bonus commentary: princesses and pink

Yeah so, earlier today on NPR, Diane Rehm interviewed author Peggy Orenstein about her new book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture.

When I heard the title, I almost ran my car off the road.

I can’t say anything about the book because I haven’t read it; what intrigued me was the discussion they had about some of the negative effects of the “hyper-feminine, commercialized world of young girls,” (New York Times). It sort of validated every suspicion I’ve ever had.

A lot of parents called in to talk about how they were hesitant to encourage what I’ll call “overly princessy” behavior in their little girls. One mom even said she refused to let her 8-year-old attend a spa/makeover-themed birthday party.

Stating the obvious:

  • Girls can be pressured to grow up too quickly.
  • There are not many options out there for little girls who don’t want to wear pink. The author noted there are currently 26,000 Disney Princess items on the market; in 2009, Princess products generated sales of $4 billion.
  • All pink, all princess, all the time, can alienate girls from boys their age, and girls who have no interaction with boys when they are very young are more likely to have unhealthy relationships with men as adults (so the author stated).
  • The whole princess/pink thing is a marketing tool and should not be taken seriously by anyone.

Before you go all I-am-a-princess-and-there’s-nothing-wrong-with-that on me, I am not bashing any little girl who wants to wear pink and be a princess; I’m just saying there needs to be a balance. As Orenstein said, it’s not one thing or another, but the cumulative effects one should be mindful of.

Was I ever a princess for Halloween? Sure. Was I also a car-wreck victim? You betcha. Did I play with dolls? Yes I did. Did I also play “My Little Pony Burn Unit” with the neighbor boy? Hell yeah.

I also think – and this is just my opinion, not something from the show – that the princess mentality contributes to the misconception that every story has a happy ending. I think it also creates a false sense of entitlement and an attitude of “me, me, me.”

My advice? Take that Barbie doll and set it on fire.

Somewhat related: I encourage you all to read Carl Hiaasen’s Team Rodent: How Disney Devours the World; about the relentless success of the Disney machine to gobble up real estate and natural resources, control the press and manipulate local government.



27 thoughts on “bonus commentary: princesses and pink

  1. Preach on! Amen!

    Despite my mother’s attempts to raise me as gender neutrally as possible (painting my room blue, dressing me in blue, and buying me a dump truck and feather boa on the same day) and that besides Sesame Street, I was prohibited from TV and I was also prohibitied from Disney, I still was a girly dress wearing princess. But those values my parents strongly instilled in me stuck. And I am grateful. As the super femme princessy dyke I am today. (My mother was so relieved when I came out and told me it upped her street cred…her words, not mine.)

  2. OK, I fuckin’ love this post!

    My niece Lorelei is 9, and she has rejected the whole princess thing from the get-go. At age 1, Lorelei wouldn’t even wear a dress, and it’s gone on from there. It is so hard to buy clothes for her because everything is pink and princessy. For years, my sister bought her boys’ clothes, because that’s all she would wear.

    Here’s a good example of the princessy pressure: I made the mistake of inviting several members of my family to come with me when I was getting my wedding dress fitted. My niece Lorelei was there, of course. She said, “I don’t like to wear dresses” to which my Grandmother said, “Well, you will be wearing one at the wedding.”

    “No, she’s not,” my sister said. “She’s wearing a suit.”

    My Grandmother lost her shit! And my sister totally defended Lorelei’s choice to not wear a dress. “If Lorelei doesn’t want to wear a dress, she doesn’t have to. You are not the boss of her!” And I backed her up, “Word! You go, Lorelei!”

    I don’t recall ever dressing up as a princess as a child. I was Scooby-Doo for five years in a row. In later years, I went for the Catholic School Girl costume because I’m a slut.

  3. Yes. And….yes.

    I’m not sure what I’d do if I had a daughter and she was all in to the princess thing. I never was, although I did share you apparent interest in concocting macabre My Little Pony scenarios, which the Barbies were sometimes involved with as well. But eight-year-olds having spa parties totally freaks me out. Very Toddlers & Tiaras.

    The Disney thing – I just don’t understand it at all. You couldn’t pay me to take a vacation to Disney World. Not judging others who do, but it’s just about the last place on earth I’d go voluntarily for so many reasons. I kind of want to read that book now….

    • ahahahaha….I remember I used to rip the heads off my Barbie dolls and laugh maniacally. It was a life cycle thing. I’d play make up and make shoe box houses for them, but then I’d take their heads and hang them on the ceiling once I’d moved on. In retrospect, its awfully serial killerish.

      And having been to Disney World with a much younger sibling as a bitter teen, I can tell you it’s the worst place on earth. I’d rather go visit…anywhere else.

