For the Love of All Things Princess
My daughter, who will be four years old in March, loves princesses. Disney princesses. She requests to wear her Sleeping Beauty Halloween costume, her Little Mermaid night gown, or her yellow “Belle” dress several times a week. She loves all things pink, purple and having to do with tea parties or “Balls” i.e. dances that princes and princesses attend. She regularly wears her flowing white Ethiopian coffee dress or the flower girl dress from my brother’s wedding. Her pink tutu and fairy wand along with a few frilly skirts and scarves round out her preferred wardrobe. My husband made her a toddler bed that looks like a palace per her request when she grew out of her crib, and she loves to pretend she’s Rapunzel trapped up in her tower, waiting for her prince to come rescue her.
Whilst this may seem typical when thinking about a modern four year old girl, it’s worth noting that Eva doesn’t attend day care and spends the majority of her time with her dad. I have no idea where this princess obsession came from — I don’t own a single item of pink clothing and wear a dress maybe once every six months. Her princess love would make more sense if I too loved dressing up and wearing make up and doing my hair….but I don’t. I almost always take a shower at night, rarely blow dry my hair and don’t own a curling iron or makeup that isn’t expired. It seems like she was born with an inherent love of all things “girly.” Which sometimes is perplexing to parents who tend to “think outside the box” and “live consciously” and try to encourage equality and not adhering to societal gender norms. What if our daughter grows up to think she needs to be saved by a “prince on a white horse?” What if she comes to believe that passivity is the ideal way to “find true love?” What if “getting married” is her only goal in life? What if she starts thinking less of herself as she gets older because she doesn’t have a tiny waist or perfect hair or creamy, flawless skin?
Princess culture has become a “thing” in the modern world, and it’s one that I think many parents with feminist tendencies tend to fear.
Lucy Aitken Read writes,
I’ve come to believe we have less to fear about princess culture and more to fear about rejecting something so important to our children.
So despite the icky parts of “princess culture,” I think it would be far more damaging to my four year old to tell her that she shouldn’t play princesses, or that she should try to like playing with trucks or making a fort out of blankets at least as much as she likes playing dress up. There is ample opportunity for dialogue around how she doesn’t need a prince to be whole or that having a teeny tiny waist isn’t normal, to be sure. There is room to talk about how princesses can be just as courageous and strong as the princes and that beauty is found in everyone. But for now, she just loves to pretend to be a princess. We have the opportunity to let our child embrace what is giving her joy. We have the opportunity to show her that her preferences and opinions matter and are ok.
Wednesday is my day to care for Eva during the week, and this week she predictably requested to play princess upon waking. I wanted to go outside, something that she loves when she gets out there, but she wasn’t having it. She wanted to wear her ball gown, set up her tea party and prepare for her royal wedding to Prince Phillip. So I relented. I gave up on trying to coax her outside into the yard to run around in the snow, and I put on my own red ball gown (old prom dress) and settled in for a morning of tea and prancing down the palace halls of my child’s imagination.
Lucy goes on to say:
Trust in the fact that very few adult women actually want to be rescued by a man, and even fewer want to actually be a princess.
Trust in yourself, your model as a strong, creative mother or equality loving father. Trust in your children, that this phase is important to them. This princess thing won’t last forever with your child, so find joy and connection in it while it does.
By raising daughters who can love princesses AND be strong women who can stand on their own two feet? Well, maybe that’s our chance to change what we think of when we hear the words “Princess culture.”