Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Disney to Parents: Girls Should Be Praise-Addicted Gold-Diggers!

Does anyone else want to ::barf:: with all this princess mentality going on? Sure, it's cute to watch little girls get dressed up and act all pristine. Well, sometimes it's cute. But is it good for them? And is it good for male-female relationships?

A lot of parents want to raise their girl to have high self-esteem. They erroneously equate this with encouraging her to think she is a beautiful (and entitled) princess. Why is that a bad thing? Well, first and foremost, it turns her into a praise junkie. She becomes addicted to praise and needy of constant approval and attention. That does not promote esteem. Rather, it just sets her up for disappointment and failure.

Second, princess culture teaches girls that the road to happiness is through acquiring "things". Talk about gold-diggers in training! Take, for example, the board game Pretty Pretty Princess. Here's a review from Amazon:
There's a charming simplicity in this game for little ones who dream of being a princess. Players move their pieces around the game board collecting plastic costume jewelry, such as rings, earrings, necklaces, and bracelets. The winner of the game is the one who collects the crown and all the jewels that match their playing color. That player is the princess who now turns over the spinner to reveal a mirror into which she can gaze at her royal self. Game play includes the dreaded black ring, which no one wants but someone might get. Sticky jewels are included to decorate the jewelry box and the crown. For young children with royal fantasies, Pretty Pretty Princess is pretty pretty good.
Ugh. More like pretty pretty shallow! The object of the game is to acquire jewelry. According to the product description, "the first one to get a full set of princess jewelry and the crown wins." This isn't just promoting shallow consumer ideology. It's also promoting competition among girls to see who has the most stuff. I'm all for competition in business, sports, and academics. But competition based on who has the most jewelry is another story.

Take a look at adult women. A lot of them compete with other women on this basis. I know this because other women try to sucker me into it! They want to brag about who got the most expensive gift for Valentine's Day, or who has the biggest diamond ring. If you're the kind of woman who isn't into that stuff, they'll say, "Well, I guess your man doesn't love you as much as my man loves me." (Yeah. And your man just slipped me his phone number.) This competition of whose-man-spends-the-most-money-on-me is just an extension of princess culture. Who is the most spoiled princess of them all?

Which brings me to my third point: where there's a princess, there's always a prince. Isn't there? Boys are not raised to be princes. But girls are raised to think that they should be. Does anyone else not see how this is causing gender wars? Boys want to have fun (as do many anti-princess girls). Sure, the boys may grow up to think all these princess-wannabes are hot. But they're not going to want to be her constant praise-giver. They're not going to want to spend time with someone who doesn't do anything. And they're definitely not going to want to spend three months salary on a diamond (let alone a blood diamond) for someone who thinks life is a fashion show.

Very often in princess culture, the theme is marriage. Or more precisely, the wedding. It is never too soon to start dreaming about it. What could be a more perfect setting for a princess? Her highness, in a flowing white ball gown, wearing an enormous diamond ring. She looks so beautiful that all stand and turn to admire the goddess in white. Her prince is waiting at the alter, his breath taken away by the beauty that is before him.

Okay, let's cut the crap. I almost ::barfed:: again just writing that.

What kind of life is this fairy tale wedding leading up to? Certainly the expectation is to continue the fantasy. A princess-wannabe does not have realistic expectations of men and marriage. She thinks her husband should put her on a pedestal and adore her every second of the day. After all, she is the princess! She deserves it! Damn it, she's entitled to it! Any man who thinks otherwise is not the prince she always dreamed of. And she's been dreaming of him ever since she was a little girl.

The way it is now, a woman is taught to love the idea of marriage. It is the one thing she always dreamed of; the one thing that will make her happy. A diamond is her best friend, and her wedding is the happiest day of her life. Where exactly does the guy fit into all of this? Is he just the provider of all things princess? With all these unrealistic expectations, it's easy to see why there is such a high divorce rate (and perhaps such a high marriage rate, too).

Here's a thought: how about encouraging a girl to develop herself as a person, rather than as a princess. Let's not feed her illusions of fairy tale weddings until she is old enough to understand, at least a little, what a marriage really is. If she can accept herself as a person-- that is, a human with both talents and flaws-- perhaps she will find someone with whom she can share her happiness with. Confidence is appealing; expecting someone else to make you happy is not.

I am not an anti-marriage feminist. I'm actually engaged to my boyfriend of over four years. I'm not the princess. I don't have a diamond. And I won't have a fairy tale wedding. But what I do have is something I suspect a princess could only dream of. I have someone who loves me for the person I am. I have someone to go to Cubs games with, to go camping with, and to write music with. I have someone with whom I can discuss politics and share ideas. I am "spoiled" with dignity, not gifts. My partner does not put me on a pedestal. That is fine by me, because I surely would fall off sooner or later.

UPDATE 2/24: I can see how my anti-princess attitude can come across as being misogynist. That is not my intent. My intent is to hold women accountable for their own destiny, which, in my opinion, is women's rights in action! We're not going to get anywhere, ladies, unless we give up the pedestal. Sure, it can bring us short-term gain. But in the long-run, it will only hurt us.

