A Challenge to All the Hype Over Disney Princesses

blog_disney-princessesToday, I received a very pointed comment from a 16 year old about the Disney Princesses.  But before we get to that, let’s back up.

A while back, I used my blog to answer a mother’s blog post she entitled; “Are the Disney Princesses Sexualizing my Daughter?”

She wrote:

…There was a time when we tried to ban the princesses. It was a couple years ago and we were idealistic thinking that if we told everyone that we weren’t “doing” the princesses that they would stop giving her things with princesses on them. That did not work. And the ban seemed to deepen her interest. Funny how that works. We couldn’t really express why we were banning them. That would lead to more questions.

“Why can’t I have that Princess coloring book?”
“Because we don’t do Princesses?”
“Why don’t we do Princesses?”
“Because they promote the wrong image?”
“What’s an image?” “What’s promote?” “Why don’t we do Princesses?”
“Here’s the coloring book.”

That’s not how it would end. She wouldn’t get the coloring book. But eventually we gave in and she did start acquiring that stuff again. At some time we thought we could counteract the Princesses. We introduced her to Veggie Tales, Dora, Strawberry Shortcake, Care Bears, Hello Kitty (I will never understand why someone finds princesses better than Hello Kitty. She is the best. The. End.), and many other characters. Her desire was always for the Princesses.

Now she knows practically everything about them. What is starting to bother me is that she’s starting to emulate them. Wanting to be more like them. For a while when she would put on a nightgown with a stretchy neck, she’d pull it off one shoulder and walk around with her head tilted towards that shoulder. And look at us with batting eyes. I would promptly ask her to:

“Cover your shoulder, girls don’t dress like that.”
“So and so Princess does.”
“You’re not So and so Princess.”

We could live with that because there ain’t no way she’s exiting the house while under my supervision with a shoulder bare like that (visualize me doing the three snap). Unless she’s got a part in some 80s theater production and has on a super baggy sweatshirt and some type of covering underneath.

BUT NOW!!! THE REASON I’M BABBLING ON!!! Just the other night, after her dance recital, she had a friend spend the night. They were getting ready for bed in the bathroom and this is what I heard:

Reagan: “Do you know who my boyfriend is?”
Friend: “Who?”
R: “E****. It used to be S****, and then P****, but now it’s E****.”
F: Crickets
R: “I’d so kiss him. I really would. I really would kiss him.”

WHAT!!??!!??!!?? Where is she getting this stuff from?!?!? It took a couple of days to process. It’s from the freaking Princess characters…

(Read more of this previous post)

My “answer” post began;

It can be difficult to cope when it seems that our children are blog_aladdingrowing up too soon. Parents often have a love-hate relationship with much of the media when it comes to their children. Especially their daughters. On the one hand you have the hypersexualization of women and girls in music videos, magazines, internet games and advertisements, and on the other hand you have the classics we all used to love—like Sesame Street and Disney. But as adults, even are old favorites sometimes get on our nerves. Yes, as parents, we have a new perspective.

I then went on to provide tips to help this parent as well as other parents challenge the stereotypes that frustrate them…(see same post as above)

Today I received a long comment from a teen about this post and why parental worry about princesses is oh, so wrong. Samantha…you have the floor:

Hello,

I would just like to try to get though to you mothers, who are so desperately against Disney princesses.

I don’t think you understand your daughters, and I am so extremely sick of hearing about how you know so much about children today. You are not five, nor am I but I am 16 and I pride myself on being the five year old with a voice. I still believe in the magic of disney, jst as a child does, but i have the other life experiece of growing up, I may not be an adult but I do understand where you are coming from. But i do not agree.

You see your approach to the “sexuality” of these princesses is completely conveluted! Do you really believe your daughter cares what size a princess is, she just wants to see her favorite princess fall in love and have all her dreams come true. The people at Disney are not trying to corrupt your children or make them think they have to be pretty to have it all. That is your job, YOU need to set the image for your daughter, let her believe she is beautiful.

You act as though The disney co. is TRYING to corrupt your daughters. The great imagineer Walt Disney once said “All cartoon characters and fables must be exaggeration, caricatures. It is the very nature of fantasy and fable.” The people at Disney know that these are fairytales, they, afterall, are an entertainment company, and they know what they are doing. They have the power to get your children to believe in the impossible, to believe that their dreams come true.

If you want your children to not have their head in the clouds, then you are setting them up for a pretty depressing life. If real life was worth watching, we wouldnt need movies. But its not, it kinda sucks, and taking away the one thing that convinces your children that maybe life doesnt suck, is horrible.

