As for early sexualisation, I don't recall seeing any particularly skanky Disney outfits (not that I've investigated them too closely - I think they're shoddily made and don't like the sweatshop aspect). Kids I've seen wearing Disney dresses just look like kids... no padded bras or anything like that... and the one Ariel outfit I've seen had a full top with flesh-coloured fabric, instead of just the clam-shell bra. The only other Disney clothes that spring to mind are T-shirts, and again, the ones I've seen for kids have just been regular T-shirts, no tighter or shorter or otherwise more salacious than usual.
That reminds me of a friend with three daughters... She was telling me how much she loved buying clothes for her daughters at the Disney store because they were modestly cut. She had been having trouble finding appropriate clothes that weren't tight and didn't have their bellies hanging out or such (this was maybe 6-8 years ago).
I haven't read through everything so I apologize if its been mentioned already. BUT I just finished the book Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy orenstein (I think that's her name and I may have the spelling wrong, sorry). It covers this topic pretty well.
Personally, I think its pretty normal for girls to fantacize about being a princess and wearing beautiful flowing clothes and having everyone love her, esp the handsome prince. That said, as long as there are more things going on like crafts, other imagination play, being outside etc, I wouldn't worry too much. Yes, as a culture we really do put way way way too much emphasis on how women look and unfortunately it does start way too young. But I think as parents its our job to make sure that it is balanced out, not completely cut out. And if my 5yo DD came to me and said she wasn't pretty cuz she wasn't wearing make up, we'd talk about it and I'd make sure to bring it up mildly but often in our daily chatter. Also, obsession with a certain toy or theme is pretty normal around this age, at least IME. For a few months it was My Little Pony. For awhile it was Mr Potato Head. Dolls were in there somewhere. Currently the big kick is stuffed animals. It comes and it goes.
I love dress up toys. I think they learn plenty from playing dress up. It's better than sitting on the couch watching Sponge Bob and eating a swiss cake roll.
When I was a preschooler, we played army nurse... army guys... machine guns and good guys/bad guys. I didn't join the service, i'm not a nurse, I don't own a machine gun, and I've never even seen anybody be arrested in real life.
As a grade schooler, I was obsessed with Owning a horse, and living like the Ingalls or the Waltons. None of that played out either.
So, my imaginary play had nothing to do with how I turned out as an adult.
Oh, I'd love to get into the women in science discussion, but won't... My dds (twins) are 5.5 and once they started attending a preschool at 4 princesses became interesting to them. I was momentarily appalled, but once I overcame the initial ick, I decided that it wasn't a big deal and if I didn't provide all-princess-all-the-time stuff, they really were pretty broad in their play and princesses were just part of it. And if I'm honest, there is a lot in the princess stories to be admired. We read lots and lots of traditional folk tales where the princesses are pretty tough and persistent characters. Even disney, in my mind, doesn't portray the princesses as total weakling simps (I have other problems with Disney, particularly the older ones where the bad guys have dark skin and large hooked noses and the good princesses are,um, not that way). But I don't think that kids at dds age take it as seriously as I do as an adult. Princesses are fantasy and real life is the role models they see every day -- me, my friends, their teachers, their pediatrician, their dentist, dh's female (engineer) co-workers,.... who are all smart, capable,...
And dds pretty much over princesses already. Right now they're in mostly a physical activity stage (a summer thing?) and pretend isn't a big part of their day. At least with my two, I don't think pretending to be princesses did permanent damage.
BTW -- I am now a SAHM late-in-life mom, Ph,D. chemist who has had an academic and industrial career.
I haven't read each reply, but this issue is one that we have faced. My almost teen dd loved dress up and princess regalia with a passion, and she esp. loved Disney. We were waldorf at the time, and I felt like a huge failure because my child wasn't supposed to "want' all of this commecial play material since we had kept her environment so pure. Unfortunately, my dd had no such conviction and loved all things disney and barbie!
