Raising Daughters in the Age of the Princess

parents_july2010.jpgBefore my daughter was born, I’d wander through the girls department in clothing stores, convinced it was so much easier to find cute things for girls than it was for my little guy. But then I had my own little girl, and suddenly I was overwhelmed with princesses and pinkness. Every onesie or bib I found for my daughter proclaimed “Daddy’s Little Princess” or “Cutie Pie.” And don’t get me started on the midriff tops and miniskirts sold to those who can’t even walk yet!

The July 2010 issue of Parents magazine targets a tough dilemma for parents of girls: Should we shield our daughters from the onslaught of princess marketing, or are fairy-tale fantasies just part of being a little girl?

I remember knowing about Sleeping Beauty as a child, but our exposure was nothing like what’s marketed today. The Disney Princess line of toys, games and costumes features more than 40,000 products. And this excessive exposure is having its effect on our little girls, who are learning at a very early age that looking beautiful and being rescued by a prince are the two of life’s main goals.

“Princess is phase one of the sexualization of young girls,” says Sharon Lamb, Ed.D., co-author of “Packaging Girlhood,” in the article. “It’s all about the image. They take the message that looking pretty is important right through the teen years.”

I don’t think I completely buy into the idea that all princess play is bad. But just like everything else in life, moderation is key. I’ll be fine if my daughter wants to pretend that she lives in a castle, as long as she’s also interested in going outside to ride bikes with her brother. And I’m definitely saving the article’s list of modern-day princess books and DVDs whose strong-willed heroines don’t wait to be rescued by a prince.

I really liked Parents magazine’s stance on how young girls dress today. The experts basically reprimanded parents (in a nice way, of course) for not being the ones in charge. Little girls don’t need to dress like they’re straight off the set of “Sex in the City,” and parents need to be the ones to set limits.

At the same time, it was a good reminder to me that my views on womanhood speak volumes to my daughter. I don’t have to wear makeup every day, and even though I love high-heel shoes, I can also take out the garbage myself. Moms weren’t the only ones targeted. I passed the article on to my husband because of the sidebar on the enormous impact dads have on their daughters’ self-esteem.

After reading the very practically presented arguments, I’m not going to ban tutus and magic wands in our house. But I am even more convinced that it’s my job to make sure my daughter understands that being a woman is about much more than being a princess.

This entry was posted in Parenting on by .
Shannon McRae

About Shannon McRae

Shannon McRae is a work-at-home mom of three young children whose days are spent wiping mouths, playing Candyland, planning dinners and stealing time in between at the computer for her freelance writing. She's a stickler for healthy eating, with a slight exception for Oreos. She lives in Alabama with her precious children, loving husband and 13-year-old Australian Shepherd named Ricky Martin.

  • Taylor

    Great words of wisdom, Shannon!

  • Estanard

    I think your post hints at the possible dangers of the types of femininity being modeled today. Gender is innate. Individuals will always seek models of femininity and/or masculinity to admire or emulate. However, it does concern me that many of the feminine archetypes marketed to children have become so diluted that they are merely flat images without a context. And yes, we have Disney to thank for that. I have no problem with the stories of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, etc. These are important allegories. But my point is, have the fundamental messages of these stories gotten lost in our mass media and conspicuous consumption onslaught? Bottom line: Kids still read books a lot. But it always seems that the companion movies, cartoons and toys still reign. I was upset that they recently made “Ramona and Beezus” into a movie. What’s left to ruin? Yet another amazing book that will be trumped by Hollywood!

  • Laura Creekmore

    When the 11yo was between 6-8, Bratz dolls were the rage with her friends. And after years of being conflicted about Barbie [which I hadn't liked as a child myself], I found a clear line….Barbie was OK in our house, but Bratz dolls weren’t.

    Try explaining THAT to a 6yo. Somehow I managed, but I don’t think that’s why she’s clear-minded and independent today. You are right, is the whole package that matters.

    With the princess thing in particular, I decided it was best to treat it as her “hobby” — it was something she was interested in, but not something I pushed. Sure, I got [and even made] her some fabulous dress-up clothes and she had a ball in them. But I don’t call — or treat — her as a princess. I think she’s pretty clear that princesses are pretend, and real girls are tough and can stand up for themselves….no waiting around for a knight on a white horse.