Think back to when you were a child, didn’t you believe that you could do anything. I would be surprised to say that when you were five or six you dreamed of living in the suburbs with your husband, or fighting for custody of your children. If you did, then god I am sorry, that had to suck.

But the message of the princesses is not to get your daughters to want to be skinny and want to kiss boys, its to show them that no matter what happens or what people try to do to stop you, you can achieve what ever your want, maybe for the princesses it was to be loved, but i highly doubt that your daughters are anazlying this as much as you are. And telling them that they cant watch it shows them that there is something exciting to be seen, you take it away they will want it more, simple as that.

You want to tell your five year old that the sun doesnt shine all the time, and that someone isnt going to love them forever or that their dreams may not come true be my guest, but when they are going through their teen years and the only “fairytale” that they can relate to is the one of how their father left you and his daughter, dont start complaining about how Disney gave them the wrong idea, you did, for telling them that hey this is what is probly going to happen to you so you better get used to it.

I am passionate about this, because Disney is what got me through the toughest times of my life, from loosing my cousin and a best friend during my freshman year of highschool, to my eighteen year old brother having a deadly heart condition, Disney gave me the one thing they try to give everyone, HOPE! And it got me through everything, the friggin HOPE that everything would be ok .

So I fight for these girls the ones who need help believeing that THEY ARE PRINCESSES. I am a warrior and I live for anyone who has ever dreamed of being a pirate. For every little girl who know’s shes a princess. For believers in tomorrowland, and for kids of neverland. And for those who still believe that anything can happen.

Oooh. I love a little conversation from a variety of different perspectives. Let’s discuss! What do YOU think???

Dr. Robyn Signature

Other posts about the Disney Princesses:

Pigtail Pals

Shaping Youth

Commercial Free Childhood

Facebook comments:

22 replies
  1. Mandy
    Mandy says:

    While I’m known for not letting my kids “do” spongbob, hannah montana and a variety of other trendy shows I have always let my girls (four of them) do the princess thing. I love disney. I was over the moon when they introduced Tiana, as two of my girls are Ethiopian. I did worry about the beauty/skinny thing, but I am sure to point out their strenths beyond the looks and the prince coming to save the day. Belle is smart and loves to read.
    Snow White is good with animals and is a very kind person.
    Sleeping Beauty sings and dances beautifully,
    Cinderella works hard at all she does.
    Mulan kicks butt.
    Pocahontas (though so off real history) is strong and knows her own mind, Tiana is independent.
    Jasmine is extremely smart and strong willed.
    All good things for girls :)
    Now that my kids have moved on from princesses, though Tink still is popular in our house, I kinda miss them!

  2. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    I completely agree with Samantha! I think that a lot of the time the parents sexualize it. The young kids would never pick up on those things. I would bet there are things on prime time that our kids see that would be much worse!
    I played with Barbies and loved princesses as a child and I do not feel that any of my body images come from them. They come from my step mother being a evil b*$&^ and telling me I was fat and that no one would love me!

  3. Holly
    Holly says:

    You go girl!!! I’ve been a cop for over 10 years, and am about to head off on a humanitarian trip to minister to the orphans of Ethiopia…but played with dolls until I was 13! I also love silly chick flicks I’ve seen over and over again. Just because I dreamed about being a mommy my whole life, a gush over romantic stories, doesn’t mean that was or is all I am about. I’m strong, confident and know who I am. True we need to watch what our girls take in, but I agree you should not censor their dreams or their imaginations. Let them be who God created them to be. Not who you want them to be.

  4. Susan Carney
    Susan Carney says:

    “She just wants to see her favorite princess fall in love and have all her dreams come true.” That is one of my primary problems with princesses. They teach girls that being pretty and finding their “prince” is the key to happiness and their prime purpose in life. Contrary to telling my five year old that her dreams won’t come true, I tell her that SHE will make her dreams come true, and no one else. I don’t want her waiting around for any prince. That is not taking away her hope. That is empowering her.

  5. Krista
    Krista says:

    So seriously sometimes the language can be bad with name calling from the villians, but really the princesses are harmless. Like most believe here, it is about these little girls putting on one of the dress up dresses and feeling pretty. What is wrong with that? First of all it sparks imagination. My daughter, in her very early years, had many developmental problems and did not have an imagination. When I brought home her first dress up dress and plastic high heel shoes she was born all over again. So what if she pretends to have boobs, one day she will. Why make her feel shamefull about it and not just explain that one day her body will change? Children are never too young to learn about life. Just make it understandable. My daughter looks nothing like the princesses but with her personality and confidence she is way more beautiful than any of them. I let her know it everyday!