What was great was that my dd would be outside in full princess gear, searching for frogs, toads, snakes, or up to her knees in mucky pond water "fishing". She, and most kids, are fully capable of holding more than one idea in their minds. Wanting to be a princess did not make her play one dimensional. BTW, she is now a full on animal lover looking for a way to have a career with large animals!
We loved the book Girls Who Looked Under Rocks (Jeannine Atkins) for a read aloud about women scientists as young girls.
This is dd1. DH and my in-laws are pretty into Disney, so I've just accepted that some of the Disney stuff is going to be here in our home. DD1 has had a couple of Disney dresses (a Belle one, and another that was just a fleecy dress with a hood, with three princesses on it - quite discreet, actually)...and I love seeing her outside, on the sidewalk, wearing a Belle dress, and digging for worms. She doesn't want to be a princess when she grows up. She wants to be an arachnologist. Our neighbours think she'll be the next David Suzuki. I don't worry that much about the princess stuff.
Oh - and ds2 has also worn her Belle dress at playtime. It's been a couple of years, though. He liked to play princess sometimes, just as he sometimes played dd1 (he and dd1 would wear each other's clothes, and respond to each other's names for a while, then change back) or "mama". I'm okay with that, too.
Lisa, lucky mama of Kelly (3/93) , Emma (5/03) , Evan (7/05) , & Jenna (6/09)
Loving my amazing dh, James & forever missing Aaron Ambrose (11/07)
I haven't read the whole thread, but I agree with OP, I also dislike the princess idea. I quote from the only princess book we have (a gift from grandma):
Ariel says: When will my dreams come true?
Jasmine says: I dreamed I was on a flying carpet
Aurora says: I look pretty in pink.
It seems to me princesses (as they are portrayed in movies) are just sitting around passively admiring themselves. Honestly, I prefer Barbie.
This is just my opinion, and in no way am I criticizing people who choose to buy / encourage / allow princess stuff and play. My dd is only 22 mo old, and right now she is content playing with her brother's cars, but in case she decides she wants to be a princess, I'll go with the flow. Oh, and I really want to take both kids to Disney for ds's 8th birthday. So I'm not against Disney stuff. But I can't help disliking the idea of "princess".
No flames, please. Just read this link light-heartedly.
“It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines.” - Marcia Angell, M.D., former NEJM Editor Private Parts are Private Property!
No flames, please. Just read this link light-heartedly.
I've seen that one before. I'll just comment that the Jasmine one was/is nothing less than the truth, for the vast majority of daughters of noble and royal families throughout history. I don't see Belle the way the caption writer sees her. And, Ariel fell in love, but I think the movie made it pretty clear that she was already head over heels in love with the whole idea of life on land, before she even saw Prince What's-his-name.
Snow White was beautiful, but it had very little substance, and the same for Sleeping Beauty.
Lisa, lucky mama of Kelly (3/93) , Emma (5/03) , Evan (7/05) , & Jenna (6/09)
Loving my amazing dh, James & forever missing Aaron Ambrose (11/07)
Flames? No. Critique, yes. I've seen a similar captioned-princess thing before; this one isn't quite as bad, but it still doesn't really engage with the texts of the films. Ariel was a brat, granted; but as Storm Bride pointed out, she wasn't just after Eric, she was after the chance to explore the world outside the sea. (What's the "I Want" song in The Little Mermaid? "Part of Your World". Pre-Eric. Eric gets the reprise, indicating that he's now part of the pre-existing fantasy, not the originator of it.)
And what's with the snark towards said prince? He fell in love with Ariel originally for her voice, and actually resisted falling in love with her in her human form because of loyalty to that brief encounter. The witch's spell thing was unfortunate, but it was hardly his fault... Disney's princes tend to be rather one-dimensional and bland, but I've always thought Eric was one of the better ones. (Side note: not that I'm a fan of any characters being one-dimensional and bland, artistically speaking, but at least it's a nice change to see the male romantic leads in that position! Modern Hollywood films are far more likely to have 1-D, bland female romantic leads and fleshed-out male characters. Just sayin'.)
