"I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world." -Richard Dawkins

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

I'm Starting Something Big


This is a stand. This is a motion, a cry for change. I haven't even read Peggy Orenstein's Cinderella Ate My Daughter yet, but I don't need to. I acutely understand what she's thinking, writing about, going through. I'm going through it myself. I'm not alone.

This isn't new, for me, but the gist, really is this: Marketing to children sort of disgusts me, and what's worse is this sudden, terrible phenomenon where things now come in two colors: boy blue, or girl pink. Gender specific marketing. These are children. This is not okay.

This came to a head just this evening when I went looking online for those Fisher Price 1-2-3 Grow With Me strap-on rollerskates that I had in the 80's. In the 80's when they only came in one color, and that was the color they came in. Boys and girls skating together and you would never believe it. Their skates are the same. Now? They come in an attractive combination of green/orange/gray/blue- or searing neon singe-your-eyes-out pink/purple. Yeah. Princess colors. I bet you can figure out which color I'd buy for Ro. And if you guessed the pink, you clearly don't know me very well.

I'm really kind of sick of this. My friend Kelly keeps apologizing to me, thinking she started this whole fiasco when we had Ro sit down and watch Sleeping Beauty for the first time while over at their house. Let me make something very clear to Kelly right now. Sleeping Beauty is a beautiful film. The entire theme, the throwbacks to medieval illuminations and manuscripts, the incredible attention to ornate detail which is so artfully juxtaposed with classic 1950's design tropes (like the trees in the forest, for example.) I love the whole package. It's amazing. And it is NOT Kelly's fault we named our daughter Aurora and that she became immediately insatiable about the whole thing.

I don't even rank Aurora among the most vapid and losery of all the princesses. She's mostly alright by me, she was content to just live out her days in her woodland home, chillax with the animals and pick berries all the while. No harm, no foul. Not all of Disney's "Princesses" are in my cone of wrath. Pocahontas and Mulan, for example, are both hard as nails chicks with a lot of honor and dignity and business to take care of. I respect them.

But it couldn't stay that simple: Disney execs decided to turn this princess thing into a kudzu slowly devouring the daughters of the western world. And I'm a mom- just one of millions- drowning in process magenta, unable to claw my way out. In my house (you know, offhand,) I currently have princess Barbies, princess figurines, princess books, princess cartridges for the princess-colored V.Reader (much like the aforementioned skates, it only comes in two color sets. Boy, or girl.) I have princess pajamas, princess dishes, princess Valentines, princess markers, a princess piano book and a tin of princess cards. I have princess puzzles, and princess toothpaste. I'm in princess Hell.

This is ME we're talking about, the all-natural Waldorf-embracing, wooden toys, ragdolls and playsilks advocate.

HELP ME.

This is where I draw the line. This is where I asks moms all over the world who are SICK OF PINK to take a stand and make it stop. I'm making it stop. I'm asking you to say no to saccharine hues of fuchsia and cotton-candy daydreams and obsessions of anything anything anything princess related, my god, my god, say no

...And say yes to real princesses. Say yes to princesses that will kick your ass. Say yes to princesses doing good. Princesses from history. Princesses from real storybooks- you know, the stories as they were before Disney got their clammy hands all over them. Teach your daughters about Diana and Kate Middleton. Teach your daughters who Pocahontas and Mulan really were. Teach your daughters how The Little Mermaid really ends. Teach them about reality. About strength.

SAY NO:
(Princess pasta? Are you kidding me!? If you need princesses to convince your child to eat Spaghettios, your problems are so much bigger than you realize they are. MARKETING TO LITTLE GIRLS IS NOT OKAY. STOP TEACHING THEM THAT SHOES AND PURSES ARE ALL THERE IS TO LIVE FOR. Dear Melissa & Doug, it is so sad, and I am so sorry, that we live in a world where your standard gray stone castle wasn't enough. I think it is.)


SAY YES:
(From the top: Princess Anne, a Navajo princess, Princess Noor of Jordan, Aurora before she decides that Prince Phillip is her priority, the real Mulan, a depiction of Disney's Mulan, Xena, Q'orianka Kilcher's depiction of Pocahontas, Disney's Pocahontas, Edward Burne-Jones Princess Sabra, Princess Diana, Edmund Dulac's Princess and the Pea, Princess Grace of Monaco, Kate Middleton [a technicality,] The Little Mermaid statue, Princess Njinga of Africa, Princess Hatshepsut of Egypt, Princess Beatrice of York, Princess Masako, Isolde, a Japanese princess, Princess Leia, Edward Burne-Jones Sleeping Beauty, Frances Hodgson Burnett's A Little Princess, Maharani Rajmata Gayatri Devi of Jaipur.)

The stunning contrast of pink to not pink is amazing to behold.
Teach your daughters about real princesses, (or not so real princesses) who deserve such a powerful title.
Do not teach them about prince charmings and glitter and bullshit.
(Yes. I said it, and I'll apologize to my grandmothers in advance for cussing in public.)

Make the stand.
(Please feel free to take my Anti-Princess banner and spread my message. I'm with you. We're all in this together.)

10 comments:

  1. I am not a pink princess person - though it is easier with two little boys. When I buy baby gifts for little girls, I look for purple, blue, and green items that will not add to the endless amount of pink they will receive. Pink was shoved in my face for too many years, along with skirts/dresses each and every day. The only pink item I own these days is a jacket that I received as swag (that I do love - even if pink).

    With that said, we are going to a "Disney Princess" lunch while at Disney World. I want to go. Not because it is lunch with the princesses, but more because it is time with different characters that I grew up with. The funny thing is I can remember when they switched modes from promoting movies to the princess hype. It was a great marketing move, but I feel took away from the individual stories being told. I will be thinking of you when we visit with Aurora.

