Barbies, yes, even the new ones.
So, as I prepared for the arrival of my little girl, my Netflix queue gathered films like Miss Representation and my (virtual) bookshelf titles like Cinderella Ate My Daughter. Even now, when a new article flies around Facebook like this one explaining that the best way to talk to our daughters about their bodies is to not to, I read it diligently and share what I’ve learned with my husband.
And yet the last time we went to the library, my two-and-a-half year-old little girl, who loves Monsters, Inc. and baby dolls equally, demanded that the librarian locate for her every princess book in the joint. Among books about real princesses, books about mouse princesses, and more, she chose Sofia the First (surprise!). Oh and also ponies – My Little Ponies.
When she picks out her outfits and grabs her purse and phone just like mama, she exclaims she’s so pretty. And what am I to do? The experts have decreed that I must not talk to my daughter about her appearance. I must tell her how smart or funny or fun or interesting or creative she is, but not pretty or beautiful or cute. None of those experts seem to have taken a position on how to respond when the daughter is the one initiating this talk.
I’m Rachel, a corporate marketing professional, and mom whose days are fueled by music, podcasts, dark chocolate, and just a smidge of bad TV.