Sunday, July 14, 2013

My Take On The Princess Situation

I've grown up watching Disney movies all of my life. Even as an adult, I LOVE Disney. Just today at my cousin's grad party I was singing songs from various Disney movies with a friend!

And, as my the majority of my formative years were literally a combination of Tangled and Cinderella combined, I can relate. Princess movies were an awesome escape for me.

For a good while now, I've noticed a lot of Facebook posts and blog articles about the potential harm Disney Princesses can cause little girls. Unrealistic expectations, rebellion towards parents, you have to be beautiful to be important, wanting to enter relationships too soon, thinking you need to be dependent on a man... etc. And I can totally understand that point of view.

Girls in our society are obsessed with image and the idea of relationships. In raising a daughter, I realize the importance of building up character and encouraging the intelligence and strength in our daughters, not just their beauty and marriageability.

This awesome post, How To Talk To Little Girls touches all those points. When we talk to little girls, we usually always comment on their looks, not so much their personality. And that isn't a good thing to start putting in their innocent little minds too early. I absolutely believe that. However, I also believe little girls should grow up confidently in their bodies and knowing that they ARE beautiful. We should build them up and remind them that they are beautiful daily. We already do that with our nine month old. I also want to build up her amazing genius, and her warrior strength. Fully rounded confidence in every aspect of her being.

For me, growing up with an emotionally and verbally abusive parent, I had all of those above issues. And not because of Disney Princesses.

I was constantly knocked down about my looks, put on diets by age nine, called fat and ugly. I was a size 6 most of my teen life. I had an hourglass figure. I was not fat or ugly.

But I believed I was. I saw the magazines telling you how to lose those pounds, get a flatter tummy and a fuller butt, how to catch your man and the sex moves to keep him.  I watched the tv dramas and chick flicks about the awesome guy who came to the heroine's rescue. I watched the talk shows. Our society conditions us from a very young age, it isn't just a bunch of princesses.

There's a Facebook page I like, called A Mighty Girl. This page is all about empowering girls and encouraging their intelligence, bravery, and confidence. I really like most of what this page posts. More unisex toys, not all pink and princessy for girls and blue and sportsy for boys. And I love that!

But, it is okay for a little girl to play pretend as princess too. I think as parents we need to remember not to lean so far to one side of things that the other side is absolutely not allowed or neglected, balance is needed, like with most things in life.

I adored the Disney Princesses, and still do. I grew up pretending to be a princess. I also pretended to be a gypsy, a mermaid, an orphan, a warrior, a sword-wielding elf, a witch, a world-renowned pianist... and many more things. The issues I had with my weight, my looks, boys... were because of my upbringing, and the way our society runs. Not because of Disney movies.

And despite my crappy childhood, while I on occasion had unrealistic expectations of men... who doesn't?  It happens to everyone, even married grown women. Women are built differently than men, we think differently, act differently... it's okay. We're wired that way to better work together. We internalize and overthink, and men generally are pretty upfront and straightforward with their thoughts. It's okay to own your femininity or masculinity. You don't need to be a gender neutral being. Your likes and preferences, whether it be princess or soldier... have nothing to do with your gender.  You can encourage femininity or masculinity without going overboard. Girls can play with matchbox cars (totally did) and boys can have tea parties.

Our society conditions kids growing up. Whether we like it or not. How you raise your children can challenge it though. If you encourage and build, Disney Princesses or Transformers won't matter. It's the rest of the world that they're seeing. Disney movies aren't realistic, and your kids can grow up enjoying them and understanding that life doesn't turn out that way. Moms with an unhealthy body image will do more harm to their daughter than a Disney movie. Teaching them it's okay to call yourself fat or point out flaws will hurt their esteem, not Aurora's flowing locks.

On the other side of the spectrum, look at what Disney movies can teach. Mulan shows us how bravery and breaking social norms can do great things. Merida from Brave shows us it's okay to stand up for what you want, even to your parents. The Little Mermaid shows us that hiding things from your parents... going behind their back doesn't just hurt you, but really hurts them too. Cinderella teaches us that even in morose circumstances, you can still be happy and have friends. A Bug's Life... come on, I don't even need to say all that movie can teach. Totally awesome. Beauty and the Beast.... books are awesome and you DON'T need to marry the town hottie... someone unexpected and unorthodox might come your way. Give them a chance, and they'll be great friends and even maybe steal your heart.

Kids definitely don't need to be tied to gender-specific roles, movies, or toys. But it IS okay to encourage them to be who they are. Balance guys.... it's all about balance... and the example you set too.

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