Yikes! I just realized I accidentally posted this twice. For the real version please see above. I will also copy the comments from this post into that one. Sorry!
Callie and her cousins made this Lego “birthday cake” for their grandmother, who is unable to eat the real deal. Here’s the family of girls and women preparing to blow out the candles. I bet they wished for creative, open-ended toys that didn’t stereotype and hyper-segment children.
And guess what, Lego? THIS IS WHAT BEAUTIFUL LOOKS LIKE!!!!!!
Before being co-opted by Uncle Walt (and, for that matter, the Brothers Grimm), the medieval, European fairy tales were a women’s medium, an oral tradition shared over long hours of repetitive work, such as spinning (that’s where “spinsters” comes from…). The tales were the entertainment of their day: the movies, the TV, even the porn (did you really think that Rapunzel and the Prince just talked in that tower?). The Grimms recorded the tales of their time and place, but as their compendium went through a variety of reprints–and as the stories became aimed at children–the brothers took out the sex (especially the pervasiveness of incest as the motivation for a heroine’s flight) and amped up the violence. They figured, like many of the day, that scaring the beejezus out of kids would get them to behave.
Personally, I love fairy tales and there are those (such as Bruno Bettelheim) who insist that you should read them, gore and all, to even the smallest children. That makes this modern mommy queasy, but I do think they’re great for older girls and I still love reading them as an adult. The Disney animators’ brushes have painted the heroines as passive and the prince as the savior, but in fact, that’s not how many of the story goes. There are some great tales of female feistiness, cleverness and heroics. Most are waaaaay to bloody for girls (some that aren’t are on my resources page). But for those of you over, say, twelve, I’d suggest starting with the following, which you can find online, along with many others, at SurLaLune Fairy Tales:
Fairy and folk tales of female bravery can be found in every culture. Also check out Alison Lurie’s book, Clever Gretchen and Other Forgotten Fairy Tales, some of which can be shared (or altered to share) with little girls.
My favorite physical version of the Grimms’ stories is Maria Tatar’s The Annotated Brothers Grimm. You can’t beat it. Great on discussing women’s roles as well. I’d also suggest Jane Yolen’s Not One Damsel in Distress, The Serpent Slayer, and Lady of Ten Thousand Names. Each has some stories within that are appropriate for little ones.
Start with those, then just keep on going! Enjoy!
Did Disney blink in releasing its new “age-appropriate” Sofia the First princess character and TV show? If Sofia is deemed “just right” for preschoolers, after all, wouldn’t that mean the now re-labeled “adult” princesses…aren’t? Yet for the past ten years, the Princess concept has been sold (and sold and sold) to the exact same demographic with the Disney assurance that they are “developmentally appropriate,” “safe,” and imparting good values. No more. Sofia, they assure us, won’t be about romantic fantasy. She won’t need a prince to make her happy, a message that, according to one report Disney recognizes as a “legitimate worry” for parents and a “bad message for little girls.” Yet when I spoke with Disney execs while reporting Cinderella Ate My Daughter, they poo-pooed my concern, insisting that the romantic story lines and passive heroines of “Cinderella,” “Snow White,” “Little Mermaid” etc.–which, again, they were shilling to the very same preschool girls they now say need rescuing from that message–were harmless fun. Can they have it both ways?
At the time, execs also told me that Princess was not I repeat not only about the dresses, makeup, bling and Kardashian-sized materialism. Or the $4 billion annually Princess pulls in for the company. No. Disney Princesses were about kindness and compassion and values.
Hey, guess what they’re saying about Sofia? She will, according to a Disney Jr. exec, have “plenty of pretty dresses and sparkly shoes,” but her REALY purpose is to teach viewers that “what makes a real princess is what’s inside, not what’s outside.” Unlike, say, what the other princesses have been teaching viewers for all these years?
So I wonder, does that mean Disney won’t be selling any of Sofia dresses, crowns, ways or other merch, so they can reinforce the idea that she’s all about the inside?
Not hardly.Disney is nothing if not cynical. And greedy.
Obviously Sofia is all about the dresses and the shoes. If not, they could have made her an astronaut or, I know….an explorer!!! Oh, wait, we have that already.I wonder whether Dora would have been possible in today’s princess-obsessed culture. Especially given that Dora herself has both gone princess and undergone a makeover.