  6. roo
    roo says:

    What a wise young woman! I don’t forbid princesses. In fact, when we talk princesses it’s usually dressing up in frilly stuff and playing with my shoes and jewelry. I don’t see anything wrong with this. Yes, let our little girls dream dreams and live in make believe. Real life will show up too soon as it is.

  7. Robyn W
    Robyn W says:

    Sorry, Sweetie, but you do not know it all at 16. And you do not get to parent my kids. I feel sorry that the only thing you have to get you through is the unrealistic and extremely limiting world of Disney princesses. I feel sorry that your view of life is so jaded that you assume that fathers are going to abandon their kids and that nasty custody battles will ensue. My life is pretty great. My daughter’s life is pretty great, and she has very limited exposure to Disney princesses. Contrary to popular belief, immersion in Disney is not a prerequisite to a happy life. Life really doesn’t suck for everyone, and I will do everything within my power to make sure it doesn’t suck for my kids. That means not allowing my daughter (or son) to be brainwashed by popular media that tells her that her value and worth lie in her appearance and her sexuality. That means opening up a whole world of opportunities to her that include far more than ball gowns, high heels, and singing rodents. That means banning negative body talk and fashion magazines. And yes, it means redirecting her from Disney, who I believe DOES intentionally paint women and girls into a corner by their limited portrayals of girls. When you gain a few years, and maybe some media literacy and critiquing skills, I hope you come to realize just how much all the princess media have affected the way you think about yourself. My daughter is deeply, passionately loved by her family. She doesn’t need to fantasize about it because she LIVES it. When you are a parent feel free to buy into the commercialized empire of Disney princesses and immerse your daughter in it. Until then, please refrain from criticizing those of us who actually ARE parents.

  8. pegsfriend
    pegsfriend says:

    Thanks Robyn W.

    “If real life was worth watching, we wouldnt need movies. But its not, it kinda sucks, ”

    That is one of the saddest sentences I’ve read in a LONG time. If this is what comes of the princesses, we will keep them FAR FAR away.

    Life IS beautiful AND it sucks sometimes. But the beauty is found in the black-eyed susan and the spider’s web and the clouded mountaintop. Not in the over-sexualized, underweight, midriff baring girls who do nothing but sit around and worry about how they look.

    We’ll find our beauty elsewhere.

  9. Melissa Wardy
    Melissa Wardy says:

    Dear Samantha,
    I’d like to address several issues with you, though it should be stated up front I had a difficult time following your illogical and rambling rant of a letter. Your flippant and angry tone took away value from your words.

    Although you fancy yourself a “warrior” for children and the “five year old with a voice”, I’d like to interrupt your diatribe of self-actualization to inject two pieces of advice to you, young lady.
    One — Don’t piss off Mama Bear.
    Two — Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

    Samantha, dear, your emotionally stunted letter made you sound, to me, like troubled young lady who lacks critical thinking skills and harbors some deep seated anger towards the mother-daughter relationship, men, and the idea that life can be unfair and a fantasy world should be created to avoid the “suck”.

    Your comments about Disney and their intentions towards our daughters and their imaginations is so naive and unassuming that it border ridiculous. Disney has strategically positioned their Princess Empire into a $4billion/yr revenue monster that has targeted your generation since birth. In fact, you are so deeply entrenched in it you can barely see the light of day. I’ll direct your attention to this excerpt from “Packaging Girlhood”: http://www.packaginggirlhood.com/excerpts.html#disney. I think this book would be an excellent read for you as you are clearly, desperately needing some big gulps of media literacy. The APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls would also be an important resource for you: http://www.apa.org/pi/women/programs/girls/report.aspx.

    Now then, let us address the attack you launch on all mothers, such as myself, who know so very little of the young children we are raising. Darling, back off. I made my children from scratch. With great physical sacrifice I brought them into this world and have spent every day since caring for their needs and wants, growing them into joyful and healthy children. I know their every breath, every story, every dream, every laugh, every bump, every bruise, every wild imagining that was not provide to us by a media conglomerate with an eye for cradle to grave marketing. I KNOW my children.

    As convoluted as it clearly is to you, I quantifiably know that a young girl (though not my daughter as she is not exposed to sexualized media) does very much indeed care about the body size of the characters she sees and toys she plays with. This might be news in Neverland, but here on Earth we are having a body image crisis among girls, now creeping down to girls as young as five, which is directly linked to the sexualization they are exposed to as young children. I find this heinous.

