Note: This is part one of a two part series on raising girls. Part one is by Paul, part two will be by me.
If you aren't a parent -- and especially if you're not the parent of a daughter -- you might not be aware of the whole "princess" thing. But trust me. It's a thing. Before I even get into whether it's a good thing or a bad thing, it's a thing.
G gets called "princess" several times a day by strangers, and when she's wearing a dress (especially a fancy dress) she gets called "princess" repeatedly by almost everyone who sees her. Grocery store clerks say "oh are you a princess?" People on the street say "What a little princess!"
So what's wrong with that? Girls go through a princess phase. What's the big deal?
A couple of things. Firstly, for G, the princess phase hasn't started yet. And this princess bombardment will keep going long past the natural life cycle of any phase. It's not "just a phase", it's a cultural prescription. When girls get told from the time they are born that they are princesses, that's not just a phase. Culture tells my daughters that they are (should be) princesses. Books, toys, movies and especially Disney bombard girls with princesses. And what assumptions are built into that label?
Princesses have no power*. They aren't queens, don't have any power except the power to marry a prince. They are objects not subjects. They don't do anything, they are done to. More, the cultural image of a princess is a pretty princess, so my daughters get told all the time that their only value lies in their appearance.
Secondly, princesses aren't just an abstract cultural idea, they're a cultural commodity. It's about stuff, mostly stuff sold by Disney. Disney markets the "disney princess" brand so strongly and so successfully that it's hard to get away from. And as marketing it's very successful. But I don't want my daughters to be consumers. I actually think unchecked consumerism is a bad thing, and I want to teach my daughters to resist it.
Finally, it's boring. G is full of imagination. One minute she's a tiger then next she's a cowboy then she's Mommy then she's Daddy then she's Superman then she's a singer then she's a dancer then she's a frog then she's a cook. And when she's wearing a fancy dress, she could be a fairy or a ballet dancer or an architect in a fancy dress. And why can't a princess be part of that? It can. It is and it unavoidably will be. But the princess idea is already taken care of by movies and books and strangers and pyjamas. If everyone who has ever thought about it deliberately avoided calling G and M "princess" they probably would still get called "princess" every single day. So seriously people Just stop it.
*Jan's editorial note: Except She-Ra, Princess of Power. But she's from the 80's.