Monday, March 31, 2014

Princess Culture

For this blog post I decided to write a personal reflection on what I think as well as connecting this piece to not only Unlearning the Myths that Blind us, but also class discussions I have had in other courses.

To begin with, princess culture has been one of my biggest concerns throughout motherhood. Growing up I wasn’t exposed to as much princess culture as I see my daughter exposed to now, partly because I grew up in another country.  When I was growing up, I grew up playing outside with my cousins, helping my mother cook, clean etc and watching cartoons. Thinking back on my childhood, I remember playing with dolls, however the dolls I grew up with are nothing like Barbie Dolls, American Girl Dolls etc. These dolls are what I remember growing up with, very different than the dolls that girls here in the US played with right?
 When I moved here to the US I was my daughters age, 6, and remember learning about Cinderella. I eventually stopped playing with dolls I was used to and began to play with Barbie Dolls, Princess Dolls and began demanding to be dressed in super girly clothes. I soon became infatuated with Cinderella and wanted to be just like her! Its funny how fast I forgot about my wash rag dolls and because fascinated with Cinderella. 

Now as a mother of a little girl, I've been faced with the challenge of learning how damaging princess culture can be to young girls and deciding what I can do to protect my daughter from the damage of Disney Princess' while still allowing her to enjoy these imaginary fairy tales that are so popular in our society. Peggy Orestein begins this chapter by telling us that she avoided telling her daughter the story of Snow White because of what she stood for, yet she finds her daughter reenacting the role of Snow White. This made me instantly think back to the reading Unlearning the Myths that Blind Us where some of the girls demonstrated how tough it was to dissect these princess stories and realize what they really stand for. In this case, it was Peggy, Daisy's mom keeping her daughter away from these stories. 

One of the part of the reading that really stood out for me was Mooney's quote on page 16 where he argues that both boys and girls go though Princess and Power Ranger phases and this actually helps girls expand their imagination and end up becoming lawyers, doctors etc. If this is the case, why isn't there a Disney princess that is a doctor? Why is the role of a doctor always a male role in stories, movies etc.? 

Later on in the reading Orestein discusses the limitation of being a boy and being a girl. I was very impressed she included this in a book about Princess Culture because I have not heard it being discusses simultaneously. I agree with Orestein that boys are in a sense more limited than girls because although girls are taught femininity, beauty etc there is not really much that girls can't play with that boys can. I like the examples Orestein uses in her chapter about a father buying his daughter a set of Hot Wheels but being devastated if his son asked for a tutu. My daughter and nephew are very close in age and since they're both only children, they spend lots of time together. My nephew and daughter have come up with this system of play in which my daughter will play what ever my nephew wants to play whether it be cars, building stuff even wrestling for a while and then it is my daughters turn to choose what to play. My nephew then plays dolls, dress up, tea party absolutely anything my daughter has chosen without complaining that it is too "girly". I find that in today's society, we are infatuated with making sure girls are feminine and boys are masculine and if either one steps a little out of their box we must push them back into what they are "biologically" supposed to be; it is either black or white, there is no gray area and that just simply is not true. We see this separation in toy stores, day care center, schools even places like the toy section at your local pharmacy. We should not be telling our kids what toys are appropriate to be played with if you're a boy or a girl, it just isn't right. 

The point Orenstein argues about parents encouraging this princess play/culture really made me think of my own experience as a mother. Orenstein argues that parents like this Disney play because it makes parents relive their childhood and I must admit I am completely guilty of this. My daughter has had princess parties, princess costumes, princess accesories etc and I've found myself loving the entire experience because now I have my own life size doll to dress up and play with (please don't judge me, its awfull I know). For those few moments while playing dress up with my daughter I think of how I felt at her age. Before taking these Gender Studies courses I never thought of the underlying message these Princess' delivered to me and are delivering to my daughter and I know most people, like Orenstein would opt to avoid princess' at all cost but it is nearly impossible nor do I want to take my own childhood memories away from my daughter, so all I can do is plan to educate my little girl as time goes on.  

While on the topic of moms playing dress up with their daughter, check out these pictures of a girl dressed in princess costumes her mom hand made her. Her father is a photographer and took these photos of her at the Disney park.