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National Princess Week: why I’m okay with it

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Reel Mama: National Princess Week: why I’m okay with it

Thursday, April 26, 2012

National Princess Week: why I’m okay with it

This week, you, or better yet, your daughter, are invited to be a princess.  Disney and Target have inaugurated National Princess Week, and they want their customers to “create a princess experience” by filling up their shopping carts with the tenth anniversary edition of The Princess Diaries, as well as a vast array of themed merchandise featuring Disney’s other beloved princess characters. 
I did my part, and it looks like other customers have as well.  I snagged the last available princess swimsuit in the entire store for my two-year-old daughter.  It had been well hidden behind the star-spangled red, white, and blue swimwear and the teal suit with the flamenco flair.  I also bought a pair of Disney princess sunglasses to match the swimsuit, entirely unaware that I was helping to celebrate the latest commercial holiday, something created just for little girls.
We’ve all heard of the Mommy Wars.  Close to the beating heart of this war is the debate over the Disney princesses: whether or not they are harming our daughters because they instill the belief that they need to look beautiful all the time and be rescued rather than thinking and acting for themselves in a tough situation.  Some even argue that the media and commercial princess blitz is nothing short of a War on Women of sorts, an attempt to roll back the last fifty years or more of women’s progress.  Admittedly sometimes the Disney princesses are too passive in some of the story books in print right now, but the princesses on film merit a closer look.  
The earlier Disney princesses are a part of film history.  Snow White, for instance, needs to be taken in context.  The story can be appreciated, and with older girls it can be discussed in modern terms.  I find that the new Disney princesses, beginning with Belle in Beauty and the Beast and continuing with Tiana in The Princess and the Frog and Repunzel in Tangled, are much more progressive.  Belle is a lover of books; Tiana is an entrepreneur who works her fanny off to open a restaurant, and Repunzel is a dreamer with wanderlust and courage.  These are admirable qualities I'd like to foster in my daughter.  I want to help her be literate, resourceful, and courageous.
I believe in choosing my battles as the parent of a toddler, and the one I allow my daughter to win almost every time is about what she is going to wear.  The Disney princess swimsuit was her choice out of a lineup that included the patriotic and the teal numbers.  I let her wear her Disney princess nightgown during the day on occasion, and routinely acquiesce when she insists on her usual uniform: a tutu.  She’ll be out of the frilly pink stuff, the glitter and the sequins, and into jeans and a t-shirt soon enough.  With her choice of clothing, she is asserting her identity and her independence, and she’s having the time of her life.
The princesses are members of a large cast of characters my daughter embraces.  Elmo, Buzz Lightyear and Woody, Diego and Dora, Nemo, Sam-I-Am, not to mention countless non-character-specific toys and dolls, often excite her more than the princesses.  The presence of the princesses is not offensive to me: I see them as part of the fun of childhood.  In fact, as a movie lover,  I often enjoy watching the Disney classics almost as much as my daughter.
I understand that the marketing of princess paraphernalia has reached a fever pitch, but I believe our daughters will remain unharmed by it.  Whether a girl grows up happy, confident, and well adjusted can hardly be determined by her exposure to these fairy tale characters alone.  So much more goes into it.  I loved the Disney princesses growing up, and the experience didn't hurt me.  As an adult I’m not afraid to take risks. I’m comfortable in my own skin.  I’ve never felt the need to be rescued.  I don’t feel that my psyche was shaped by my enjoyment of the Disney princesses or wearing tutus.
I don’t see anything wrong with allowing my daughter to play with or wear something that makes her smile on a daily basis as long as it’s within reason.  Julie Andrews, the spokesperson for National Princess Week, says it’s about letting your “inner sparkle shine.”  I think that’s something everyone needs to do.    


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