Parental Navel Gazing

How to Beat the Princess Effect

Xena, holding her chakram
This princess doesn’t need anyone to save her. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sarah and I were just at a 3-year-old girl’s birthday party. To say that it was “princess themed” would be an understatement. It was more an indoctrination that every girl should aspire to be a princess, to swath herself in pink and to wear a tiara.

Good god.

This is the part of being a daughter’s dad that I dread. More than a few people are out there waiting for my tears to flow when Anneka gets obsessed with princesses. Or rather, the pop-culture vision of a princess as promoted by the Mouse and all his stooges.

Every time the mass media force-feeds this message to a little girl, it’s really saying “Be born into privilege. Ability doesn’t matter. Conform.”

The three lead protagonists of Star Wars, from...
OK, so Princess Leia needed help now and then. But she saved the bacon of these knuckleheads, too. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These are not messages I want Anneka to accept. And sometimes, I feel like Sarah and I are all alone in this.

Then I see Facebook communities like Tres Geek, where little girls dress as Dr. Who characters and play Donkey Kong. It’s really a heartening, morale-boosting connection with other like-minded people, and it’s all too rare. That makes me appreciate it a bit more.

Anyway, back to the whole princess thing – the party organizers had all the little girls sit in a circle; one by one, they went through and named their favorite princess.

“Someone please say Xena, someone please say Xena,” I chanted in my mind.

Nobody said Xena.

I would accept Princess Leia as a good answer, too – privileged birth, but used her position as an agent of change. She had a big stake in the game; Darth Vader doesn’t chase anyone down to deliver a stern lecture.

I also resent the message inherent in nearly every princess: If you get in trouble, someone (usually someone with a Y chromosome) has to rescue you. That’s an outdated message that does nothing to empower girls.

I wonder how to handle the whole princess thing when that time comes … let it go (oh, god – did I just say that?) and run it’s course, or use it as a learning moment?

I don’t want to be an excessively preachy dad. Honestly. But I want to provide chances for Anneka to think and reflect, to find her own path based on her thoughts rather than the bubblegum-pink faux-reality that the entertainment-industrial complex firehoses at girls. I guess I’ll be happy enough if she asks “so what’s the big deal with princesses, anyway?”


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