Thursday, April 10, 2008

Keep the Dragon, Slay the Princess

I was driving around town the other day when I saw a license plate rim that said, "Brooke is a Princess". It was on a zippy little car with pink seat covers and a sparkly jewel hanging from the rear-view mirror. It makes me wonder. How did Brooke get such a doo-dad? Did she, in her forlorn and lonely grasping for self-importance, buy it for herself? Was it a gift from her loyal and adoring subjects? Or more likely, was it a gift from her over-involved, indulgent parents? Which leads me to wonder, what kind of parents truly want their daughter to emulate the image of a princess? Why don't we see rims that say, "Brooke is a Humanitarian" or "Brooke has Integrity"? Our society is suffering a literal pandemic of "pink". The princess marketing used to be confined to one aisle in the toy section but it is spreading, like a fungus or a wild fire, to all areas of department stores. You can buy princess toothpaste, breakfast cereal, sleeping bags, bicycle helmets, and you can buy so much pink bedding, curtains, rugs, and fuzzy cushions that your daughter's room will look like it was hosed down with Pepto Bismal. What's next? pink princess car batteries? Just wait.

There are some serious flaws in the fairy tales, both classic and modern, that we so innocently immerse our children in. If polled, most parents would say they value education, character, independence, and manners above appearance and popularity, but fairy tales teach just the opposite. Think about how Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and even the Little Mermaid and Jasmine attracted their princes. Was it because they were smart? courageous? capable? kind? No. The princes were smitten by their beauty before they had had a word of conversation and before they even knew their names! And why are these princesses always in need of rescue? There they sit helpless, in trances, and under spells waiting for someone to free them. Why couldn't Rapunzel get herself out of the damn tower? They are portrayed as being kind, but it's in a bland, plant-flowers-and-befriend-the-woodland-creatures sort of kind rather than the sacrificing to help the poor and needy sort of kind.

When you consider the historic role played by princesses, it was mostly as currency used by their fathers to be given in marriage in exchange for advancement in land, privilege or politics. They weren't given great responsiblities beyond producing an heir. Granted, there are exceptions to this, like Cleopatra or Queen Hatshepsut who wore a false beard to garner more respect, but this is not who little girls are thinking of as they prance around in their fluffy, pink dresses. Truly, they are pretty ignorant of the history behind their antics. Their image of a princess is one who is beautiful and adored and tells other people what to do and gets her way because she is beautiful and adored. Neither the historic or imagined role of princesses should be encouraged in our daughters.

I don't really think that reading a bedtime story is at the root of the princess problem, but all too often, the pink of Disney princesses gives way to the self-centered irreverence of David and Goliath, (the company, not the Bible story), that promotes such ideas as "I'm too cute to do math", or "your anger makes me happy", or "it's all about me, deal with it". I'm sure the founders of the company would argue that these are tongue in cheek phrases meant to be satirical, but, seeing how most of these MTV watching, tight shirt wearing, co-ed sleep overing teens behave, I'd say the satire is lost on them. If you want to see what happens when the princess phenomenon is taken to the extreme, just watch an episode of "America's Next Top Model" (and keep that Pepto handy). If my daughter ever behaved in that manner, I think I would kill myself, right after I killed her, and Tyra Banks.

15 comments:

Mama Mia said...

Ha! Ha! Ha! I was so excited to get your blog address! I love your perspective Rachel...you should write for the paper! I totally agree with you on most areas but I find myself inspecting my own childhood and wondering...was I a princess? I have to say as a young child I was but not in the over indulgent way. I believe it is okay for kids to pretend and dream and be little girls, but the "pink" has got to stop at young age! I in no way condone these self indulgent behaviors and spoiled teens! I agree that women should be strong, educated and not a faint hearted damesel in distress! On the other hand,from my own experience, just because your not good at math doesn't mean you think your too pretty to do the problems, sometimes you are just not analitical! Aloha!

Heather said...

Hey girl. For your info...I did call you about 2 days ago on your cell phone and I have yet to receive a phone call back. Hurry it up will ya??? :)

ray said...

Oh my gosh, I have friends! Who knew? Yeah, Mia, I'm not trying to demonize childhood make-believe. Maya has her collection of dress-ups and crowns, after all. But it's the overkill and the extension into adolescence is a little (a lot) disturbing. Incidently, I saw that license rim in Omaha, so keep a sharp eye out.

Heather, I got your call, but your number didn't show up on my call list so I thought it was a freak blip from another dimension. let's talk, eh?

Kristine said...

Ok, I fully agree that Brooke is begging for a healthy slap of reality. And despite my Disney love, I'll agree on the whole princess issue. (Did you see Shrek 3? The movie was meh, but the princesses were hilarious!) However, I think you're taking it a little far by bashing David and Goliath. Their website has the "Throw Rocks at Boys" game, and there are few things in life that are more stress-relieving than throwing virtual rocks and watching virtual male foreheads gush virtual blood. I love it. My friends and I spent many education classes at BYU in the back row with laptops, throwing rocks at boys. You can introduce your own little princess to that one when she's an angsty, heart-broken teenager. :)

ray said...

