I recently read a magazine article in which the grandmother described taking her granddaughter to Disney and paying around $200 to have her transformed into a princess because the girl (literally) wished for that to come true at the Cinderella breakfast that morning.
The grandmother chronicled how uncomfortable she was watching her granddaughter being transformed into a mini-woman through make-up, hair, and nail polish and then forced to pose “glamorously” for the portfolio that was part of the package, and the girl just looked confused and disappointed. (One little girl was actually crying while she was having her hair and make-up done, but her parents were encouraging her on.)
And then I started to get twitchy.
It was that same pit-of-the-stomach feeling that I get when I channel surf across episodes of “Toddlers and Tiaras” or see little girls sexed up in magazine ads to look like 22-year-old college girls. (And, it’s probably the same feeling that grandmother got while watching her granddaughter).
Last year, I would say that easily 90% of the little girls we passed on Halloween between toddler age and eight years old were dressed as princesses.
My three year old daughter was dressed as a pirate.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that this makes us better (or worse) than the parents who dressed their daughters as princesses. In fact, even though my daughter wanted to be a pirate, she stalked a “princess” the entire evening, completely enamored with her costume. Clearly there is some thing about princesses that sweeps up little girls (and some little boys) and holds on tight for years and years.
For the record, my daughter is going to be a cupcake this year for Halloween (because “cupcakes are cool because they get to have sprinkles”). And I’m ok with that choice. (Dude! Sprinkles are cool.)
Disney says that the “princess craze” rakes in $4 billion in sales all over the world each year. They go on further to alert us to the fact that there are 142 million books, 81 million sticker packs and 16 million Disney Princess magazines sold.
When Disney talks about their princess franchise–which includes the “princesses” we all know like Ariel, Belle, Cinderella, Jasmine, Mulan, Pocahontas, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and (some new girl named Tiana)–they refer to the attributes of this franchise as “fairy tales, fantasy, romance, royalty and transformation.”
And that’s where I start to get all twitchy again.
Before I get all the hate comments, let me just say that I’m not against princesses … or Disney, for that matter. I’m ok with girls pretending and playing dress-up. However, I’m not sure that I need my daughter, at age four, worrying about romance and “transformation.”
I’m not just worried about us placing all of this emphasis on outward beauty, I’m also worried about us encouraging that fantasy of transformation–always looking for something more or better than what you have. We live in a society where most teens feel entitled to whatever they want whenever they want it (see: My Super Sweet 16), and I’m determined not to raise my four year old in that way.
So call me a little paranoid. (Whatever.)
For me, it boils down to this: how do we encourage our daughters (aka: our “princesses”) to embrace make-believe, but not live in a fantasy life where they are searching for that never-ending “better thing” only to be disappointed in the end?
I don’t know the answer to this, but I’m hoping you do and can enlighten me in the comments.