Disney Princesses are the marketing phenomenon everyone loves to hate. By bundling the heroines of several movies into a set, Disney can tap into the “collect them all” mentality toward movies, costumes, merchandise and the like. Numerous treatises (see Peggy Orenstein’s Cinderella Ate My Daughter, or my The Princess Problem) have been written on what message the princesses send to our daughters.
Well, we are in full on Disney Princess mode in my house right now, but the interested party is my 5-year-old son. He’s made a list of all the princess movies, and which ones we haven’t seen in his cute little 5-year-old writing (“Sleeping Buty”). He was quite disappointed when we couldn’t find Sleeping Beauty on the video on demand system last night. We had to settle for Snow White.
Anyway, the whole thing has reminded me of all the gender-related baggage parents bring to parenting, and how we choose to see what we think we should see. When we picked up our kids from the Y’s Kid Zone on Saturday, and my 18-month old daughter was putting the dollies to bed and my 3-year-old son was playing with the trucks, I made a little note of it, almost like “oh, there you go, kids doing the normal gender-related things.” Yet I know my little girl plays with cars all the time — and I can see myself not registering that as a strong data point. Why not? She plays with dolls at home more often than my boys did, but that may be because we have more dolls, because we and other people buy them for her. As it is, my 5-year-old asked for a doll this past Christmas, too, and back when he was a new big brother at age 2, would pick up his shirt and attempt to nurse the one baby doll he did have. I don’t recall many people on the playground who saw that noting that “oh, you know little boys. They’re so nurturing.”
If I had a 5-year-old daughter who was obsessed with Disney Princesses, I might be bringing my full measure of feminist worry to the situation, explaining that we should not be telling ourselves that “someday my prince will come,” and that the most important thing in life is not “who’s the fairest of them all.” Yet I have not had any of these conversations with my son. I guess I assume it’s a passing phase and he’ll move onto something like Harry Potter soon enough. But, of course, one of the reasons it will be No Big Deal is that I am treating it like No Big Deal.
Here’s hoping I can treat it as No Big Deal when my daughter moves beyond sticking the Disney Princess figurines in her mouth into actually thinking about their stories. Or who knows, maybe we’ll skip it entirely and it will be all firemen and monster trucks around here when she’s 5.
Do you find yourself thinking different things about the ways boys and girls consume media, or play?
Photo courtesy flickr user Southern Lady’s Vintage