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Raising daughters…princesses and all

I am the mom of two young daughters.  As a cis-woman, I am painfully aware of what it means to grow up female in our culture today.  I am well acquainted with hating my body.  I have had many illusions about “happily ever after” shattered.  And so I worry.

My three year old is deep in throes of a love affair with the Disney Princesses, particularly Ariel.  For a far better summation of my issues with this movie than I can articulate here, see Nostalgia Chick’s takedown of it here.  Part of me wants to just say “no, bad…no princesses!”….but that would make me far too much of a hypocrite.

Although the Disney Princess brand didn’t exist when I was a kid, I grew up on Disney (although I was 10 or so by the time The Little Mermaid came along–I still caught many of the “Disney Renaissance” movies in the theater).  I read fairy tales.  I played at fairy tale and princess play.  I owned barbies by the box full.

My love of fairy tales and princesses eventually parlayed itself into a love of the fantasy genre.  I did not gravitate to stories with passive women–I’ve gravitated to stories and movies with strong feminist and powerful women.

I think that part of what contradicted the negative aspects of fairy tales and princess culture for me as a child was my early exposure to Wonder Woman, Xena, Buffy, and Madonna.

I sang unedited Madonna songs by heart right from the get-go.  While I had no idea what any of the lyrics about sexuality meant, I think it planted the seed of feminism early.

So when it comes to my girls…I don’t hesitate to play unedited Lady Gaga.  I feel like she’s a far better model of feminism and sexual empowerment than most female musicians (I also like Taylor Swift, although she’s not so much the “sexual empowerment” role model) AND she has a killer voice (and can play music).

We also talk, constantly.  That they don’t need a prince.  That they can grow up and marry another princess (or not get married).

I *could* eliminate princesses, I suppose.  But, in truth, I like The Little Mermaid.  I like sharing my favorite stories from childhood.  I think that it’s a big part of childhood, and that she would miss out on a lot if I did.  Also, gateway drug to awesome fantasy literature (Tamora Pierce is the ultimate goal).

But she’s still 3.  As she gets older, we can teach her to be a more active and critical media consumer.  But I figure Lady Gaga’s a good start.

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