Which princess would you rather be?

Begs the question, doesn’t it. SINCE I NEVER WANTED TO BE A PRINCESS AT ALL. Now a Prince, we can talk.

You’ll never guess which one of the above pictured items was checked out of the library when the lil’ monkey was there with Other People Who Shall Remain Nameless*, and which one was purchased in a compensatory fit by Baba. So Xena wields a weapon, and people are shrieking and running for cover on every other page. And she’s wearing an outfit that is best suited for the Folsom Street Fair. Least she has sensible shoes boots on.

Oh, these are bleak days around Casa LD.

‘Scuse me while I go scream into a pillow.

*In the interest of full disclosure, I will note that the adult among the Other People Who Shall Remain Nameless did at least apologize for what got dragged home from the library. With a sweet sympathetic look. As if to say, “Good luck keeping these horses in the barn.”

19 thoughts on “Which princess would you rather be?”

  1. I always preferred it when Xena got into “civvies” or anything less ridiculous. I mean really. I’d probably rather be Xena…if I got her skills to go with the calling. Otherwise I’d last about 2 seconds.

  2. We went to a fundraiser where the children were invited to choose books to take home with them. There were tables and tables of books…a virtual sea of books. Zeca went right for Cinderella. I tried to dissuade her but she looked up at me with this big smile and batter her eyelashes and I lost my mind. We suffered through reading Cinderella every night for many, many nights. Eventually, she tired of the accompanying commentary and cast it aside for Ferdinand.

  3. Commiserations… Disney has hit, with a vengeance, I might add. From Snow-white to Cinderella, to Little Red Riding Hood, you name it… and every day is *skirt* day. No pants shall be worn.

    Now hand us that pillow…

  4. Um, still using it, lulazoid.

    I’ll totally share, though, if/whenever we/I get to the other side. Which migh take another ten to fifteen years.

    Meanwhile, I cheered myself up with this clip I found on an almighty Isis post at One Diverse Comic Book Nation:

    Now if only she could fly over our place and do that time warp thing on the princess book and the tiara from the birthday party that I’m still working up the courage to write about. Further hint here.

    “O Zephyr winds, which blow on high, lift me now so I can fly!”

  5. Oh dear. I am so sorry this horrifying cultural artifact has entered your home (not to mention your monkey’s consciousness). In consolation, and in defense of the complicit adult, it may have been inevitable.

    I am reminded of some friends’ chagrin when their daughter, Thea, entered the princess phase*. Maria and Patrick were an unconventional couple — Maria was tall, strong, assertive, and leaned toward masculine garb. She worked at a hospital, and her soft-spoken, gentle husband was a stay-at-home dad and house keeper. They didn’t have TV. Thea didn’t go to day care. Thea’s friends were the children of other hippie couples, many of them also resisting social gender norms. There was nary a pink bow nor satin ruffle in sight.

    And yet, as soon as she was able to indicate preferences, Thea wanted Princess Trappings. Wanted them sweetly, demurely, but unwaveringly, insistently. Dresses. Glitter. Girl shoes. Hair bows. In PINK! PINK! PINK! Maria and Patrick were at a loss. What had they done? How had they failed? Was it a recessive gene? Might therapy be called for? And, when they finally accepted the inevitable, which of them was going to have to learn about feminine fashion in order to keep Thea clad?


    *Last I heard, Thea was still in this sartorial “phase” at age 25 or so (with age appropriate modifications). It didn’t seem to have affected her intellect, independence, or general (sweet, but not as demure) ass-kickingness in the least.

  6. Sigh. There is folk culture, sub-culture, commercial culture, and dominant culture. I was hoping, in our household’s tiny version of the culture wars, that the first two (folk and sub-) might win out. We had a toe hold, those first few years, before the latter two (commercial and dominant) began to be hand-delivered into our girl’s brain by the majority of influences around her. And it’s not like self-possessed and powerful girls, who will grow up to be women who question consumerism and authority, serves the interests of commercial and dominant cultural norms. In my pessimistic opinion (IMPO). Cue the Antonio Gramsci lecture, and the never-ending hand-wringing.