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  2. I agree all around! I'm huge on cream, yellow and green for baby girls. Such hopeful, fresh colors.

    And I am so with you- the films as standalone stories are all amazing. I grew up loving them and- like I said above with regard to Sleeping Beauty- I still do! They're amazing works of art. It's the marketing aspect that is totally out of control.

    Hee, Aurora. If you post a photo of her to your blog, I am so sure Roary will flip her lid.

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  3. I will try to snag a photo of Aurora alone just for Roary :)

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  4. I recognized Hatchepsut, mostly because I saw the stunning exhibit at the DeYoung in San Francisco. Now THERE was a Princess/Queen figure. Except for the part where she runs into the establishment's wrath, but even then - the only way she WOULD NOT have done so, she would not have been remembered except as some blip in the dynastic lists.

    Most of the sculptures you see have a bit of anonymity to them. Not hers - each of them is HER, from the distinctive curve of her nose to the playful smirk to her eyes.

    I'm forwading this to someone I know. Thank you!

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  5. While I have to agree with your stance on princess pink crap, I've hated that stuff since I was old enough to retain memory and I never needed an anti-princess movement to make me feel comfortable with that.

    What about all the girls who LOVE that stuff? They wouldn't make it if there weren't a market for it. It would be selfish to try and eradicate it, and a little hypocritical in a way. After all, I'm ok with that stuff so long as nobody tries to convert me into a "princess", so who are we to go around saying "This pink stuff is horrible and needs to stop right now"?

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  6. My daughter hasn't worn a dress or anything resembling pink since she was old enough to throw a tantrum. She's 13 now and one of the toughest but sweetest girls I know - plays catcher on a boys' baseball team and goalie in hockey. But all through elementary school - especially kindergarten - her peers didn't know what to make of her. The girls all wore pink and she did NOT. She would come home from school saying (often) that kids would just come up to her and ask, "Are you a boy or a girl?" Thank goodness her response was to laugh at them and assume that they were just stupid. I think that pink is OK in moderation as long as it doesn't become what defines a girl - and that seems to have been the trend over the past decade or two. You can hardly find a pair of size 6x jeans for girls without at least a little accent of pink. "OK girls, you can wear jeans - but here is a pink heart on the pocket so you know that these are GIRLS' jeans..."

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  7. My pink princess daughter is my #3 baby, following both a sister and a brother (#4 is also a girl). As a baby, she got hand-me-downs from both siblings, clothes and toys, some girly, some boyish, and most neutral. But she alone of the three girls ADORED and at age five, still adores pink, glittery princesses.

    Whatever. She is also an active, curious girl, herself a pink, glittery princess who climbs trees and rides a skateboard and plays baseball -- while wearing a poufy tulle dress and a tiara. So, whatever. I'm guessing the princess thing will phase out, as phases do. I'm genuinely confident that her influences -- her siblings, her parents, the books we choose together, the activities we do -- will provide her with enough thoughtful, anti-vapid-princess exposure to save her from an otherwise empty, glittery world.

    I guess I'm wondering, why a little girl can't love glittery pink AND be as kick-ass as Pocohontas?

    Me, I'm mildly annoyed by the marketing, and do what I can to not buy into it very often. But I'm also peeved by the marekting for Pokemon and Bakugon, both brands that are huge for boys (be violent! Have wars! Buy lots of trading cards then do nothing with them but clutter up your room!), and both brands I had to suffer through with my son.

    Sadly, I think as long as there are kids who are trained to be consumers, there will be crap for them to want. But we parents don't have to let the crap define the kid, because mostly, it doesn't.

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  8. @Kuroloki Roku & Jennifer

    It's definitely a consumer driven thing and that's the major issue. For example, Kuroloki, my daughter has pink sheets with roses on them. That's not a problem. Tonight when we walked past Radio Shack and she immediately beelined for the VTech Disney Princess made in China plastic thing and insisted we get to bring it home- that was a problem. It's not the color, it's not even the idea of femininity or things that sparkle (I enjoy fairies! I enjoy Christmas!) It's a matter of children defining themselves with these things, and feeling unfulfilled unless they have them. And to the mothers of boys, you're absolutely right, there are boy things guilty of the same crime.

    As I state in the original post, while I am not myself Waldorf, I have sort of steered from a Waldorf-oriented angle from the beginning of my parenting career. Waldorf dictates no brand names, no characters, and all the toys are either nature-based, or made of natural materials. They allow full breadth of creativity. As much as you can say, well, my kid takes her Belle doll and wraps her in a black hankie and plays ninjas with her- the doll is still Belle, and the child knows that. That's the linchpin, I think.

    We're a disposable society obsessed with stuff. The Princess stuff makes itself all the more guilty for being a phase. Billions of dollars are being spent on this crap annually and it's just going to get chucked. That's just another facet of the issue. A big one.

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  9. I just posted this as a response to your comment my blog about the Disney Princesses:

    I'm going to comment in a different way here. EVERYONE, click on the graphic below and go to its source on Ali's blog on this subject. She said it much better than I ever could have. Why are you still here? Go read her blog:

    Your graphic with all the pink princess stuff is here... but I can't post it in your comments. It links to this blog.

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  10. I hate how my little (and myself) are being judged because she wears girls jeans and shirts instead of dresses. I don't think it is fair that Disney (and others) have set such unrealistic goals for young girls (and guys).

    I say to all the girls out there who want to wear boy blue and all the boys who want to wear girl pink, Go for it. Be you. Be unique!

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