The Cinderella thing paints her as a scheming social climber; she wasn't. She wanted to have a nice night out at the ball; she wasn't trying to seduce the prince in a calculated move to improve her station in life.
Jasmine... well, yeah, that's a fair message to take from that film, except that the film actually critiques that paradigm. Jasmine herself refuses to play ball with the "pick a prince" game, and the Sultan eventually realises that the whole thing is silly and allows her to marry an orphan from the streets. Not terribly realistic, but the only guys trying to marry her for her power are either evil (Jafar) or shallow and lame (the other princes, according to Jasmine). So it's hardly glamorising that tradition.
I don't get the Snow White quote either. Having a powerful woman try to kill you out of jealousy (yes, just one, because she was evil; not "women" plural) wouldn't just "seem" terrible... I'm pretty sure it would actually be terrible. And the prince's attraction to her actually happened before the murder attempt, and was witnessed by the evil Queen - in fact, it probably precipitated her plot - so, er, yeah. Snow White certainly lacked in street smarts, but she wasn't just a bimbo - remember, you know, the seven dwarves element of the story? She made herself useful in the world, and was doing quite nicely until the witch showed up.
Belle was one of the strongest characters in the Disney princess canon, so I don't even know what that one's on about. The film doesn't imply that the Beast fell in love with her for her looks; watch "Something There". Now, Stockholm Syndrome, there's an objection I can get behind; but Belle is not "all about appearances". That's just lazy criticism.
And Aurora's caption... huh? The prince fell in love with her when she was good and conscious. IIRC, he knew it was her in the tower, making the rather chaste kiss he gave her even more OK. So whatever the caption's implying just doesn't make sense. Also, she wasn't dead, just sleeping... you know, like in the title of the film.
I didn't really intend to end up as a Disney princess apologist, but snide "criticism" like this just gets my goat. There are plenty of legitimate things to complain about in Disney's films, but it should be honest criticism done by people who've actually watched the films and made an honest effort to... well, follow the plots, for one thing. This critic doesn't seem to have done that.
If decomposition persists please see your necromancer.
I'm one of the original mamas who said she has no prob with princess play. It's weird to me that this thread has become about the Disney trademarked version of princesses...as if that's the only kind of princess play that exists. That's a pretty limited way to look at it. I don't think Disney owns princess play or dress up for that matter. Disney certainly didn't invent fairy tales and doesn't have the last word on them. The kids I know do not act out Disney Movie scenarios. Disney has very little to do with their pretend play, and they are allowed to watch all those movies and many of them have. These are not kids that are shielded from media.
My DD has not seen the disney princess movies because DD refuses to watch movies of any kind (she's a very sensitive viewer). She still LOVES to get into a nice princess outfit and princess it up. And I have no issue with giving her a disney cinderella dress to support that play. PS she LOVES science and makes me read her a science text book every night before bed. And if she wanted to watch the whole disney cannon that would be ok with me. We might engage in some critical discussion but I wouldn't be invested in making sure she saw the story thru my lense.
So I guess I just want to comment that I think DRESS UP play whether it's princess or army or whatever is totally freaking fine (which I believe I have already said twice on this thread). And I think getting overly invested in whether or not Disney is ok sort of misses the point. Having said that I do appreciate the explanations of Disney princesses on this thread (both pro and con). I haven't seen many of these movies so it's helpful to hear a sort of run down of what the Disney princesses are about.
I won't deny that we should be concerned about messages about excess consumerism, self-image, gender stereotyping, and other issues that have been covered in this thread, but I lean toward letting my dc explore and enjoy their dress-up princess play. I'm confident that they get enough exposure to different messages from a variety of sources that they won't grow up with stunted intellects and limited social views. They read widely and watch different shows, not just mainstream media. In our own family and social circles, women are lawyers, engineers, corporate executives, SAHMs, television producers, the list goes on. They have strong real-life role models to balance out anything they come across in books and film.
