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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Why be a Disney Princess?

Anyone out shopping for presents for girls lately would probably have noticed the addition to all the branded (Wiggles, Hi-5, Dora etc) toys and clothes. It’s the Disney Princesses, six of the major fairy tale heroines grouped together to sell anything from Manchester to undies. This is clever; they’re like the Spice Girls of animation. As a girl, it’s your right to pick your favourite and yet still be familiar with all the virtues and beauty of the others. I have an uneasy feeling about all this. I was princess obsessed as a girl (Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel were my favourites) and really don’t see much harm in enjoying being all ‘girly’ and ‘royal’. But now, as a mother, with Pink’s Stupid Girls song in my head, I wonder, surely Keira could be interested in something else? Yes, she’s started to buy into all the hype. Last week we borrowed from the library a licensed “Princess” CD. We put it on. I turned it off after listening to this:

“Every girl can be a princess
All that’s left to do Is,
find a prince for you
A prince who’s bold
Who’ll hold you, your whole life through”

Am I being unreasonable? Over reactive? Silly? Am I raging against the music box a bit too much? I feel like Lisa Simpson in the episode of The Simpsons where she created her own Malibu Stacey doll in retaliation to the boring, insipid others. Or one of those stereotypical feminists who pound the idea in your head that YOU DON'T NEED A MAN TO MAKE YOU HAPPY. Should I let Keira listen to the CD? Just let it go and be grateful she’s listening to music and not parked in front of the TV?

Comments on "Why be a Disney Princess?"


Anonymous Tracey said ... (9:01 am) : 

Maggie Alderson in the Good Weekend recently (last week or the week before) was complaining about a similar thing. (Though it was dress up clothes I think). And I have read other articles where Mums agonise over the same thing as you are.

I held back on Barbies for years.. but lost in the end, and I finally came to the conclusion that there's not a lot you can do about it. What you can do is offer choices. Two books I know come to mind: The Paperbag Princess And Princess Smartypants where the feisty princesses decide not to go for the prince after all.

The The Paperbag Princess was a favourite of mine, and I never understood why the girls didn't love it as much. Maybe because I wasn't much of a role model :D Before I found my 'prince' I had to kiss a few toads!. But at least if you give them the cconcept - the alternative is there.



Anonymous Shelly said ... (10:18 am) : 

Yep, turn the CD off. You'd be surprised how much stupid stuff there is for children out there- I'm an early childhood professional, I see it all the time- the kids try to bring it in to work and we send it right back home again.
As both a teacher and an aunty I only have one request for Keira- NEVER EVER buy her any Bratz merchandise. Please!!!


Blogger Miscellaneous-Mum said ... (11:23 am) : 

Well, its a bit late because she does have some Bratz stuff which people have been kind enough to give her as a present. I am not so mean as to 'look that gift horse' in the proverbial.


Anonymous Tracey said ... (3:57 pm) : 

The one thing you learn (the hard way) as a parent is that you don't have the control you think you are going to! You can try.. (ie. I succeeded in having a Barney free household, and the kids had an almost a Teletubbies free toddlerhood.) But so much stuff will infiltrate, either by well meaning relos, school friends, or by accident! Exhibit A. Karen's example. Exhibit B - the kid being given the Bratz doll by bloody Grandma!
Exhibit C: They will eventually see/hear/play with the "offending" items at a friend's place!

You discover that there are some things worth standing firm on, and some there are not.

Far better in most cases to casually teach the kids to critically appraise what they see or hear... and offer alternatives (like the options I suggested above).

You don't have to treat disney schmaltz, or ghastly dolls, as the only role model in their lives! Don't go out of your way to get it.. but don't do an ultimate censorship thing on it either!


Blogger Miscellaneous-Mum said ... (7:09 pm) : 

"Far better in most cases to casually teach the kids to critically appraise what they see or hear... and offer alternatives (like the options I suggested above). "

Hear, hear Tracey. Sounds like a good idea for an article if you ask me. I might put my thinking cap on.....


Anonymous Tracey said ... (9:48 pm) : 

Just don't tell anyone I yell "Get that rubbish off the TV" if they pause on Big Brother while 'surfing' TV channels! :D

(Actually.. I might let them watch it for 5 mins but I bag it out to the max while I do!)

But the 'critical appraisal' approach is what is being recommended by sensible people with regard to TV ads and junk food.

Mind you (again).. while the kids were younger, we did avoid commercial tv.. so much so that I remember the youngest, when she actually did get round to watching a show on something other than the ABC, getting really impatient with the ads!

What am I recommending then?!! I hope I'm not being a 'do as I say, not as I do' example.. but I do think I have managed to fairly successfully carry off the 'teaching them to appraise' thing.

None of them (at 13, 11 and almost 8) show any signs of thinking that a girl has to have a man.. or that you have to dress like a tart to be cool!

You are not the only 'thinking mum' to agonise over these issues though, K !!!


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