    My four year old daughter’s dreams seemingly exceed what you apparently feel she is capable of, as she gives very little thought to princesses kissing princes and living happily ever after. Just today she was explaining to us how she is going to be an oceanographer after college and travel to Egypt with her uncle to visit the Valley of the Kings and look for spooky ghosts. That doesn’t sound like a life void of imagination or hope to me. Does it to you?

    The part where you lost me in your letter was the mutterings of women being jilted and walked out upon by their husbands and living a “life of suck” in the suburbs. I think whatever anger lies in your backstory prevented you from getting those sentiments across clearly. Those statements are extremely judgemental, and sad to me, because where you invest your love you invest your life. I want you to know this, because it sounds like perhaps this has not been said to you before: Samantha, you deserve to be loved.

    As a girl, I dreamt for myself a life full of learning and adventure and travel and true blue friends and a family of my own. Without pixie dust or a genie’s lamp or fairy godmother I have achieved all of those things for myself. While you believe in the “magic of Disney”, I believe in the “magic of making your own fortune”. I believe in the “magic of family”, and I do not think being married to and deeply loved by a charming, handsome, and intelligent man while living in the suburbs as we raise our stable and beautiful family, enjoying the small pleasures of life has anything “sucky” about it.

    I STRONGLY believe in not selling my daughter short or devaluing her worth. She will not be sexualized. She will not be taught there is a fairy godmother waiting to wave the magic wand and make it better. My girl will be taught to put on her big girl pants and work it out for herself. She will be taught her beauty comes from the fire in her heart and her value comes from her thoughts and actions and compassion for others. She will never be told she is a princess, but she is told daily she is a beautiful and loving child with many special gifts.

    Samantha, in your letter you came across as a rude and ignorant sixteen year old girl who has had some bumps along the road and a lot of growing up to do. I caution you in being so wildly judgemental of others, specifically of mothers as you have not yet spent a day in our shoes. I suggest you find some powerful music or poetry or writings that speak to your soul and light a fire to the hope you spoke of earlier. Leave those stupid, limiting, binary princess for the children and move on into womanhood with stronger, more tangible, more vibrant and three dimensional women to admire.

    Good luck to you.
    Melissa.

  10. Scot Conway
    Scot Conway says:

    Dr. Robyn said that no one seems neutral on Disney Princesses! Of course, I suppose, there would be few neutral posts. Perhaps this will be one. It certainly will be a long post!

    There certainly is a lot of passing judgment here and there, whether it is the raw diatribe of a passionate teen or the more subtle but self-assured judgmental intellectualizations of a more seasoned adult, it is still a sort of “my position is the right one and those who disagree are .”

    A powerfully feminist acquaintance of mine ran into some interesting challenges. She was banning such things as princesses and Barbies, but her daughter wanted them anyway. Her 11 year old daughter explained “I know Barbie promotes an unrealistic body image and promotes sexualization of women and misogyny, but I want one anyway.” The conversation went on, mom said, with the daughter explaining that she thought feminism was about girls having options, not being shoved in particular directions by society, and that if mom was going to be consistent about girl power, why couldn’t she, the girl, choose Barbie? In short, mom got nailed by her own stated philosophy. The girl got the Barbie.

    I’ll give mom this: She was consistent. The girl got the message, and she could articulate it back to mom. She got her Barbie with the full understanding that no human being is supposed to look like Barbie. She also got a lot of respect for mom being consistent with the stated philosophy. The girl might have used her options in a way that baffled mom, but she exercised precisely the kind of power mom had been teaching her daughter to do.

    This brings me back to Disney princesses. I do not believe Disney is able to create the hearts of girls all over the world. Rather, I think what they do is market to the already ingrained ideals and fantasies that already exist in the hearts of girls all over the world. Something is already there. Business, like business does, exploits it by creating marketable things that touch the hearts of girls. It’s like blaming candy companies for getting people to like the taste of sweet. They do not create the desire for sweets; they exploit it.

    That said, there are problems with princesses. I see more problems with the “prince” characters where the boys are not exactly the best role models and are taught that they need to face danger and perform, that they have little intrinsic value, only performance value. Taught, that is, if I, dad, remain silent. I do not remain silent.