      • I amassed quite the collection of headless Barbies myself back in the day. Might’ve had something to do with my brother taking a pair of scissors and giving all of them crew cuts one fateful afternoon. We wasted no time in using the Barbies for GI Joe battles after that incident.

  4. BAM, dead on. I can’t even add to this. I do thank my parents for NEVER pushing any of that crap on me though. I can remember kids wondering why I had hot wheels AND my little ponies…and I never got *why* that was a question.

    Also, you should wander through the baby clothes aisle with me and Nicki someday. Her commentary is priceless. ;p

  5. They interviewed this author on the Today show this week. I found it interesting. And agree with you totally- I feel like there should be a balance. Don’t deny your daughter pink toys just to prove a point in attempts to rebel against marketing giants… ya know?

    I liked a lot of girly things growing up, but my brother’s teenage mutant ninja turtles were always invited to the Barbie party.

  6. I had one Barbie in my life and I bent her knees backwards (to see if they’d stay) until the white plastic “skeleton” underneath popped out and she looked like some awful war casualty. But I still love the shoes. So I’m in the Lorelei fan club.

    You see it as girls get older too – the choices of clothing are glitter slut or lacy streetwalker. And then one day we wonder how they become bridezilla, talking about MY day MY dream MY MY MY. And then they are disappointed and divorced. See:

    If a little girl honestly loves pink and frilly, fine. And who doesn’t want some special attention once in a while? But the parents who actively buy into these notions need a head check and more. Child protective services should be on the set of that atrociously hot mess “Toddlers & Tiaras” to arrest and de-egg anyone placing their daughter into that world.

  7. I read another book, “Enlightened Sexism- The Seductive Message that Feminism’s Work Is Done by Susan Douglas,” that was a lot about media and societal influences on girls/teenagers/even adults- telling us females are equal and can do anything but then turning around and encouraging all girly girl stereotypes. And how while we are told we’re equal, it’s just not true looking at pay rates, opportunities, hiring, etc. I didn’t think I would like it but changed my perspective on “feminism” to something that was more relate-able and modern.

    Anyway, as a kid I think I was outside about 75% of the time and usually played with my sister and slew of male cousins. Lots of pretending and games, not so many dolls. I think I first tapped into my girly side in college.

      • Heh, don’t sweat it. I had to go back through this post and correct all sorts of errors, sucks you can’t edit your own comments.

        That sounds like a good read, I’ve never considered myself a feminist per se but that sounds reasonable. (I always think of feminists as those camo-wearing, man-haters from “PCU,” which is unfair.)

  8. Let’s take the Little Mermaid for example. This girl is a freaking princess with everything she’s ever wanted given to her, and all she can say is, “I want more” ??? Go volunteer with the unfortunate mer-people, princess, and get over yourself.

    But. I loved Disney. And princesses. And wearing dresses. So I don’t know.

    Watching Toddlers and Tiaras last night was pretty scary. My fiance kept saying, “forget the parents! who puts on these things? what people decide to be JUDGES?” That’s way scarier.

  9. Agree with you completely. You’re dead on with the princess syndrome leading to unrealistic expectations and entitlement. My co-worker has referred to her daughter since she was preggers as “princess” (she’s 6 now) and it kinda makes us sick.

    Love Carl Hiaasen- will check out that book. Great post!

  10. Ok so I was totally that little girl with the barbies, my little ponies and the room full of pink things. It wasn’t pushed on me at all, I just loved that kind of stuff and my mom just kind of let me be, you know? I’m not sure if I would go out of my way to give my child a barbie, but I’d probably give in a little if she really wanted one. I don’t think it made me any worse for the wear as a person (though, that is debatable…hehe), but I’d sure as heck make sure she wouldn’t grow up to be some soft priss who can’t speak up for herself.

  11. Really interesting. As an elementary school kid in a school where I most certainly did not fit in, I tried to get into dolls and Barbies (although never princesses). I desperately wanted to have something in common with the other girls, and pink-girly-stuff seemed the best bet. And you know, it didn’t stick, which I think can be credited at least 80 percent to my commie-hippie parents who thought that stuff was nonsense and would ten-times rather buy me horses than dolls.

    You kid is going to like what she is going to like. But parents can do a stellar job in reinforcing a strong sense of self by straying away from the doe-eyed, waif-waisted Disney princess. The point of those stories is to get the guy and become a “lady.” I’ve never become a lady, and I’m aight.

  12. I couldn’t agree more–with both of you! And I should add that I consider the Barbie Doll to be one of the most deadly innovations of all time. Even a noted anatomist declared it an “anatomically impossible” representation of a human female body. And God knows how many young women have died because of its influence.

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