December 31, 2006

Princess Industrial Complex Drives Feminist Crazy

disney_princess_gang.jpgToo bad for Peggy Orenstein that her looong lament about third-wave feminism's powerlessness and lack of viable response in the face of the Princess Hegemony came out the same day American girls were opening their $3 billion worth of pink & purple sparkly plastic junk. Still, it's a fascinating read, and includes some nice backstage info from Disney Consumer Products about how the Princess thing came about, how it's managed--did you know the princess characters are never depicted making eye contact with each other?--and how Tinkerbell will be the next great threat/opportunity.

Me, I can never get over the fact that until the 1930's at least, pink and blue were reversed:

When colors were first introduced to the nursery in the early part of the 20th century, pink was considered the more masculine hue, a pastel version of red. Blue, with its intimations of the Virgin Mary, constancy and faithfulness, was thought to be dainty. Why or when that switched is not clear, but as late as the 1930s a significant percentage of adults in one national survey held to that split. Perhaps that’s why so many early Disney heroines — Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Wendy, Alice-in-Wonderland — are swathed in varying shades of azure. (Purple, incidentally, may be the next color to swap teams: once the realm of kings and N.F.L. players, it is fast becoming the bolder girl’s version of pink.)
What's Wrong With Cinderella? [nytmag]


This was a good read. Our holiday bounty included a bunch of bizarrely age-inappropriate gifts from well meaning relatives. Lip gloss samplers in a maribou-trimmed handbag and glitter hairspray (aerosol, yet!) for a kid who won't be three until March?! Yikes. And a baby Bratz doll who comes in a martini glass, garnished with limes... so creepy.

I thought it was a really interesting article, and all the age-inappropriate princess/math is hard lets go shopping stuff makes me sick, but what I thought was most interesting was the very end of the article when the author describes picking up her daughter:

"A few days later, I picked my daughter up from preschool. She came tearing over in a full-skirted frock with a gold bodice, a beaded crown perched sideways on her head. “Look, Mommy, I’m Ariel!” she crowed. referring to Disney’s Little Mermaid. Then she stopped and furrowed her brow. “Mommy, do you like Ariel?”"
Because then this very smart 3 year old girl adds:

"She smiled happily. “But, Mommy?” she added. “When I grow up, I’m still going to be a fireman.”"

Because really what feminism is all about is giving girls and women choices, that they can grow up to do/be whatever they want. And here you have a little 3 year old girl who is learning that her mother is going to be happy only if she grows up and takes what is traditionally a mans job, because that is what she is learning her mom approves of thus what she is learning has value. And sure her mom never told her that straight out, but in the same way she will get cues from society about what her place is, she will get them from her mother.
I think it, better than anything I've read so far, shows the difficulty of raising a girl in the princess world.

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