Pink Pretty Princess

I’m a redhead. So when I was growing up, I had built in color. So wearing bright colors really did not interest me. Actually I didn’t see the point of wearing hats for decoration because it’s not like I needed any ornament for my head. And I wasn’t going to cover it up because I was ashamed of it. It was still my identity. So my clothes tended to be dark boy colors with a preference for dark blue and some dark brown also. For some reason green did not interest me. My late teen/early twenty years were largely dominated by the color black, but I grew back into blues, browns, and even some greens in my adult years. (I came to the realization that green complimented red.)

My wife is a brunette, but her wardrobe and color preferences were not too much different. She was into black and dark colors with light or bright colors occasionally. But pink was really not something in her repetoire.

Before our first daughter was born, we opted to wait until the birth to learn of the sex of the child. So the baby clothes we had fell into the neutral colors which really meant everything except pink. Even after she was born, we thought it would be practical to continue with primarily neutral colors since if the second child would be a boy, he could reuse the clothes. Though, something interesting happened. Now that my wife had become a mother, it seemed to spark something more feminine in her. And she began to wear the color pink.

As our daughter grew, our friends and family very generously gave her clothing, toys, and videos. Many like my sister, who studied early childhood education in college, gave her age appropriate educational gifts. But the majority have given either pink clothing or toys and videos relating to princess. I have my suspicions that they felt we were not treating her enough like a little girl, or that they felt girl automatically meant pink or princess. What has been amazing to watch is how she has become fixated on anything pink or princess. If she orders ice cream, it has to be pink. Bowling ball… pink. New shoes… pink. Movie to watch… princess. New toy… pink & princess.

Now I don’t have a problem with the color pink. I’m really not a macho guy. And I don’t feel a simple preference in color is in any way detrimental. But the princess thing has me a bit concerned.

Yes, these stories have been around for a long long time. But we all know that just because something has been around for a while does not necessarily mean it is good. We have Disney story collection book and almost every story with a female lead character is a princess story. One where the woman is in some sort of peril, the prince usually saves her, and they get married and live happily ever after. I think Pocahontas is the only one that doesn’t follow that formula. Disney markets their princess collection heavily. Cinderella, Snow White, Jasmine, Ariel, Aurora, Belle, Mulan, and Pocahontas. Even Home Depot has a display with all of the paint colors, stencils, and stickers you need to make a Disney princess room. It is really amazing how these little girls are bombarded with the marketing for this stuff.

Now we’re not the parents who would attempt to eliminate this from their lives. It is modern society and we’re not going to raise them inside a bubble. We’ve been offering other non-gender specific items that she enjoys just as well. Plus, princess related items are not the only things that interest her. Dora, Nemo, Buzz, Woody, racecars, playground, bicycles, swimming pools, sandboxes, etc. all equally vy for her attention. In this way I like the gifts my mother has been giving her. Harley Davidson apparel that she wears to the daycare with faux tattooed arms and flaming hearts bound by chains. Yet they are still pink.

For St.Valentines day, I thought I would kinda play along with the princess theme and got her “Princess Bride”. She sat and watched it. But when she was riding in the car the next day with my wife, she said “You know that movie that papa bought me. It’s really violent.” And so my attempt at playing along by offering one of my favorite movies, didn’t quite work. Though someday she’ll find it funny (I hope.)

Again, I am not against princess stories. But we all know that what we learn during childhood stays with us for the rest of our lives. I am haunted with quotes of Monty Python and PBS shows constantly running through my heads. And I have met strong minded successful women who still have that thought that Prince Charming is out there ready to take them away. That is really the thing that worries me. We can raise an independant thinker who will be successful and happy in whatever they choose. But that “ideal” will lurk and possibly subvert that happiness and success.

I suppose that’s part of being a parent. You guide and support as best you can in spite of whatever influences may be out there. But you still sometimes worry that those other elements may undermine or take them away altogether. But you just do your best and hope for the best.

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~ by Frank on July 2, 2007.

6 Responses to “Pink Pretty Princess”

  1. Unfortunately, it’s not only childhood stories that breed our collective tendency towards chimeras of false happiness, it is perpetuated into adulthood. Our entire society is contrived around reaching for things that are ultimately dis-satisfying. The whole “Keeping-Up-With-The-Joneses” dynamic for instance – consumerism – is a sort of false prince, is it? Get a bigger plasma t.v. – we’ll be swept off our feet with hi-definition bliss…

    Imagine if Disney could spawn tales teaching children about the sacred beauty hidden within the “profanity” of the actual? Imagine how much better adjusted we would be as individuals and a society, if we learned to cultivate our own capacity for delight – rather than shopping for it. Or, worse, pining for it.

  2. I think you’re on the right track by introducing her to other “princess” stories but maybe she was just a touch young for Princess Bride. I’m sure there are alternative books out there that have the princess theme without the typical princess elements. Or look for books/movies that highlight a really strong, independent woman. If she can’t read yet, call the movie something else (throw princess in the title). Disney tends to sugar coat everything because its good for marketing. I’m sure I can find other movies/books for you if you’d like.

  3. The new computer generated animated films have been very good with the messages they tell. In general they tend to be about being different and the beauty in it, getting along, and beating the bad guy. Happy Feet has a message about the environment. Cars shows that it’s not all about winning and the need for respect and teamwork. And of course I enjoy the ones with the hidden jokes for adults like in Wallace and Grommit. Thankfully she enjoys those movies as well. It’s just that I cringe each time princess movies are chosen.

    Another trend among Disney movies is that one of the parents die in order to set up the story. (Lion King, Cinderella, Finding Nemo, Bambi, Dumbo (incarcerated), Fox & the Hound, and Lilo & Stitch) It’s a fraction of the films they have put out, but is seems an odd way set up the story and to pull at their emotions.

    Sadia: Yes, it continues as we get older in other forms. I’m still trying to get over being a good consumer with an affinity for fast food.

  4. In retrospect, I’m very glad that the princess I spent the most playtime with was Princess Lea. Not pink at all, that one–at least not until that wretched Jedi film. 😉

    Since I don’t have kids, I have no idea what range of female characters are on offer for young children, but your instincts are spot on. If there are alternatives to the standard stuff, just make sure they’re available to your daughter. All it takes is one to catch hold of her imagination and she’ll be fine.

  5. Yeah, my sister and I weren’t really into gender specific toys and such. I think that was largely our parent’s doing.

    Although I’m surprise how much she is into Princess and pink stuff, she does really get into other things we have been offering her. She was really into Wallace & Gromit along with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Plus she’s one of the tougher and more (most actually) outspoken kids in her daycare. I’m just concerned about the undercurrent of an idealized life. We’ll do our best to teach her otherwise and hope for the best.

  6. […] There was a time that I had hoped to shield the kids from the marketing jaugernaut that is Disney. This post from a few years ago talks about my process of accepting that Disney is a part of life. The girls […]

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