We are a Disney Princess family. In the beginning when Ella was first introduced to Disney, namely the princesses, I felt we had a good balance of what I’d like to call 2 categories: Princess and Not Princess. Ella really enjoyed playing with her trainset, reading all types of books (Thomas the Train, Huggle Buggle, etc.) and playing with her Princess Barbies. Lately she’s been very into Disney characters, namely the princesses. Does that mean Cinderella ate my baby? I think not.

It’s our job to support who our children are at any given point and instill in them their morals, values and ethics. I would feel sorry for your child if you tried to push him/her into something they weren’t. It’s like forcing them to play soccer if they really wanted to go to ballet class. One of my best friends has a son is the same age as Ella. He happens to enjoy playing with Barbies (dolls), puts on chapstick/lipgloss, seems halfway interested in playing dress-up, loves to cook with his kitchen, etc. My friend lets him, as she should because he enjoys doing those particular things. Is anyone judging her? Nope.

I think trying to make your child something he/she is not is more damaging than letting them play with a doll that happens to have measurements that you could probably only obtain by getting plastic surgery. It’s up to us, the parents of these young impressionable beings to teach them about what’s real and what’s not. Give them self confidence to be who they are and stop being so anti-“everything”. I’ve heard that Disney is actually talking about doing a bald Barbie for children who are going thru Chemo treatments, etc. I suppose that’s terrible also…How about American Girl dolls? These dolls have real life stories. They’re normal in size. I let Ella play with hers and she loves it. She happens to have Rebecca, the Russian Jew, by the way. Do you really think Ella knows the difference between the American Girl doll with the real life story or the skinny Barbie. Hell no.

We need to stop over analyzing absolutely everything and just let kids be kids. As long as we instill in them morals and do everything in moderation, who cares? Freaking chill out.

More from this series: 

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My daughter is 6 months old.  I’m not currently concerned about sexualization… the thought alone makes me nauseous so I choose not to think about it yet.  I have actually started reading Peggy Orenstein‘s book and there is one topic in particular that really grabbed me.  STUFF.

Girl stuff vs Boy stuff.

Baby GirlWhen I was a kid, I wasn’t into Barbies.  I had He-Man toys and Gobots.  I played baseball with the neighborhood boys.  I loved my Micro Machines!  People called me a Tom-Boy. I never really thought about whether or not my mom was especially progressive for letting me have those toys and not pushing me to wear dresses (although she loooved when I voluntarily put one on), but I suppose she was.  What shocks me is that people still peg a girl as a Tom Boy for playing with those toys or for being into sports.  A girl is still expected to love pink and princesses and dresses.  And what’s even more shocking to me is that there are people in this world who believe that what toys or clothes your child likes has some effect on their sexuality.  Hear this now: I love boys and always have.  That was built-in. And despite my baseball hat wearing and my more dominant personality (something often pegged as “masculine”) I never had problems with the boys… ehem… if you know what I mean.  For me it was never about wanting to be a boy or being a lesbian or whatever other nonsense people think; it was just what I liked to do.  And actually, I think being allowed to be strong and dominant has given me the confidence to do whatever I wanted to do as an adult.

Moving beyond just Orenstein’s book, I’ve been reading more on the “princess culture” that is being shoved down the throats of little girls.  Sure, some little girls just naturally gravitate to that stuff and that’s fine.  But why should they be limited?  In fact, I have always felt that toys marketed to boys inspire more creativity and spark interests that lead to both hobbies and careers later in life.  Legos.  Chemistry sets.  Erector Sets.  (Do they even still make those?) Why should my daughter be limited to the Disney Princess make-up kit?  What does that do for her sense of self?  Tell her that beauty is what is most expected of her? I’ve seen science-themed party favors labeled as “Great for a boy’s party!”  I’m sorry, what was that?  BOY’S party?  What about science is specific to boys?  And we wonder why there is a shortage of females in science, technology and engineering fields.  Stealing from something I saw along the way (I can’t remember where so I can’t give due credit… sorry!), couldn’t my daughter benefit from an astronaut makeover rather than a princess makeover?  Can’t we take her to go watch the planes take off over the Potomac?  And after all of that, can’t I still take her to ballet?

Frankly, I’d like to keep princesses out of Darby’s toy box and closet for as long as I am able only because I don’t see the value. When she comes home asking for it, fine.  Barbies will likely not have a residence in our home (between body image and the skanky clothes those b*tches wear, she doesn’t need that).  I know I can’t control that stuff forever, but I can for a while and I intend to.  I want to expose her to planes and trains; building toys; art and music; the Cubs and the Red Sox!  If pink and princesses are her thing, I won’t limit that.  But I certainly won’t limit her TO that.  There is too much other cool stuff out there.

I actually think this kid nailed it. To quote the brilliant Riley, “Why do all the girls have to buy pink stuff?”  They don’t, Riley.  And I promise you, Future Ms. Marketing Director, that my little girl can have super heroes if she wants them.

