Calling Your Daughter One
Let me start by saying that I am not a mother. While I have devoted more time thinking about what kind of mother I want (hope) to be and what traits I want to pass on to my children, I will humbly admit to you that I really have no clue what it is like to look at a human that you have created and watch the world put labels and restrictions on them. This is especially poignant when it comes to daughters.
That being said, I would like to offer my insight into a couple of articles I read about the “Disney Princess Culture” and how that can severely and negatively impact your daughters’ personal development. The articles I read were very strongly against calling little girls princesses and would be up for avoiding all princess movies if that were possible. (Hey, it is a Disney world, we just live in it.). But I really took issue with them. The opinions were so polarized that they seemed like an overreaction. As if swinging the opposite way on the pendulum would save the girls of the future. And if there is anything I have learned from my childhood and personal development, it is that overreaction can be just as damaging as doing nothing.
Story Book World Is Not Reality
Here is what I mean: if you look at a story about a princess and immediately think that its message is going to somehow imprint a helpless and shallow world view on your daughter and you want to do everything in your power to run the opposite direction, you are going to hurt your child in a whole new way.
An example from my life was the toys I chose as a little girl. Mainly, my twin sister and I had dinosaurs, Barbies and Beanie Babies. It was the nineties and my sister and I enjoyed playing with all of them. We did not look at the Barbies as role models of how to look. To us, they were the same as the large T-Rex we had or the collection of bunny Beanie Babies. They were toys, meant for play, nothing more. The idea that we should grow up trying to look like Barbie was as strange a concept as if we tried to grow up looking like Hoot the Owl Beanie Baby. It was ludicrous.
But one day when we were about 6 years old, my mother barged into our room and gave us a 30 minute lecture on how Barbies are unrealistic looking and that it was crazy that all of their feet were pointed to always wear high heels. It was the first, pseudo-feminist lecture I had encountered and I really did not understand much of it.
The women who wrote the articles about calling your daughter a princess might be applauded for taking the time to tell us how we should not try to look like Barbie. Some might say that she was teaching us a valuable lesson. But I wholeheartedly disagree. And here is why:
The Princess Name Packs Girl-Power
Since the age of 14 I have battled with anorexia. Was it because my body changed and I realized that I did not look like Barbie? Was it because I had watched Disney princess movies and realized that my waist was not smaller than my neck?
It was the messages I got from real life. It was actually the messages I got from my mother. She was always “on a diet.” She was always telling us that we had bad genes and if we were not careful we were going to get fat. And she was always talking negatively about her appearance. She gave me this twisted view of my body and what it should be like. She gave me no role model to follow to learn how to make healthy choices and she certainly did not teach me how to see beauty in myself.
So coming back to these women who say “Don’t call my daughter princess! Calling her princess will teach her to be entitled or that her worth is only in her outward appearance!” Just stop and think.
You are the ones teaching them what princess means. You are the one defining princess as something worthless even though every example of a princess I can think of has something to offer. Ask yourself why princess has to be a bad thing. Why can you not teach your daughter to take that word seriously? Why can it not mean that the people around you believe in you so much that they think you can change the world or make it a better place?
Why do you not teach your daughters about Princess Diana who personally worked with many valuable charities and was a philanthropist above all else?
I guess what I am trying to say is that you have a lot more to do with who your daughter becomes than the man in a store who calls her princess or the characters in the newest fairytale movie.
She may love to dress up as Belle or Ariel for Halloween. She may want a tiara for her dress up clothes. But when it comes down to who she looks up to and whose opinions will form the basis of her self-worth, it is you. Your messages and ideas and side comments that you did not think she heard are going to help shape her world. So do not run away from the princess culture; teach your daughters what being a true princess really means.
Alexis Ali lives in New York with her husband. She has a Master’s degree in Linguistics and is a freelance writer of short stories. She also sings, has a love for photography and may one day be doing both with her Princess or two. Her most recent posts was a short story series, “Adele’s Pattern: A Journey To Redemption.” You can read it here.
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