Army of Mom

So this is how liberty dies ... with thunderous applause.


Happily Ever After

Listening to talk radio the other day, I heard someone talking about an article written by a NY Times writer titled "What's Wrong with Cinderella?" The premise of the very long column is the dilemma faced by a women's libber whose little girl loves the Disney princesses.

The author, Peggy Orenstein, takes offense to her daughter wanting to be a princess. She is offended by the concept and worries that because her daughter isn't burning bras, that she will wind up being *gasp* a housewife or something equally inferior. *ok, I'm paraphrasing and interjecting my own suppositions here, but you get the idea* She toys with the offensive premise of little boys playing with toy guns, too. *insert large eye roll here*

So, I asked some of my friends *who are also mothers of daughters* for their take on the article and the responses are pretty similar overall. First off, my take on things. I grew up being a tomboy who also wore lacy socks and frilly dresses with giant bows in my hair. It wasn't unusual to find me playing cops and robbers with a big ol' bow in my hair. I had the best of both worlds. I grew up taking dance and charm lessons as well as playing competitive fast-pitch softball. I had as many male friends as females. I went from swinging on the monkey bars with the girls to playing pick-up basketball with the boys on the playground. When my dad tucked me in at night, he would tell me to get plenty of sleep because I needed to study hard since I was going to be the first woman president. I wore shirts that read "Girls can do anything that boys can do: only better." I grew up knowing that I was capable and there was no reason why I couldn't be great. I could be anything I wanted to be. I wanted to be a forest ranger or a writer. Guess which one I wound up accomplishing? Now, I did get weight issues from my mom. She is 5'9 and never weighed more than 132 while I was growing up. Ask me how I know? Because she was always exercising, weighing herself and starving herself when her weight fluctuated. She made me very conscious of how I looked and how others saw me. My dad? He occasionally joke and call me a heifer or say that he wanted to see a brand name of jeans that read "wide load" across the ass. The message sent to me was clear: you need to be thin. I was until I popped out the first baby. From there, I've packed on some pounds. Am I attractive with the extra weight? You betcha. Am I happy with myself? Depends on which day you ask me. Most of the time, I feel good in my skin. Would I be more attractive if I dropped 40 pounds? Probably. But, I'm still beautiful just the way I am.

So, with that background you can make no mistake that I do things differently with my children. I don't walk around obsessing over my weight. We talk more about eating healthy and exercising to BE healthy. We don't talk about losing/gaining weight outside of the realm of good health. We talk about Stinkerbelle being beautiful, smart and talented. We praise her beauty and the assets she has: big brown eyes and curly hair. We want her to be proud of those attributes and comfortable in her own skin. She loves to be a princess. She also loves to play Hot Wheels and tag. She is all about playing in the mud and watching sports with her dad and brothers. She has gone to more big league baseball games than many of my adult friends. So, when we took her for her first game at Kaufman Stadium in Kansas City, she wanted a bat. A pink one. And, she wanted her picture made with the world's biggest crown. She thought that was cool.

She has the best of both worlds. She can swing her pink bat while wearing a crown. I think that is the way it should be. It has worked pretty well for her mom other than my Wonder Woman mentality that makes me feel like I need to be good at all of it: the little woman role as well as the independent working woman. But, you know what? I think I have a happy medium with both.

So, what did my friends think? Here are a few of the responses:

This one from Kelvinator:
Interesting story, albeit a bit infuriating.
I think Peggy Orenstein must have trouble sleeping. I think she worries WAY too much.
What’s wrong with girlie girls? I know plenty of them that are independent, sassy, smart, etc.
I grew up in the 70s and 80s – the age of Garanimals (as the author mentioned) and Star Wars and Flashdance and Madonna. I wasn’t a girlie girl as a small child, but I was prissy. I didn’t like Barbies, but I had plenty of “girlie” toys. My favorite things were stuffed animals, Star Wars action figures and my Big Wheel.
I don’t remember my mother ever pushing me to be a girlie girl or do traditional “girl” activities. I didn’t have a pink room. I didn’t have a lot of frilly crap in my room. I didn’t like sports – not because it was too unfeminine – but I just wasn’t interested. I did take jazz dance lessons from 3rd grade until college, but mom would have gladly put me in soccer if I’d asked.
I didn’t want to be a teacher or a nurse when I grew up. I wanted to be a singer, an oceanographer or a cartoonist.
As a pre-teen and teen, all I cared about was rebelling against my mom and keeping up with the day’s fashion. I smoked cigarettes and snuck out of the house constantly.
Did that have anything to do with the toys I played with as a child? Goodness NO.