Of course, we are all individuals and do not have to all behave in the same manner. I'm just trying to bring a different perspective to the table. Your choices are yours-- not mine.

Comments:
All this time, I thought it was just me. To hear a self-described feminist tell it as it is makes me optimistic for the future.

My high school experience in the late '80s was marred by local "pricesses". I eventually found an independant "punkrock girl" and we later married. The joke was on me when no sooner than we started our cohabitational journey, she revealed the praise-addicted, codependant, princess within.

Long story short: after fourteen years of hell, I'm now happily diforced with the uncontested legal/physical custody of my three kids. The youngest of which is a little girl, not a faux princess.
 
It's hard to escape the princess thing too, if you're a girl. Being a princess is what most female roles are about--being pretty, being desired, being fought over, being hard to please. There's a straight line from Cinderella to The Rules.

The only girls who escape are the ones who just can't do princess, or won't. And they spend a lot of time not liking themselves, usually, for not being good at it.

When I was little, princess was all there was, if you wanted to dream about being powerful and In Charge. Which is something all kids dream about. I have more hope now that there's Buffy characters out there for girls to try for. But even Buffy has too much princess in her for me.
 
While we're discussing princesses, I thought I'd bring up an example from my own hometown, the Azalea Trail Maids (which has Southern belles rather than princesses, but not much different really)

So here's a couple of pictures and an excerpt:
http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.pammiddleton.net/DcImages/m_local_pagestack1_000.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.pammiddleton.net/m_local.asp&h=181&w=275&sz=28&tbnid=456eYVXiROUJ:&tbnh=71&tbnw=108&start=17&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dazalea%2Btrail%2Bmaids%26hl%3Den%26lr%3D%26client%3Dfirefox-a%26rls%3Dorg.mozilla:en-US:official%26sa%3DN
http://www.siteone.com/redcross/newsreleases/2002vol-2.jpg
Excerpt:
...
WHEREAS, Azalea Trail Maids travel throughout the United States, laden with azaleas and boundless smiles, spreading their joy and priceless Southern charm in a glorious pastel rainbow of color; now therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE LEGISLATURE OF ALABAMA, That we extend each of these goodwill ambassadors our heartiest congratulations and direct that each receive a copy of this resolution as a token of our esteem.

p
 
Ugh...I HATE the "princess mentality" that's pushed by Disney and Hollywood. Girls don't need shiny objects like diamonds that were mined by enslaved children in Africa under threat of being killed, to validate their (the girls') existence.

And believing that some Prince Charming will come along and make everything all hunkie-dorie in your life is stupid. I hope it's just a fad because if I see another fucking 'princessy' Hiliary Duff movie I'll rip my eyes out to divert the pain.
 
it's so much better than it used to be though. My teenaged daughters are full of contempt for the whole princess thing and none of their friends are into it either. There are plenty of adolescent girls out there now whose fantasy is to be the hero rather than someone needing to be rescued. My girls don't wear pink, are into science and sports and would have to be cajoled into wearing dresses (if we were so inclined - which we're not).

that said, at 5 my oldest wanted to ONLY wear dresses - the frillier the better. At 15 she's more into her aikido gi than a dress. I think there are plenty of roles for girls these days and while we're seeing a scary backlash there's still more forward movement.

Depends a lot on where one is in the country I think - 40 something feminist mom of 3
 
Hm. Am I a princess when I say, "my man loves me more than your man loves you, because my man sang Pillsbury Doughboy songs to me all Valentine's Day evening?" I guess I need to know, first, what your guy sang for you. :)

You'd think that seeing abandoned 40/50-something princesses who now have to start a career and whose husbands have left for younger princesses would warn girls off that route. Ending up like that sure scares the hell out of me.

One of my best girlfriends and I compare our ring collections. We've gathered the same number over the years, but she is surely the winner because hers are worth a lot more than mine are, and 2/3 came with a marriage proposal. I don't think this is princessy, though - we're just bitter because all the men attached to those rings either turned out to be scum or just plain left us. But it's nice to have the jewellery. :)

They need a game for little boys, where you go around trying to fill your pimp ride with all the bitches and "ho"s on the game board. Without an equivalent stupid game, they'll just be Sad, Sad Boys.
 
This is just symptomatic of a bigger problem, which is the self-esteem culture we have built. Everyone, male or female, should be put on a pedestal. Everyone is special. Johnny and Jane are unique, exceptional individuals, even though they have never done anything above average. Blech. And it is causing major problems. You should see these kids entering the military and civilian workplaces. They have no idea how to handle it at all.

The princess thing (I have a two year old daughter and I'm already dealing with it) is really revolting. It is nothing more than a 180 degree reversal of the gender role of women. This is not a good thing for women at all. Being put on a pedestal is no better than being kept in the kitchen. Either way you are relegated to a gender role that you must fulfill that does not allow you the opportunity to be an equal member of society.

