I have been reading a lot about the “Princess Culture” that marketers for companies like Disney have created for our young girls over the past 15 years. I have been dismayed as I shop for toys that so much has been divided by gender. Now several major department stores have declared this to be “National Princess Week.”
Is it wrong for girls to fantasize about being a princess? No. But what is wrong with our corner of the world is that we don’t want our girls to fantasize about much else. “But that’s not true!” you say. “My daughter is smart and can be whatever she wants when she grows up!” Yes she can. But what are you and the other people in her life encouraging her to think about? Actions speak louder than words. Has your daughter been given and encouraged to play with a toy medical kit and a white doctor’s coat? Has she received a science kit? Has she played swords or guns and been told she could be a soldier? Has she played school and pretended to be a teacher? Has she been given a fireman’s suit and pretended to respond to a fire? These are all thigs we pay lip service to telling girls they can do, but when it comes to play and encouraging fantasy, we often hand our girls pink and purple taffeta dresses and tiaras and a movie where a man saves the day.
What does this say to our children? What does this say to our boys? I don’t want my son to grow up thinking women are weak and helpless. We aren’t. But again, actions speak louder than words. I don’t want my son believing that pink and purple are for girls. They aren’t, they are for everyone. I don’t want to take a step back in time and have him believe that girls aren’t smart enough to be doctors or lawyers or strong enough to be soldiers and firefighters.
What happened to Wonder Woman and Princess Leia? These were princesses who also knew how to solve problems with their minds and were able to kick some serious butt when confronted with a physical fight. Princess Leia could shoot a gun and kill some storm troopers, then attend a formal award ceremony and be elegant and feminine. Wonder Woman was a reporter when she wasn’t saving people from the bad guys, and no one would have ever questioned her femininity. (Or Princess Leia’s for that matter – who didn’t try to get that hairdo and don a white dress like hers?)
This morning as I helped my son get ready for preschool, we looked for a show and tell item. The theme was “Something Purple.” I was dismayed to find that we really had to search hard for something purple. It is a beautiful color. A boy should have purple items available to play with. Commercialized Princesses have hijacked pink and purple and our children’s minds.
Let’s take colors back from marketers. Let’s offer our girls more choices and let our boys know that our girls are just as capable of being smart and strong as them. And let’s let our boys know they can like pink or purple as much as the girls in their lives. Let’s try to demonstrate egalitarianism and not jut pay lip service to it. Actions do speak louder than words.