I have a 7 year old boy and a 1 year old girl. The boy likes cammo and guns and rocks and making gross noises. He has 14,000 Hot Wheels. He likes Power Rangers and Yu-gi-oh, etc. He’s a “typical” boy. Or is he? He begged for a Care Bear when he as 5. He’s a very astute young man and he’s sensitive to his surroundings. He loves to scream and run, but he also is very gentle with his baby sister and others.
I don’t mind that he likes all that “boy” stuff. What I monitor are the shows he watches for language and such.
He hasn’t said anything about being a policeman, a fireman or a soldier. He wants to be an entomologist, a paleontologist or a geologist.

My daughter has a purple and green room, and about 88 percent of her wardrobe is pink.
She loves blocks, her brother’s Hot Wheels, playing outside and musical instruments. She’s a drama queen and a mama’s girl. I’m sure she’ll be into princesses and/or Barbies very soon.
I bought the Disney Special Edition Cinderella DVD before she was born. Why? I loved Disney stories when I was a child, and I wanted her to have it. (of course mine were in book form or on a vinyl record. VCRs weren’t available until I was a little older)
I won’t begrudge her of princess dress-up clothes, princess movies, princess books, etc. What’s the point? If you make a big deal out of something, it becomes a big deal. Just like the author’s daughter -- she made a huge deal out of her mom’s silly outburst at the dentist’s office.

I have a SERIOUS problem with Bratz dolls and the hoochie-mama clothes being pushed on our young girls. It’s disgusting.
However, I won’t make a HUGE deal out of it when my daughter is older. That will simply fuel her curiosity and need to do whatever it is mom said not to do. (at least that was always my motivation when I was a kid)

I think people do too much “do as I say, not as I do” parenting. (I’m guilty too)
I also think adults don’t give kids enough credit. They understand more than we think. They hear more than we realize. They pay attention when we think they’re not.

Let’s raise our sons and daughters to be kind, grateful, firm, educated and FUN. Let’s not worry too much about what color clothes they’re wearing or which Disney or Mattel toy they’re obsessing over.

This one from CW, mother of two little girls, both under 4:
That article brought up a lot of good points and is very timely for us. We have read Sleeping Beauty every night for the past month. I don’t even think my daughter is infatuated with the actual princess part – I think she just likes the story line and the adventure that the princesses seem to go on. She likes when Snow White meets the dwarves, she likes it when Ariel finds new things, and she seems terribly fascinated with the wicked witches and evil stepmothers.

I do not like the girls to be called princesses nor do I like them to wear something that reads ‘Princess’. I do not mind her dressing up in princess costumes because that is just part of being a girl. All I can hope to do is differentiate fairy tale from reality. I am not a girly girl, I never have been, but I do like to get dolled up on occasion.

I think though that the only people that can undermine women’s lib are women. I believe the main body image issues come from parents. Yes, society does influence, but I think mothers are the biggest influence. We can control what our children eat and drink. We can help prevent them from getting too fat or too skinny. Communication is key. I say this for the following reasons:

My grandmother would tell my mom that she would be so much prettier if she lost some weight. Did she stop my mom from eating 2-3 helpings when she was little??? No. To this day my mom has had a tummy tuck, a thigh lift, a face lift and I’m sure she will have a boob lift sooner or later. My mom was recently part of a weight loss study for the Cooper Clinic and she joined Weight Watchers. The weight has come off her dramatically (the drugs from the study helped suppress her appetite). I too had joined WW but I did not manage to stick with it. I am a little envious of her 50 pound loss however I have had to scold her for not eating ENOUGH. Yes, she’s starving her self to fat sometimes. I have been telling her this for years. Starving yourself makes your body store fat. She wasn’t eating all her WW points (which I thought was impossible) and the WW leader told her in front of everyone that she needed to eat her points. Only then did she actually listen to me.