    My martial arts title is Soke (so-kay), and we do something we call The Soke Debrief. Short version: We talk about stuff we see. When “The Hangover” was so popular and “everyone” was seeing it, my wife and I decided to watch it. This was exactly the sort of thing our children might see at their friends’ house (we are often shocked at what our children see at their friends’ houses) and since there is a bio-dad custody issue in play, we have almost no control over a significant chunk of their lives. On one hand, the movie was a bit shocking, but it was also funny, and we saw an opportunity to frame it for our children, especially our two oldest who have not quite been found by the under-aged drinking local high school culture. So we watched it with the kids and paused it again and again to discuss issues.

    It ended up being a great primer for the dangers of drinking, for discussions about sex (more discussions – this was not our first talk on the subject), and using popular entertainment to frame issues for our children. Just in time, too, since our youngest was exposed to blatant pornography shortly after that by a friend, and our second oldest, we found, actually WAS being exposed to the under-aged drinking crowd at school.

    When a parent says something like “I know their every breath” it makes me shudder. I WISH I knew their every breath, their every thought, every opinion on every subject. I really do. It would make parenting so much easier. But, the fact of the matter is that I do not. I love my children. I talk to them. I listen (that’s the important part here). I have conversations with them. I might sometimes lay awake at night pondering how I might touch their hearts, how I might pierce their inner world. But the fact of the matter is that there are thoughts and feelings and interactions and desires and intentions about which I will know nothing. If I can find an easy metaphor to communicate with them, I am much better off than banning things that, ultimately, I have little control over and might make me seem rather silly among their friends – and thus make them less likely to communicate with me in those areas.

    I remember being a kid (my mother helps me remember me being a kid) and how much of my reality I hid from my parents. Kids learn early on that there are certain things to keep hidden from parents – and those things are often the things we parents most need to know to parent effectively. We try to draw the line on issues of fundamental right and wrong based mostly on other people getting hurt or things damaged and on responsibilities being fulfilled. On other things, we’re flexible.

    We want communication and conversation, and we want to understand the why behind things and we want our children to understand the principles at work in things. But we need to know as much of their inner world as we can access, and we look for ways to empower them rather than ban them. There are not always great options, and limits and sometimes bans are necessary, but we explain our thinking to our children and have open discussion.

    I use popular media to launch discussion. For princesses, it is not just talking about the character strengths and weaknesses of the characters as portrayed, I also talk about how what IS portrayed is a metaphor for other things. Every girl, at some level, seems to want to be captivating. In the movies where we need to get the idea that this girl is captivating, it is most often portrayed by the simple media artifice of superficial external beauty. But while beauty if portrayed by the outside image, the reality of beauty emanates from deep within – and the physical beauty of the princesses is as superficial a portrayal as achieving happiness ever after in two hours is superficially portraying relationships (and will continue to do so in chick flicks to come in later years). It leads into a discussion about real-life beauty, and the truth that mere external appearance is the most superficial version of it, but the only one that popular media can easily portray. But for a real woman, it is a sliver, and the neurotic pursuit of a body that is not healthy is not healthy. The vast bulk of beauty flows from spirit, soul and heart.

    Likewise relationships. Popular media might portray over-sexualized characters, but even that is just a metaphor for the real kind of intimacy that, ironically, has NOTHING to do with physical bodies being drawn together in kissing or more. It is media short cut, I teach, that has the real world ideal of getting more intimate on the real intimacy of the human being to the human being (as opposed to the human body to the human body). It’s not about the kiss. It’s about touching the heart. The kiss, as they see with my wife and me, is a MANIFESTATION of intimacy – it does not create it, and it does not substitute for it. Of course, we explain, they cannot portray in hours the kind of intimacy that takes months or years to build. They short cut with symbols, and they often distort those symbols because it’s the easy thing to do.

    As you can tell, I’m not opposed to princesses. I’m not a huge proponent of them, either. For adult women, I am not opposed to chick flicks, but I am also not a huge proponent of them, either. It’s all about the understanding and insight to me. I enjoy movies with my wife, and we have a very substantial collection of movies, and a great many of them are the classic chick flicks that we enjoy watching together. They are no more realistic than the action movies, but we still enjoy them. We understand them for what they are, and so we can enjoy them without expecting martial arts master me to do slow motion flying martial arts techniques, or expecting her to look like a “hard 10.”

    We pursue the same for our children… insight. With insight, they can enjoy what others enjoy – but they will have a deeper and more useful understanding of what they are seeing.

  11. Harmed
    Harmed says:

    How about princesses that take care of themselves? We have manged to completely avoid all the Disney princesses. My 6 YO DD thinks Princess Leah (Star Wars) is the best – and she ‘s right!