Kristine, I always knew you had an evil streak in you! It sounds like Grand Theft Auto for girls. Wait, you were never an angsty, heart-broken teenager. Did you celebrate PI day, my math-loving friend?

Kristine said...

I was the angstiest of the angsty teenagers! I just hid it well. (Better than I hide things now... I'm regressing.) And of course I celebrated Pi Day! At least, I acknowledged it, but I don't remember if I actually ate any pie... You turned me into such a nerd. :) Which is fortunate. When I was interviewing with school districts, I actually argued with people about whether I could teach math.

"You wouldn't feel comfortable teaching math, right?"

"No, I'm fine with math."

"Teaching a high school math class?"

"Yes, I like teaching math."

"But you'd rather teach English."

"Not necessarily."

"Even basic algebra?"

"Yes! I can do algebra!"

The Slackers said...

Hey, I just got your blog address and was totally excited to hear about you! I have always enjoyed hearing your opinions! I laughed so hard I think I broke something!

ray said...

Lol! I knew the US eductaion system was made up of math-o-phobes. And then we wonder why our students perform so poorly compared to the rest of the world in math. You've exposed my secret plan to create a new world-dominating ruling class one nerd at a time. Viva la algebracion!

Dave said...

I hate to be the ice water...but most boys and men alike do indeed find attraction to girls/women to be firmly rooted in good looks...at least at first.

So many good potential romances are inhibited by the introduction of speech!

Tim said...

Yes, it's painful to watch old movies in which princesses are portrayed as beautiful, but not much else. However, I'd take the princess concept over the annoying, high-maintenance, nagging witch for a wife like the woman in The Incredibles. Geez, give the guy some space!

Kristine said...

Oh, I can tell you why our country's kids can't do math... (1) We have math-phobic teachers, because anybody who's good at math went into a higher paying profession. (2) Thank you Bush, we spend more time testing our kids' skills than we do teaching them skills. (3) Districts like ours have abandoned traditional teaching methods and jumped on the "investigations math" bandwagon, which is the devil. Originally I thought it would be great to teach the ESL math class, but now that I've dealt with the curriculum a bit, I'm really glad I don't teach that class. Hate it.

Backing away from the soapbox, before anybody gets hurt...

Ambie said...

Do princesses bleed pink?

Tim said...

Math is overtaught in our schools. Trigonometry and calculus are overkill and relevant to only a few fields after High School. Better to teach economics and personal finance.

One day I'm helping my kid with math and I get to thinking, "why is there a need to know what prime numbers are?"

ray said...

Tim, I agree that econmics and personal finance teaching is desperately needed in high school (if it were adequately taught the check-cashing industry would be gone), but the formula for compound interest comes from, (reverent pause, everyone), Calculus. Trig is fundamental to a lot of things you can buy at Home Depot.

And for the record, I have never felt there was much in my life beyond high school that was benefitted by reading "Crime and Punishment" or anything by William Butler Yeats (megalomaniac) or that I'm familiar with the contents of the nucleus of an atom, but I don't regret studying them. well, maybe the Yeats.

The Ivey Family said...

I am going to have to say i very partially agree with this post. First ask any man, just to see, if they are attracted to their wife physically first, just see. Then ask them if it would make any difference if she were BUTT ugly, how would that have helped dating??? Okay and whats with your hate against pink??? personally i adore pink, not in any decorating and i dont want to be wearing it but i love what it stands for...FEMALE! the womans role in the home is becoming more and more absolete. i HIGHLY agree that girls should stay pink and OH YES boys should be blue! the problem isnt when a girl over does her pink (i can see how that would be annoying but...) The problem is when a girl completely disguards her pink. (and when a boy disguards his blue). Thats when we have gender mayhem (Gays and Lesbians). oh and touching on the bratty teenager, remember how you were when you were a kid? they are going through the same confusions. To help them with those confusions, from an early age, kids should not be given everything. Kids should WORK, oh yea I said kids and work in one sentence. kids should work for their, at the very least, entertainment. That will give them everything they cannot be told to have (self respect, genuine love for mankind, independance, self reliance...you know all those things we have been taught to have from an early age) BUT until we exercise WORK we do not have a full testimony of. you cannot learn these things by being TOLD to have them. and the best way to teach it is to show it and encourage it. Should your teens hate the idea of work tell them "bummer, keep working", they are very physically able to help around the house. and if they say i dont have time, well bummer lets cut something out of your day.....hmmmm how about your drama practices or the piano lessons that you hate but are dragged to anyways.

who knows mabey i am wrong, mabey we should give them everything and FEED the "give me everything" BRATINESS! i think it leads to a liberal way of thinking.

ohh dear.

Whoooo i just realized how much i have written. heres hoping my rambling made sense!