So I have watched my mom struggle with weight for years. I have been pretty steady in weight since I graduated college. Sure, I can vary 5-10 pounds or whatever, I’ve had 2 kids, but I manage to stay at a weight. The doctor says I need to lose 40 pounds…To which I scoff because I was 165 when I graduated high school and it is very unlikely that I will ever see 145-150 again.

We all struggle with weight. We all find physical flaws in ourselves. I think we have to keep these flaws and struggles to ourselves in order to make our daughters have a better body image. We also have to teach little girls that what we see in the media isn’t always a representation of real people. The videos on the Dove website are a prime example. I have taken professional fashion like pictures and when the photographer sent back the modified pictures, I couldn’t believe how good I looked.

In time I have learned to be happy with myself. I do what I can to stay in shape, I try to eat right most of the time, and I try to pass on those values to my girls. As parents our children must know that we love them and that we are proud of them. They need to hear this a lot. I think that is the majority of the battle. We are a busy society and we forget to say those little things but they mean the most.

This from my high school J teacher, who instructs high school girls:
I've seen the pictures; you do have a little princess. Will it warp her for life? I kind of doubt it. Some of the very ones who should be completely messed up forever overcome their horrid circumstances. Others who were reared in the perfect environment can hardly function.

As long as your little princess knows you love her whether she's a princess or a witch is probably what counts for more than most of the other stuff.

This from a friend with a teen-aged daughter:
It is a good read.

My daughter has never really been a girlie girl, but she sometimes flirted with the princess image. And was almost always interested in toys or movies of princesses. Still, I remember her galloping around the house with a scarf stuck in the back waist of her pants, pretending to be Black Beauty or some other horse hero/ine. I mostly let her go with what interested her. She was mostly tomboyish (but not athletic) and for some years had more boys as friends as girls, but as a 16-year-old she still suffers over her self image. So I don't think anyone can blame image problems just on the princess phenomenon.

As for the marketing slant, give me a break. Mattel and the other princess dynasties hardly have a corner on marketing to children. Remember the commercials between Saturday morning cartoons? Geez.

Maybe this woman should just dress her daughter up like a princess and then take her to a monster truck show.

As I get more responses, I may make another post entry. I just thought this was very thought provoking and interesting. I think it is sad that this woman has made her daughter wonder why she is so anti-princess. I think THAT will give the girl a complex way more than slipping on some heels and donning a tiara ever will.

As for me, my husband is wrestling in the background with our little princess. She pretends she's a snake to wriggle into the room and get him to wrestle with her. Go figure.


  • At 3:29 PM, January 04, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Random blog surfing brought me here...

    I love your take on this. I am a single mom to a beautiful 2yo princess. I call her that. Even when she has dirt all over her clothes or a catapillar crawling thhrough her fingers. I (even though she's just tow) tell her that she can do anything. She is my princess (as I am the queen! ha!) and always will be. She loves Cinderella and Arial, but she will know that it is fiction eventually. Good grief, we can spoil all the fun and magic of childhood can we?

  • At 10:24 PM, January 04, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I commented on this in my blog, with reference to your post and comments from your e-mail.

  • At 9:05 PM, January 05, 2007, Blogger Mo K said…

    I've never made reference to this subject on my own blog, but your post is a good opportunity for me to chime in. Back in the 80s when there was so much pressure to be thin, and before the term "anorexia nervosa" was a household word, I fell into that horrible cycle. Even after Karen Carpenter's struggle and tragic death, I thought I was immune, that I could control this demon. Sure, it scared me, but it took the combination of frighteningly thin photos of myself (the mirror's reflection never "shows" it, maybe because it's "live"... I don't quite know), comments from others, being rejected as a blood donor for the first time ever because I was anemic, and just feeling awful, that shook me up to the point where I snapped myself out of it.
    It was a struggle for awhile, but I'm happy to say I've been in full recovery for 20 yrs.

    I'm sensible about my weight, now. If I overindulge one day, I ease back the next. I don't have an urge to binge, and I'm happy with small amounts of things that I like that would be considered "bad". It's a case of re-training the mind.

    Thanks for this post, AoM. Thought I'd mention too, that my parents never pushed me to be thin, EVER. They did have high standards in general which was good.
    I just listened (and gave too much cred!) to the media/Hollyweird re what was considered desirable.

    I thought it was tough for parents years ago, but it seems much more challenging today-- to tell our children to shut out what they're getting spoonfed these days.


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