This blog was originally written for and posted on my friend Kate’s site. As I am currently drafting a handful of other posts and guest blogs, I thought I’d use it as a cover for my otherwise disappointing lack of new content…
I’m a self-identified feminist in that I believe women are equal to men, but each gender—and more importantly, each individual person regardless of gender—has innate value and distinct identifying characteristics.
That said, I am also a girly-girl and so is my daughter.
Eva loves lip-gloss, dresses, jewelry, and having her hair done. Thankfully, she also loves to run around outside, play with sticks, and dig in the dirt so I’m not too worried about her becoming too prissy, but there was a time when I was concerned about her love of princesses.
Eva started picking out princess toys, wanting to play dress up, and asking for my make-up almost as soon as she could speak. Maybe she was born loving princesses or maybe I let her watch Disney’s Sleeping Beauty too many times. (It has a GREAT soundtrack, ok!) As the Cinderella, Snow White, and Tiana toys began to accumulate, I stared at our toy box and wondered,
“Do I really want my daughter growing up believing that marriage is the answer to her problems?”
Isn’t that what most modern women think of fairytales: just a beautiful woman waiting on a man to save her from a life of misery? I certainly thought so, especially after growing up in a very Protestant, very Southern community. I was taught marriage and eventual motherhood are a woman’s highest calling, so as an adult I viewed fairytales and princesses as prime enablers of that stereotype.
But in fairness to my daughter’s preferences, I gave the animated ladies a second look. I found that when you step past their unrealistic body dimensions, pretty faces, and the inevitable crown in the final sequence, you find women who share one rare and precious character trait: integrity.
Cinderella and Snow White both remained sweet, loving, and caring despite years of abuse and enforced servitude.
Ariel knew that humans and their culture were her passion, not just a passing fancy.
Mulan may not technically be a princess, but she cared for her family and her country over her own life.
Jasmine probably had the most overt stance in that she wasn’t going to marry a pompous narcissist, her voice and opinion mattered.
Tiana proved that hardwork mixed with commitment and love goes a really long way.
Rapunzel trusted her own intuition before she trusted Flynn Rider and found her way home.
Each princess had to show enormous amounts of integrity and commitment to their values to overcome their respective obstacles.
When you look at it that way, they really are beautiful.
The stories our daughters hear from our lips, from books, and from movies are the stories and the memories that will guide them when experience hasn’t yet led the way. I hope Eva learns from these stories and from my example that compassion, strong self-esteem, and resilience in the face of danger and disaster help a woman hold her head high. Especially considering when you ask her what she wants to be when she grows up, she answers,