There is no denying that stuff is both a reflection of who we are and an influencer of how we are who we are.  Kids and adults alike.  I want Darby to find success in her life, however she may define it.  Ballerina or brain surgeon.  I want her to be strong.  I want people to tell her that she’s beautiful AND brilliant… perhaps the latter more often.  Unfortunately the stuff that is marketed to her tells her that being beautiful and finding her Prince Charming will lead to happily-ever-after.  I hope she does find her Prince (or Princess) Charming some day… but what leads to happily-ever-after is being confident and proud of who you are.  I will simply not allow Disney or any of the other toy companies impede upon that ideal.  They are not the boss of my brilliant daughter.  I will protect her from this crap.

More from this series: 

This week we’re doing a series about some of the concepts that Peggy Orenstein writes about in her book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter. Stay tuned for more posts from some of the other writers here!

I’ll admit, I haven’t read the book. Early last year, The Diane Rehm Show on NPR featured an interview with Ms. Orenstein. There’s certainly no way for me to comment on the entirety of the book in this post, but I’d like to comment briefly on the overt sexualization of young girls. Ms. Orenstein aptly describes frequent situations in which young girls (teen, pre-teen, tween, pre-tween, preschool, etc.) are thrust into an atmosphere dripping with sexuality. Abercrombie and Fitch (I know – shocking) came under fire last March for selling a push-up bikini for young girls. When faced with this kind of environment, these girls react the way anyone would – they adapt, they react, they incorporate, they do their best imitation of a sponge and soak it all up.

I don’t personally have a problem with Cinderella, Barbie, Aurora, Belle, pink, purple, fairies, crowns, or even the occasional tutu. They’re all crammed into various bins and boxes in our playroom as I type. Sometimes the girls play with them, sometimes the boys parade around the house in a much too small leotard. At this point in my parenting life, there’s not much that will faze me when I walk in the door after work. However, there is a significant problem, as Ms. Orenstein claims, with equating your daughter’s (or any woman, for that matter) value with her sexual appeal or behavior. Some may think that we as parents are paving the way for sexualizing our girls with the occasional fingernail polish. I hope not, but it’s a difficult world out there for young women. I hope we’re able to instill in our girls the ability to value their whole self, not just their physical self.

I work a lot with college students. Increasingly, many of our college students are women. Overwhelmingly, they are strong, beautiful, smart, inventive, and independent women. They’re just plain awesome – the kind of women I hope Peyton and Adah resemble when they are in college. I teach a class on college student development each fall and we always focus on interpersonal relationships one week. We usually read Janet Reitman’s piece on the lacrosse scandal at Duke University from Rolling Stone (read it if you have a chance – really good piece of writing). Usually, students reaffirm the thesis that college women live a bit of a Jekyll/Hyde life – during the day women perform well in class, excel in leadership positions, and generally outclass their male peers, while at night the same women reduce themselves, and their clothing, to the sexual playthings of boozed men. The women in class often lament that they see it all too often. They’re genuinely saddened by it. As a father, husband, and brother, so am I.

Peyton’s favorite color is pink. Lately she and Adah have been rocking out with these Vtech Disney Princess Wands:

I don’t think they’re destined for royalty by using this little trinket (sorry, girls). Tomorrow, they’ll jump out of their pink and purple sheets and probably head straight for their new dollhouse. Does that mean that Cinderella ate my daughters? Maybe for now, but I don’t think they’ll sit too well in Cinderella’s tummy. As they grow and develop, we’re going to teach them to love their Cinderella self, their pink self, their emotional self, their cognitive self, their physical self. When it’s time for them to understand their sexual self, I hope it’s on their terms.

Puzzle Benches

This made my day.  My email to Damhorst Toys:

Hi there,

I have a funny story to tell you!

I have purchased benches from you for all of the kids in my life and
they all love them. My daughter recently received a puzzle bench from her grandparents after I recommended your shop.  I also have a bench that my grandmother gave to me.  I still use it to reach the high shelves in the closet or to sit on when I’m playing on the floor.  It still has a prominent place in my house!  When my daughter’s bench arrived, we were comparing them… then I flipped mine over and saw your stamp on the bottom.

My grandmother had a store called Personally Yours in Flossmoor, IL.  You were the company whose benches she sold!  32 years ago she got my bench (and many many others) from you… and now my
daughter, Darby, has one from you too.

Thanks for making such a fun and quality product!

Sincerely,
—Michelle

Their reply to me:

Hi Michelle,

My apologies for the late reply, we are just catching up on emails after our holiday rush when I read your beautiful email and picture you sent.  I’m so sorry that I didn’t respond sooner.

I can’t tell you how nice it was to read your email aloud in the office, and the picture was an absolute bonus.  I don’t think we have ever received an email from a customer who received one of our products as a child.  Your stool was cut by my mother who was the original creator of the Name Puzzle Stool.  I can see her work in your picture.

Thank you again for your email and the picture, it was a true pleasure to receive.  If there is anything that we can do for you in the future, please let us know.

Happy Holiday!

Kris