Sunday Mail South Australia column: Sunday 8 January 2012
At some point, clearly when I wasn’t paying attention, Cinderella moved into our house. Moved in and sort of took over. But what’s worse is that like a foster kid in Summer Bay, Miss C didn’t come alone. She brought her posse – Snow White, Belle and that mermaid chick with the red hair – with her.
Suddenly, these Disney princesses are everywhere I look in our house: on placemats, cups, bowls, forks, spoons and knives. The toilet seat. Like pink ninjas they’ve crept – stealth-like – onto our bookshelves, into our dress-up boxes, our colouring-in books and even my fridge. Snow White yoghurt, anyone? And while I’m prepared to take full blame for the yoghurt, all the other stuff has been given to us by family and friends. Family and friends who know that I will send them a thank you card sprinkled with anthrax if they so much as think about bringing a Bratz doll near my house. So they’ve opted for the more modestly clad but delightfully insipid (yet perky! And always with a great singing voice!) Disney princesses instead.
And let me tell you, it irritates me no end
But my daughter Ava is three. Do I even need to say anymore? So when she’s not pretending to be a stegosaurus or insisting on charging me outrageous prices at her fruit and vegetable shop ($50 for an apple? That’s highway robbery, lady.) – she’s dressing up as a fairy or a princess. She’s rockin’ the pink tulle. In a big way.
And I can encourage her all I want to pretend to be Dora the Explorer. But so far, no dice. (Is it the bowl-haircut? Or is she just creeped out by the notion of having a backpack that talks … a bit like a stoned uni student). Ava wants the dress. And the teary-ara on her head. And the right to make royal decrees. Ponies for everyone! (Maybe she’s not pretending to be a princess. Maybe she’s pretending to be Oprah…)
So do I actively try and stop the Princess obsession? Today it’s Cinderella. What do I do if tomorrow Ava announces she wants to be the new Kate Middleton? Or worse? Camilla. Is it time to worry? According to best-selling feminist author Naomi Wolf, the answer is a resounding no.
In a recent New York Time piece entitled “Mommy I want to be a princess” Wolf explained why mothers needn’t fret about their daughter’s love affair with all things Princess.
“Little girls are obsessed with princesses for the same reason little boys are obsessed with action heroes. What other female role model can issue a sentence and have the world at her feet? What other female figure can command an army, break open a treasury, or even, as in images of Kate Middleton or of Diana Spencer, simply bestow, with her presence, a sense of magic, excitement and healing? Princesses are more benevolent than pop stars and less drugged out; they are more powerful than Hillary Rodham Clinton or Condoleezza Rice, and wear better frocks. They are less disposable than fashion models and at least appear to be less stressed than the girls’ own working mothers, even if those women are at the top of the professional hierarchy. What girl would not be drawn to such an archetype, given how few other female role models you can say that about in our popular culture?”
She has a point.
And as if on cue as I’m writing this column, my daughter has walked into the room wearing a paper crown (left over from a Christmas cracker) and with one of my long skirts wrapped around her shoulders like a cloak.
“I’m King Ava!” She says this in a tone that is not unlike, oh, say, Idi Amin’s . And I realise that I need to have more faith in my daughter. Or perhaps more faith in myself as a parent that her father and I are exposing her to a variety of games, experiences and people to spark her imagination. This morning she was a princess. This afternoon she is a king. Tomorrow she may be a doctor, a vet, a builder, a hairdresser or a chef. The point is she’s trying on different roles. Exerting her power. And making a market killing selling apples for $50 a pop.
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Over the past 25 years Rebecca Sparrow has earned a living as a travel writer, a television publicist, a marketing executive, a magazine editor, a TV scriptwriter, a radio producer, a newspaper columnist and as an author.