The goal (for me anyhow) is that each and every man and woman have equal opportunity. They won't be equal, no two humans ever are, but they can be equal before the law and have the same opportunity to achieve, live and explore. In my opinion that makes me a feminist :-). This princess thing no more accomplishes that than the expectation of marriage, children and homemaking did. Maybe someone needs to write an Orwellian "betrayed revolution" novel (like Animal Farm) about this.
 
Sweet.

If girls don't need to be princesses then guys don't need to be princes either. Bring on the bitches and hos! May the leering and belching and scratching begin!
 
Wow, lots of different perspectives here. I like that! Everyone has made some good points.

I think I'm most disappointed that the punkrock girl turned out to be a princess. :(
 
"The goal (for me anyhow) is that each and every man and woman have equal opportunity. They won't be equal, no two humans ever are, but they can be equal before the law and have the same opportunity to achieve, live and explore. In my opinion that makes me a feminist :-)."

Yes, I think it does.
 
"The only girls who escape are the ones who just can't do princess, or won't. And they spend a lot of time not liking themselves, usually, for not being good at it."

That was hard for me to get over, too. I did princess for a while, but found it unfulfilling and, uh, lame. I may feel unglamorous sometimes because I don't run around half-naked anymore. But just remember that the ones who have to flaunt it are the ones who are really insecure.
 
One more thought. The "pricess" motif seems to start with the external, and the "personality" emerges to fill the mold. Unless I'm way off base, healthy feminism is NOT served by this.

True equality will be realized when the ladies demand to be judged on merit and character, instead of a phony mating ritual based upon dainty and pretty.

Beauty is fine as far as it goes, but is relative; in my estimation, intelligence, confidence and intelligece are priceless.
 
Robert, I'd say your comment is dead on.

"True equality will be realized when the ladies demand to be judged on merit and character, instead of a phony mating ritual based upon dainty and pretty."

I hope someday soon this will be a reality. :)
 
I think that "self-confidence" is a very important trait in any individual, and certainly young women need to develop it as much as young men.

I agree with you that this silly game, and much of current culture's focus on "feeling good", give people a false "self-confidence." This kind of self-confidences, lacking robustness, is easily shattered because it isn't based on real accomplishments.

As an example of this false confidence, I could point to any number of rejected contestants (male and female) on American Idol. And yes I am embarrassed to mention that show, but the point stands. A false self-confidence isn't self-reflective, a truly confident person is. The best confidence comes from "achievement" and not "entitlement".

Just my thoughts.
 
Yes, that's a good point, Christian Johnson. Both boys and girls are praise-junkies these days, and it's not doing them any good.

Although my post focused on princess culture in particular, you can use the same line of reasoning to evaluate any unearned praise or false sense of entitlement that children are given.
 
You know who needs to hear the "no-princesses" message the most - dads. From my experience, the girls who play the princess role almost always come from a family where the girl was exactly that in daddy's eyes.

She had him wrapped around her finger - she blanketed him with love, and he did and said whatever made her happy so it would continue. In itself, this isn't really a big deal. But if Princess is getting up to around 11 or 12 and Dad's not explaining that she's only Princess at home and that the world has its own system for figuring out who gets to be princess, things are going to turn bad.

I had a little test for girls I dated in college. When we'd go somewhere as a group in someone else's car, I'd yell shotgun first. If the girl was a princess, she would invariably ignore the word shotgun and head for the front seat. I'd get there first and say, "There's only two ways you end up in the front seat of this car - if you say shotgun before I do or you own it." I wasn't trying to be rude - I just don't like wasting time. If the girl went for backseat automatically, I'd give her the front anyway. After all, I'm a gentleman. Just a wily one.

BTW - I've been all over this appearances thing lately on my blog. Check out:
http://www.enlightenedcaveman.com/2005/02/appearance-delta-and-gimmick-theory.html

Good stuff, Red.

EC
 
Ditto! I hate Disney princess. Besides the provocative outfits and submissive natures of the characters, that whole "my life isn't complete until someone marries me" is so awful. IN all of these stories the prince adores the princess, even if he only meets her for a few minutes, she doesn't talk, or is sleeping, because she is pretty. Well, hopefully she never gets old and/or ugly because then it is just over!
 
I'm not a praise-junkie and I've always been into the princess thing. I admit I'm arrogant, but I don't even expect people to talk to me half the time. If you blame Disney for your daughter being a spoiled brat with low self-esteem, well, then you're just in denial of your parenting skills. I don't think there's anything wrong with raising a child like a Disney Princess. Disney Princesses are kind to all creatures, sing beautifully, and are strong and determined. They think for themselves and go against others' will, showing independence. Many of them dream of venturing into the unknown or what's considered strange to their world. That is a great concept considering most people are scared of what's different from them. Princesses such as Belle and Pocahontas promote having an open mind and an open heart. You can't really expect an intelligent person to take this article seriously when you argue with barfing gestures.
 
Girls how think think there princess are shallow and self-centered.
 
Remember the definition:
Misogynist - someone who thinks women are rational, intelligent human beings and expects them to act that way.
 
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