What does it mean to be a princess? Well, to Vivi, right now it means that she puts on a big sparkly dress at our local playroom. There's no other association and I'm going to try and keep it that way. I would argue that the pervasive attitude in our society, however, is quite different. Being a princess means owning expensive things and possessing a strong sense of entitlement-- at least that's what the marketers at Disney have quite successfully established. (Their "princess" line of goods has effectively revolutionized Disney's entire toy enterprise while significantly enhancing the company's bottom line.) And, let's be honest, when we hear of teenage girls and women labeled as "princesses" we tend to think "bitch."
It seems from a very early age our young girls are forced to take on identities that are demeaning, superficial, and sexualized. Until I had a daughter, I had no idea how hard it is to find bathing suits that aren't disturbingly revealing or t-shirts that don't define her as a "princess," "boy magnet," or "hot stuff." It is remarkable that when Vivi is dressed, as she typically is, in gender-neutral or boy clothing she is more often referred to as "polite," "smart," or "clever." When she's clearly a girl in pink, she is overwhelming "cute"or "looking so pretty."
Like most parents, I want my daughter to be more than "cute." I want Vivi to judge herself and be judged by others for her good deeds and not by the goods she owns or how much exposure her midriff gets. This is not what being a princess represents in our society so I find myself walking a fine line between encouraging her natural inclinations and protecting her from the exploitative attitudes that those inclinations make her vulnerable to.
So, as Christmas approaches, I've been thinking about gifts she might enjoy but aren't going to send her down a path of social or moral ill-repute. (Pretty dramatic, eh?) We've settled on a yoga mat, grocery cart, winter boots, a wooden train set from IKEA, and a lovingly handmade tutu from Grandma. Hey, a girl has to have some fun, right?