Thursday, February 26, 2015

So, You Want to Be a PRINCESS When You Grow Up?

If you would come over to our house, you would know instantly that it was a house full of girls. To the litter of shoes at the door, to the My Little Ponies on the floor to the numerous dress-up outfits and shoes shoved in every nook and cranny, you will not be mistaken that Sophia has taken on in full force, the stereotypical meaning of a girly-girl.

I have tried to introduce her to a variety of interests as well as steer her away from the pink filled aisles at Target but I am telling you, trying to persuade your 4 year old daughter away from Tinker Bell and Ariel is like trying to take away honey from a bear, or crisp hundred dollar bills from a bank robber. Nearly impossible. I don’t remember what started her interest in princesses- I don’t think I even bought her anything princess related until SHE started showing interest, maybe it was a TV show or movie or just things she has seen around Target. It was like she was drawn to these stereotypical gendered toys – You know when a character gets hypnotized and their eyes turn into this psychedelic swirl of red and white? Those bright pink dresses, sparkly shoes and crowns are all like “HEY! Look at me! Look at me! You know you want me!!” And it got her. Got her good. Or like a fly to those ultraviolet light zappers- ZAP.

At first I struggled because I thought she needed more variety. So as always, I tried to introduce other play themes with her other than being a mommy or a princess. She has a train table and Legos. She has puzzles and board games. She loves to read.  (Of course, her favorite books star a princess or other girly-girl). We put her in soccer- you know, thinking that’d TOUGHEN her up- rile her up a little. GET IN THERE, SOPHIA, DIG!! Do you think that worked? No, my stubborn girl sat on the sidelines and declared, “I DON’T LIKE SOCCER!” So, we’re in gymnastics. And she loves it.

If she could, she would wear this EVERYDAY

So, then I started thinking, what is so wrong with Sophia wanting to be a princess or pretending to be a mommy? Sure, in movies like Pocahontas and Mulan and even numerous other movies- it is portrayed that a girls place is to shut up and look good. But on the other side, in several of those movies- the girls defy the odds and they do STAND UP and fight for what is right. And they are BRAVE, STRONG and COURAGEOUS, and of course maintaining their perfect hair and outfit. But still. I began to think that if the worse thing my daughter wants to be are a princess or mom, then I think we’re pretty well off. I can encourage these attributes of what it does mean to be a princess and discuss how princesses are kind, generous, brave, strong and courageous. These are all attributes that I can only hope Sophia develops as she grows into a young lady.

Is this such a bad thing to teach to kids?

Media can portray so many gender stereotypes and yes, most of them I don’t want Sophia to internalize. But as a parent, the neat thing is that I can talk about these things. Talk about why Mulan isn’t allowed to fight in the war. Talk about how there used to be a time when women and girls weren’t allowed to go to school or work. I can introduce her to all sorts of different activities and interests, talk about different jobs that are out there, but at the end of the day, I must follow her in where her interests lay. I understand that women of our history fought hard for the rights we have today and I am all for it. But sometimes I think we try so hard to defy stereotypes and fight gender roles that we forget another side. What are we saying to the stay at home moms? What are we saying to the women who are employed by still, female dominated roles? What are we saying to women who really truly love being at home, doing laundry and cooking? To the women who are self proclaimed "girly girls?" Just because we value one side doesn't mean it negates the other or devalues the other. Sometimes though, I think that happens. I hope to balance those two sides out for Sophia so that she can make the best decision for herself.

And again, another great message I would love for Sophia to learn

But most of all, I want her to go after her dreams. Whether that is to be a stay at home mom or a CEO of a big company- she has to do what makes her happy. My biggest role is her cheerleader and to support her in wherever her dreams may take her.

Even Princesses can play Candyland!

And read books! 

And Tinker Bell can color, too! (Granted, it's a Princess riding on a pink horse, but hey)