WHITNEY: Permitting princesses didn’t change much
Times change, people change, and I have changed my mind.
I’ve been writing this column for almost two years now, and in that time my baby has become a little girl. She’s strong-willed and independent, for better or worse. And I am a pushover, a people pleaser even when faced with demands from people under 4 feet tall.
So I’m revising my stance on princesses. Under duress.
If you’re a long-time reader, you will remember one of the first columns I ever wrote here: an admonishment of the princess culture spurred by Disney and the always-in-need-of-saving female characters it created for our girls’ consumption. It still annoys me, but I’m having a change of heart. Here’s the deal.
A couple weekends ago, Olivia and I went shopping with my mom. We were refreshing some of our tired kitchenwares when Olivia wandered over to a clearance rack and fixed her eyes upon a sky blue box. She picked it up and stared at it with a longing intensity I haven’t seen thus far.
“Mom, I want take this home,” she said, handing me the box. Inside were four princesses, Belle (is she an actual princess?), Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White (do they have real names?). They were like the kind of toy you might get in a McDonalds Happy Meal back in the day — all one piece, non-poseable, made of that hard rubbery plastic that hurts really bad if your sister throws it at your face.
We wandered the store a while, I murmured “We’ll see,” a few times, and we eventually found grandma, who then asked if she could buy the princesses for Olivia. Sigh. OK. Sure.
Olivia carried the box out of the store herself and had the plastic front half torn off by the time we reached the car. Grandma unboxed the little ladies while I strapped her into her car seat. She has not stopped playing with them since.
So princesses have entered my house, and guess what? Nothing has changed. My daughter still likes to pick up ants off the sidewalk, and she’s as likely to tote her dinosaurs to the store as she is to drag the princesses along. I asked her recently if she’d like to wear a sparkly dress, and she responded, “No, I just want a clean shirt.”
The more I think about it, the more I realize how silly I was to throw so much shade at princesses to begin with. Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White might not be the most complex or heroic of characters. But Belle is cool, right? She’s really into books and she tries to save her dad and defend the most misunderstood dude in town. I always loved Mulan, the gender-bending warrior who fights a war in her father’s place. I even watched Brave not long ago, and Merida is basically as awesome as Katniss Everdeen, right?
You will not, however, convince me of the merits of Frozen and the mega-marketing machine merchandising every item known to man with the faces of those sisters. I haven’t changed my mind entirely.
I can let it go. My kid is having fun. The princesses can stay. All is well.
Whitney Gronski-Buffa is the Pioneer’s parenting columnist. After four years reporting and editing at the paper, she’s stepped back to spend more time with her family. Read more here each week and reach her at email@example.com.