  12. Jeanne Demers
    Jeanne Demers says:

    One of the most fascinating reads I have experienced in a loooooong time! Wow, after reading the post and all these terrific and thoughtful responses I feel as though I’ve just received an education from every side of this discussion. Thank you all for sharing around something so important.

  13. Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth
    Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth says:

    Think I’ll just ref Scot Conway’s media literacy post above with “ditto.” ;-)
    Way too slammed on time to articulate/address all the elements here, but since I was tagged in the post, will weigh in w/some surprises.

    First, I’m a diehard “self-rescuing princess” (even have the tee) and caution about polarity on turning this into a divisive vs constructive issue to deploy critical thinking skills. Personally? I never forbid princesses or ‘pink’ (books, costumes, fantasy play, whatevs) of ANY kind…because in my home, it would give it way too much ‘heat’ and prompt the exact OPPOSITE behavior (forbidden fruit factor) Hell, my first self-selected Halloween costume was Cinderella as a child, followed by a bride, and look how ferociously indie & outspoken I turned out to be, heehee…

    Ditto for dear daughter who loved the fabric flowy flimsy ‘mermaid’ (NOT Disneyfied—just a homemade recycled find at our consignment store, as we live on the water, she loves the water, etc…and THAT is what came out when I asked her as a toddler ‘why’ re: her choice) Now, as a teen she packs a punch on the VB court that makes the “kill” sports verbiage look tame when that thing sails over the net…and yet, she still has a ‘mermaid’ side too, gravitating toward all things fanciful/pretty costume/attire wise…

    Moderation, dear mamas….keep the dialog open and the convos sane… Big diff btwn selling lifestyles/storylines/mind-numbingly disempowered POVs/princess personas and BUYING off on them…hook line and sinker. To Scot’s feminist friend, I’d have to agree, why narrowcast into what kids can/can’t be? Instead, open up the convo about intention…use the wicked strong filter between their ears to deconstruct the whys/why nots for themselves and actively mitigate/counter-market any damaging cues landing sideways… If you cut off the convos before they start, you never have the chance to engage; isn’t that what makes for self-thinking, multi-layered, human beings?

    For your amusement, Second City Network’s take on princesses is my fave POV/media literacy message to share w/girls: http://www.mnn.com/family/raising-a-family/blogs/advice-from-a-cartoon-princess

    p.s. & sexualization? egad. Whole ‘nother convo that goes WAY beyond princesses into pop culture/context…

  14. Anne
    Anne says:

    All a bunch of moms who think they know what’s best for someone else’s child…I’ve got news for most of you: You sound bitchy, cheap, and unprepared to have real conversations with your children. Good luck when they’re teenagers.

  15. Anastasia
    Anastasia says:

    To Melissa Wardy,

    I’m not really one to comment on blogs, even if the topic (like this one) is relevant to my interests, but I feel that your post brings up several issues that I would like to address.
    Firstly, I think you undermine your own credibility when you talk about Samantha’s language cheapening the content of her letter, then yourself pair sarcastic pet-names like “dear” and “darling” with caustic accusations of an “emotionally stunted” “rambling rant”. You immediately make the mistake (a mistake I think a regular reader of this blog would tend to avoid) of equating her youth and relative inexperience with an inability to make proper observations about the world. You are telling her that she, being a teenager, has no right to speak her opinion, or offer her perspective, and expect anything but derision. Is this the amount of disrespect you have for all young adults, or just the ones who disagree with you?
    Second, and this time about the princesses themselves, I think that you are both underestimating your daughters and /over/estimating the ability of Disney’s princesses to influence them. I won’t deny that Disney, like all companies, is out for profit. That’s what they do, it’s what they’re made for. However, the fact that they are targeting our children with a specific type of product does /not/ mean that said product will have the intended effect. My parents did not censor my childhood entertainment very much. I happily watched Disney movies, documentaries, Law&Order… anything I could get my hands on. The Disney princesses were a part of the vast tapestry that made up my childhood, and do you know what I took away from them?
    Violence.
    Scar’s death, Mulan’s battle-wounds, Melificent’s demise, Frollo’s lecherous obsession, the Beast’s torment…
    This is what I took away from these beloved movies. I never viewed the Princesses as sexual creatures, I viewed them as part of the story. They were part of the influences that make me who I am today. (A writer and painter of horror.) Their waist-size? Fashion choices? Marriages? I had no lasting interest.
    The thing is, I am not so ignorant as to assume that /everyone/ took these same messages from the Princesses and their ilk. My little sister watched these movies right along with me, and it’s helped inspire her into a fascination with the real stories behind the Disney films. You think these are bad influences? The original ‘Little Mermaid’ would have made an R-rated flick easily.
    I think, perhaps, that you should re-examine your own assumption that all parents and all children deal with your personal problems. Believe it or not, my sister and I have never struggled with severe body-image issues. My mother has never had to tell us that faerie-tale endings aren’t the same as real life, because we were always /exposed/ to real life, right alongside our celluloid Princess-fantasies. The Princesses didn’t stop me from wanting to be a marine-biologist, or a coronor, or a musem curator. They didn’t keep me from understanding reality, they didn’t give me a premature desire for a perfect marriage, and they didn’t give me an Ophelia complex because, in the end, the Princesses are nothing but colourful characters in colourful movies. They will never be anything more. It is your choice to lend such weight to their presence in your children’s lives, and to attack an opposing opinion on the matter with such venom and misplaced superiority.
    Please, don’t allow your own experience to blind you to everyone else’s.