    Upside is, the lil’ monkey’s mom had ballerina posters on her wall when she was a girl, and begged her hairy-legged lesbian feminist mother for a four-poster canopy bed with pink-and-white frilly detailing. And look how she turned out! Like Thea, it seems, an intelligent, independent, general ass-kicker. I do think, however, that Barbie was banned in the house. I may have to stand/sit corrected on that.

  7. It’s an uphill battle, isn’t it. We’ve steered clear from TV, by buying DVDs, allowing us to screen what she watches. That was before I found out that after a particularly rainy couple of weeks, the school was letting them watch Disney movies. Then there was building week: cue ten boys who brought their ‘Bob the Builder’ gear to school, and endless singing of ‘Oti Bouwer’ (Bob de Bouwer, but she is still clueless, although she now recognises the man and his yellow machine). Such stereotyping: princesses and builders. You could probably write a whole story about it.

    I wonder what the other side will bring, fifteen years from now. Will she still be a girly girl? Will she be an athlete (she certainly can outrun some of the boys already, with pink sneakers albeit)? Will she be a no frills, no thrills girl? So many things to discover as we move on in this exciting life.

    We are now slowly phasing out the pink clothes by the way. Her favourite skirt is black. *sigh of relief*

    Who is Isis and what is she? Did she come before that other flying amazone, Wonderwoman?

  8. Oh, go get a life… and let her wallow in the pink slime. She needs to know those stupid cultural codes, too, if she is to manouver in the big world. But by all means tell her what you think is wrong with those girls roles and behaviors – tactfully.
    I had a little princess with long, blond hair once. Now, seven years later, I have an emo kid with spiky, purple hair and smoky, black eyes. She’s 12. She’s into karate and Tokyo Hotel.
    She’s breathing fire at home, but the teachers and karate trainers tell me she is a joy to be around: sweet, considerate, cheerful, and responsible. Go figure. That might be the remnants of the princess.
    Joking aside: No one will impact her as much as you and her mother, as you well know. So go with the flow.

  9. Yes, this hairy-legged feminist colored her hair and taught her how to apply eye make-up. I haven’t meddled with her choice of clothes since she was three years old, either. I firmly believe in her right to choose her own appearance. I’ll comment if asked.
    I believe that might just be the attitude that will create a young woman who won’t be told by anyone what to do or how to behave.

  10. Oh LD. I comfort myself with the (no doubt naive) thought that part of identifying the culture that resonates for you entails sampling the others. We generally learn from direct experience. And the lil monkey’s chosen cultures are likely to differ at least a little bit from yours. But I believe wholeheartedly that exercises in analysis at a young age make all the difference. My dad did his homework in feminist children’s books when I was born, and spent a lot of time breaking down the hidden gender messages in books as we read them. The result was that, while I spent some time craving some things just because they were the ‘norm’, I got over it. I found my way back to a sane centre from my travels in lala land. And the lil monkey will too. Guaranteed.
    Oh, and don’t underestimate the effect your relationship and roles is having on her understanding, too. After only a month and a half, our five-year-old is already changing her tune about princesses, and about what’s ‘girl stuff’ and ‘boy stuff’, lessons she was being well indoctrinated with in her foster home. We still read the princess books she was given there. We just read the other books, too. It gives her an excellent chance to think about who’s having more fun, I think. Especially when that’s how we phrase it!
    And remember, kids can smell your fear. Don’t be afraid of the girlie princesses. They’re not going to win.

  11. I was finally motivated to comment, though I’ve been reading LD ever since my partner (who is a tad more baby-crazy than I am) clued me in a couple of months ago.
    I never went through a Princess phase (though a Breyer horse phase? oh yeah), but in anticipation and anxiety, my feminist leaning mother bought a couple of feminist leaning princess books in hopes to quell the phase, should it occur. I can therefore heartily recommend two books: The Paper Bag Princess and Free to Be… You and Me. They are both a little dated (clearly from the ’70s and ’80s) but the first chronicles a princess who has to rescue a prince in nothing but a paper bag, while the second includes the feminist parable Atalanta (among the other deliciously ’70s feminist stories) that tells the story of another rather independent minded princess.