DD is 15 y.o. When she was younger, she watched Disney princess movies and played dress-up princess. She still loves costume jewelry and when she has a sleepover, there is often a viewing of a Disney movie for nostalgia's sake (Mulan is a favourite).
We just got her report card, and she has a 93 in math and a 96 in science. She plans on a career in science - possibly bioengineering. She's also a drama major at an exclusive, entrance-by-audition-only performing arts high school (her last performance was in Lysistrata - a Greek comedy exploring women's roles and power). It's regularly listed as one of the best high schools in our area. So all that pretend play as a kid paid off.
In our family, at least, I'm not worried that a little dress-up play has had lasting harmful effects.
ETA: Smokering, I enjoyed your post summarizing the Disney princesses .
Luckily, I haven't encoutered this issue but I am reading the thread because I am so uncomfortable by it all. But I thought I would add, the CPSC has warned repeatedly about allowing children to play with cheap imported costume jewelry. They have gone so far as to say to throw it ALL away because it is so very frequently contaminated. FYI.
Our daughters are all princesses in our eyes. The problem with promoting this, is the fact that the fairy tale princess has to have/be rescued by a prince. That's why I am opposed to "Toddlers in Tiaras" and the unhealthy level of princess immersion for our future women.
I feel we should err of the side of caution, ("All things in moderation"), and find other ways to build girls' confidence than to offer up the empty promise of the word "princess"; find ways to help them build and recognize their own self-worth, in an effort to protect them from obsessing over their worth to others. That obsession leads to low self-esteem and feelings of "not good enough", "not normal", which puts their entire being at risk.
My niece has all the princess movies, and has visited Disney World many times. She has had many toy tiaras for "dress-up" and princess Halloween costumes, and a "real" tiara to wear as a junior bridesmaid. She has subsequently worn it at her 8th grade and high school graduation parties, and probably other occasions of which I am not aware. This year, she wore it to her 21st birthday celebration in a local restaurant. Harmless, you say?
Even though she has been successful in her chosen activities/sports in high school, travel team, and now in college, it somehow does not translate to good self-esteem and confidence in her personal relationships.
At 21, she's convinced she will be an "old maid". Whereas an unmarried man is a bachelor, a state touted as enviable by other men, a woman is "branded", by men and women alike, as an "old maid". The "have to get married or you're not normal" idea is still perpetuated in our society. She is obsessed with the fairy tale wedding; posting bridal gown photos on Facebook.
Because there is nothing happening towards that end, her already low self esteem has been reduced to a dangerously low level. The idea of "gotta have a man" becomes "gotta have any man". She is desperate to make a "prince" out of the lowest form of toad that exists: the manipulative, controlling, emotionally and, now, physically abusive, low-life user, even though her cousin is a glaring example of what happens to women when they marry this kind of man.
Past strides toward respect, equality for women, and the reduction of our "2nd class citizenship", are becoming undone. This is obvious in the willing participation of girls/women in the tasteless objectifying and degrading of themselves in the so-called "entertainment" industry. These girls/women seem totally lacking in self-respect and pride; nothing is considered to be beneath them; there is no notion of having "standards, of not "stooping to that level". Our girls, and boys, are bombarded with, and, influenced by this in our 24/7 pop culture world. Anything goes in the pursuit of fame and fortune, and of your "prince".
We're not into commenting on how beautiful she is when she's in a dress or wearing a tiara any more than when she's in her pyjamas covered in paint. She's beautiful all the time. I think her lack of interest is partially a result of our vigilance in not equating beauty/looks with praise/attention, way back to when people commented on her 'beauty' as a baby/toddler.
We've avoided 'gendered' toys also, and are part of a circle of homeschooling families who have similar approaches to parenting, consumerism, branded products, effusive comments on looks, etc.
We make efforts to show our kids books/movies with strong girl characters (current fave books: Igraine the Brave, Zita the Spacegirl, also George from the Famous Five)
And guess what? None of the girls are particularly into princesses. Not any more than aliens or witches, anyway.
That tells me that systemic cultural, social, consumer influences do contribute to girls latching onto an interest in princesses.
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