  16. Melissa Wardy
    Melissa Wardy says:

    Anastasia –
    Although Samantha’s letter was rather poorly composed, I do not belittle her, and actually offered her some very kind words of support. I do not find her youth to be a mistake, but rather her tone of voice. I do, however, find her words towards motherhood and marriage inappropriate, and that is when I spoke to her sternly as her comments were rude, assuming, and insulting. If you’ll pay more attention on a second read through, I don’t undermine her point of view but instead offer some alternative ways of thinking.

    Second, feelings aren’t fact. Which is why I back up my words with research from such places as the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls, The Girl Scouts Research Institute, The Geena Davis Institute for Gender in the Media, and other independent researchers at esteemed universities. I invite you to visit their websites as to become better educated and more media literate yourself.

  17. Anastasia
    Anastasia says:

    To Melissa Wardy,

    “Samantha, dear, your emotionally stunted letter made you sound, to me, like troubled young lady who lacks critical thinking skills and harbors some deep seated anger towards the mother-daughter relationship, men, and the idea that life can be unfair and a fantasy world should be created to avoid the “suck”. ”

    “Darling, back off. I made my children from scratch.”

    “I’d like to interrupt your diatribe of self-actualization to inject two pieces of advice to you, young lady.
    One — Don’t piss off Mama Bear.
    Two — Don’t bite off more than you can chew.”

    “Samantha, in your letter you came across as a rude and ignorant sixteen year old girl who has had some bumps along the road and a lot of growing up to do.”


    “I do not belittle her, and actually offered her some very kind words of support.” ?

    I will say simply that I cannot see your logic here. I believe that you are attempting to bypass the points in my post by backtracking, and “restating” yourself with different meanings entirely. This is not good form, from a debate standpoint.
    You also seem to be attributing my disagreement with you to a lack of research and education which, I assure you, is not the case. It is my opinion that you are using the research from these insitutions (whose “esteemed” nature you note for good measure) to support a ‘diatribe’, to use your own word, that is based in anger. Which brings me to another point; you say that it was Samantha’s “tone of voice” with which you took issue. I find this geniunely interesting, as it was your own tone which inspired me to respond to you in the first place. From my perspective, you words seethed with indignation and a misplaced sense of superiority. I found your phrasing and your assumptions insulting. You do not, I think, “offer some alternative ways of thinking”, you spit at her with caustic rage. Perhaps you should try to see your post and the language therein from a different perspective?

  18. Bronwen Stine
    Bronwen Stine says:

    I have two young girls, and here are some ways we have been handling “the Princess Problem.” So far, so good:

    Provide compelling alternatives. Our DVD shelves are stocked with Hayao Miyazaki movies: “My Neighbor Totoro,” “Spirited Away,” “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” “Howl’s Moving Castle,” etc. all featuring strong, intelligent, age-appropriate heroines any little girl can identify with. The girls in these movies also tend to have healthy, complex, non-sexualized relationships with boys and fathers. I also like Robert Munch’s book “The Paper Bag Princess.”

    Don’t ban; discuss. I try to talk about princesses by asking questions. “What does your princess DO?” These conversations can be frustrating at first. Q: “What does your princess do?” A: “She’s a princess!” Q: “But what does she DO?” A: “She goes to dances and stuff… balls…” Q: “Why does she go to balls?” A: “To dance with the prince!” Q: “Why does she dance with the prince?” Follow this method far enough, and everybody learns something. Eventually your girl will get the idea that you’re WAY more interested in the ACTIONS of her role model than the appearance (beauty, clothes, whatever) of the character.

