No disrespect to what the author is trying to do here, in fact it seems great, but I have become very sensitive to the anti-Barbie, anti-Disney message that so many parents I know seem to echo. I know more than one parent who has been shocked to find out their little girl likes to dress up in pink and play with My Little Pony because they were hoping to avoid that kind of stereotypical girl stuff.
I fell into that camp until I read Whipping Girl by Julia Serano. Whipping Girl is hardly a book about how Barbie is great, but it is a book about how we’ve decided that femininity is a bad thing as a society, and that our idea of empowering girls is often telling them to be more like boys. Obviously Barbie provides a problematic caricature of what femininity is really about, but we also can’t start four-year-olds on academic texts. I think that if little girls (and little boys) are going to discover that femininity isn’t just about pink dresses and unrealistic body shapes, then they are going to have to do that by going through their culture, not around it.
Every little girl I know right now is obsessed with Frozen. I’m enthusiastically playing along with Frozen games and singing Frozen songs with them, because I’m pretty sure the best thing I can do for them is show them that I care about what they care about, and I have confidence in their decisions about themselves. Hopefully that makes them more confident to become whatever they want to become whether that’s anarchist punk-rock polyandrists or 50-year-old Barbie collectors.
I think if you want a non-Barbie non-Disney storyline, collections of folk stories are nice, because they don’t just take the Hollywood rules and turn them on their head, they have really different story lines altogether, about women who are super strong and haul around oxen and and all sorts of possibilities besides just Marry a Prince or Don’t Marry a Prince.
This one, Tatterhood, is one a friend recommended to us when my daughter was about 8 and it was just amazing. We loved all the stories.
I totally agree. As new parents of a daughter, we instantly cringe when people buy her pink clothes, pink dolls, etc etc. But we’ve been trying not to do that, or at least recognize it in ourselves, once we realized how we wouldn’t be cringing if someone gave our baby boy blue clothes.
I think it’s a very valid point that it’s ok for girls to like pink princesses, and that trying to steer little girls away from pinkness and princesses is itself sexist.
However, I think most people would agree that what they want to fight is the stereotypical helpless princess. The one that needs to prince to save him. And fighting all the other similar garbage – the “Math is Hard” Barbies, etc. And while that does often turn into a dislike for all things overtly feminine, I think that’s still a battle worth fighting if you recognize the distinction.
Here, I think the distinction is clear. It is a pink princess. And yet she’s awesome and saving herself. (Supposedly - I haven’t read the book.) So you can have your femininity and your empowerment too.
Another good one is “The Paper Bag Princess” by Robert Munsch. One of my daughter’s (and my) favourites.
Princeless is a similar idea in comic/GN form.
But she’s still a princess, which normalizes and reinforces existing oligarchic power structures. Even Cinderella couldn’t get none until her fairy godmother spent a lot of money on gowns and shoes and got her on the exclusive guest list for the party.
In the same way that any fairy tale does.
Or do you think Goldilocks is literally about three bears and a girl felon?
Goldilocks is about the human tendency, personified by a pretty blonde white naïf — with all the privilege that signifies — to thoughtlessly and wastefully expropriate animal habitats.
Surely the sort of generous interpretation which you deserve in kind?
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