    I must also, however, relay a rather funny story related to The Paper Bag Princess. My friend in my graduate program brought his five year old daughter into the department one day. They had just come from visiting Santa and she proudly relayed that she had asked Santa for a Princess Barbie. My friend was rolling his eyes at this suggestion and gently reminded her that Santa would maybe bring her a Princess, but Mommy and Daddy didn’t allow Barbie. He was clearly struggling with his daughter’s princess obsession, so I began to relay the story of the Paper Bag Princess (from memory, gah). At the end, my friend, who was clearly pleased with this feminist retelling of a common story, asked his daughter what she thought of the story. She said she didn’t like it because “princesses are supposed to be rescued by princes because girls are supposed to be rescued by boys.” This was a kid who at age three, told her father to stop “opwesting” her when he told her to stop throwing rocks at the department picnic… hopefully princess tales are easier to unlearn than Marxism. 🙂

  12. We share our house with a number of Barbies.

    Under 1’s tutelage they were lovingly cared for, dressed and undressed, had their hair washed, cut(!) and dried. Keen big-sister-copier that he is, 2 is also a Barbie fan. His games are totally different but just as lovingly devoted. With him, they career around the house at full pelt, naked, matted hair crowned with the mandatory hair bobble, and splash water over the sides of the bath.

    Noisily so: perhaps the shrieking is Barbie, protesting her fate.

  13. Well, Xena, of course, because she has more fun, but also because she has a kickass sidekick that everyone forgets about. Gabrielle was always much more interesting to me than Xena was.

    Our oldest (12 now) was deeply into dolls and girlie things, and still is somewhat. But she also plays ice hockey. I think (hope) they can find a healthy balance. I’m dreading puberty – I didn’t do well with it on my turn through and really don’t want to get into the complexities of makeup and hair and accessories. So far she’s being practical, but I know it won’t last. That’s what my mom is for 🙂

  14. I’m now feeling slightly more hopeful that my own four-year-old pink unicorn barbie mermaid princess will turn a corner some day and embrace the tomboy femme I just KNOW is her true self. Just like Mama, of course.

    Hang in there, LD. Princesses come and Barbies go, but Baba is forever.

  15. Our household? A Total Xena family. Our youngest may be our girly-girl, but she says she’d take Xena any day over Cinderella.

    We love the kickass attitude, with a loyal side-kick and a need to do good. Even if it means getting muddy and bloody. heh.

    Both girls had a short Barbie/Cinderella phase. It didn’t last long (thank goodness!). We try very hard to show them that there’s sooo much marketing which is fueled by the almighty dollar.

    ::sigh::

  16. Personally? A thousand times over, I’d rather be Xena. Or to be Mighty Isis! I loved that half of that particular television hour.

    But my 3-year-old daughter loves Cinderella. I cringed when she first glommed onto her. Then I realized, of all those dang Disney princesses, at least my daughter’s adoring/emulating of the one with the most real wit, and who, unprovoked, evinces gratitude for the few good things in her life. Thankfully, so far my little one’s not much interested in the other D-princesses. And she loves to dress up as Darth Vader just as much.

    As parent to a boy and a girl, I’ve come to feel that discouraging either from gender-normed interests isn’t much different than restricting their choices based on the same criteria. I am tickled when they go against those norms. But some of them seem to naturally fit the kids, too, as when our girlie takes to a Cinderella costume, or my son wants more Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics.

    I dislike Barbie and all she can represent. And yet. If either of my kids is totally jonesing for one, I hope I can let them explore the interest, then start conversations meant to guide them to question their assumptions, like why one thing is a “girl color” or a “boy’s toy”. I’d like to let my little monsters reject or accept things on their own terms. And also happily encourage them in balancing directions, as when our son wants to read Powerpuff Girls comics, too, or when our daughter chooses a big rubber snake as a souvenir from the zoo.

    By the by, “The Paper Bag Princess” is an awesome one to throw into the reading mix! Friends of mine saw a story similar to kaygigi’s unfold – my son and I had given it to the older of their two very-girly girls as a birthday present, because we both liked it much, and the recipient was initially quite incensed, according to her mother – “That’s not how a princess story goes!” But eventually it shifted the wee gal’s thinking, so I heard.

  17. Where would I be without you people.

    I am breathing (a bit) easier after these many soothing (&/or commiserating) words. And waiting eagerly for The Paper Bag Princess to wing its way to my local indie bookstore, and thence to my clammy little hands.

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