    Embrace the pink, but make it work. My 3-year-old has a sparkly pink foam sword. She uses it to slay dragons. She is a fierce princess, whom I fully expect to take on the world with gusto one day. And she will do it on her own terms.

    Trust that your kid will get past the princess stage eventually. My 9-year-old has left princesses behind for the most part, and she never had any interest in Hannah Montana, Katie Perry, or any of that stuff. She is beginning to be able to choose her role models wisely, and she knows we will continue to be interested in the things that interest her. We will keep asking her, “What does your princess DO???”

    Good luck moms and girls! I know you’re all doing your best.

  19. Caity
    Caity says:

    I’m 15 and I stumbled across this and the be completely truthful I’m extremely disappointed. I grew up on Disney movies and disney princesses and there is nothing wrong with my view on life. I have many dreams that do not include finding prince charming. I feel like you are completely overthinking it, your are after all mothers who I understand paranoia comes with the territory. I lov the Disney princesses and I am not overly concerned with my appearances or weight. Also, shielding your children from Disney princess or media is not going to keep them from being exposed from views on body images or fantasizes over boys. They will be exposed to all of it anywhere they go, whether it be in school or from their friends. I know this is something no parent wants to hear but you can’t protect your children forever and the more that you try to sheild them the more they’ll want to find things out on their own. Disney princesses aren’t going to ruin your daughter.

  20. Alexis
    Alexis says:

    I think you parents need to be worrying about media having a “sexual influence” on your children rather than a damn cartoon that has a moral too it. Get a life.

  21. Drak
    Drak says:

    I stumbled upon this blog and found myself drawn into all the discussion over “Disney” princesses. Reading this discussion “diatribes” included i wondered how many people hear have read the original fairytales that the Disney films were based on. If Disney made the films as they were written, most would receive an R rating. So Disney “sanitized’ the content to market it to their target audience. This is what every company tries to do. After all they are a business and in order to stay in business then they need to make money. Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s not that a company is trying to brainwash our children into being this or that. All they are trying to do is what every other company is trying to do. Grow their bottom line.

    Ok, with that out of the way. I don’t want my my daughters going up thinking that batting their eyes and looking alluring to get the attention of the “prince” will get them whatever they want. Likewise, I don’t want them to starve themselves or worse to look like Barbie. Unfortunately people these types of images the get girls to think like that are out there everywhere. If we try banning everything that can influence our children what happens later on in life when we don’t have that control over them? Do they do what Eve did when the serpent told her to eat the forbidden fruit?

    What’s more, where do we draw the line with banning what can influence our children?
    Do we ban Winnie the Pooh?
    Each character exhibits a sort of mental disorder and we wouldn’t want that behavior.
    What about Dora the Explorer and Diego?
    Teaching our children it’s Ok to play with wild animals and children can go to strange places alone.
    What about Shakespeare?
    Anyone read Romeo and Juliet? Just in Act I there are a number of comments that are demeaning toward women in Sampson’s and Gregory’s dialog.
    What about Football?
    Hockey?
    Basketball?
    Soccer?
    Baseball?
    We could start with some of the players that are less then ideal role models.
    But, what about the Captain Morgan commercial with its catchy slogan.
    Oh no, now we have to ban pirates.
    Seriously, we are parents. Our job is to protect our children as best we can. Yes, there are things that we need to teach them that are dangerous. Most of the time we wish that we could put a huge bubble around them so that nothing bad can get in. Sorry, that doesn’t exist. So we do what we can.
    I personally think that extremes are the worst thing we can do to our children.
    Would I allow my children to become so obsessed with something like the Disney princess that it dictated their core beliefs? Of course not. But to outright censor them out I believe is almost as harmful. I think that discussion is the answer. If you ban something from your child’s life then I think that your are banning that opportunity to educate your child when they encounter that situation later on.
    That is in regard to things that are appropriate.
    To that one person that will try to use the Captain Morgan statement. No, I would not allow my children to drink. i would however, use the commercial as a tool to reinforce the dangers of alcohol.
    Parents, we all know that the world is a dangerous place. All we can do is equip our children with the tools to survive and overcome the dangers they will face as we are doing.
    Isn’t funny with all of those things out there in our world that are harmful, we can put so much focus and merit on fictional characters from fictional worlds.
    I wish that when my son was diagnosed with cancer that all we had to do was say no you can’t have that and ban it from his life. Like I said there are bad things out there and they sometimes creep in. All you can do is equip them to overcome those things. With his doctors, his family’s love and support, lots of discussions to help him understand things and yes, a little Disney (courtesy of Make A Wish) he beat it.

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