Maybe if Disney (or Nick, or Sesame Street Workshop or, gosh, anyone) had 10 other “age appropriate” female characters who were not princesses; maybe if they had a female character whose appeal did not depend on her prettiness (because make no mistake—Sofia is very pretty and weirdly coy and, not for nothing, totally white and that is part of the package); maybe if they didn’t continually reinforce to girls at ever-younger ages that how you look is who you are while claiming to do just the opposite (witness the Tangled Escape From the Tower Lip & Nail Set! and the Princess with a Loving Heart Make-Up Kit.); maybe if they didn’t prime them for premature sexualization while claiming to protect them from it; maybe if they didn’t exploit little girls’ fantasies and turn imagination into something to be scripted and sold; maybe if they didn’t provide the first entrée for so many of the issues I write about on this blog (and in Cinderella Ate My Daughter); maybe then I would feel less disgusted by this latest move. Instead, it just feels like the latest predatory example of Disney reaching for the crib.
Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for the company to come out with a Snow White coffin. They’re missing a major womb-to-tomb branding opportunity.
Wait! Wait! One more thing–you want a great princess story? I’ll give you one. Just in time for the holidays. The Princess and the Pig. It looks hysterical–and right on. And you can bet it won’t be used to sell your 3-year-old lip gloss!
The best thing we can do for our daughters is to teach them, as they get older, to make their own courageous way through the woods of the girlie-girl culture. So what a thrill to read this blog post by my friend Marcelle’s 11-year-old daughter, Ruby. Ruby wrote it after she and her mom, who live in New York City, went shopping for her Halloween costume. Needless to say, they didn’t find one, though Ruby sure found her voice.
It’s one thing for us adults to talk to girls about the creepy (not in a good way) costumes, but how much more powerful to hear it from a peer!
So Ruby and Marcelle, you are my sheroes and here, with her permission, is Ruby’s post:
by Ruby Karp
So, you know what time it is! That’s right, Halloween! When you dress up as a scary ghost or zombie, right? Not for girls my age (I’m 11, in sixth grade). For us, it is dress-up-in-an-inappropriate-way time. And I know I am in that inbetween age, where I’m still a kid and almost something else, but seriously. I love Halloween, I love trick-or-treating with my friends, I love the way the neighborhood turns into a magical place with cobwebs and spiders and everything spooky-safe. And ever since I was 7, it’s been hard for me to find a costume that isn’t above the knee or low-cut or has a choker involved.
Like this year, I wanted to be Elmo and my friend was going to be Cookie Monster but where were the fuzzy costumes? NOWHERE. Instead of fun costumes that I would have a hard time choosing between, I found super-short dresses that aren’t cute, they’re inappropriate for me. How does Snow White turn into a girl in a sports bra that’s blue and a yellow mini skirt and super high heels that are bright red? Tell me, how is that Snow White? I looked at a Little Red Riding Hood costume and it went up really high. I mean, the list goes on and on.
And you know, instead of just telling my mom, “So this year, I want to be a Ghoulish Girl,” and going to the costume store and picking it out in five minutes, we have to search for something and my mom has to inspect it! Can you imagine trying to decide what costume is sexy and which is not with your mom? Do you know how embarrassing that is? Well, believe it. I have to do that every Halloween. Now, it isn’t easy when my best friend and me had been planning to be something together and your mom tells you cant because it is too-something-gross. So this year, I’m borrowing my friend’s old pumpkin costume that her Mom sewed for her (yep, she’s got a Super-Mom) and it is perfect for me, a girl of 11 years old.
It is sad how for Halloween, girls have less and less options on what to wear, that they have to choose between ick and ickier. I used to love Halloween because you could dress up in public like a fairy and not look weird! Now, when I look for a fairy costume, I look a little too weird. Why do costume-makers want girls looking like this? What is going to happen to the next generation? Maybe the GOOD costumes won’t even be here anymore, the only choice a 10-year-old girl will have is to be something with the word “vixen” or “sexy” in the costume title. Sigh. I can only hope for the best.
I have to search real hard for a good non-weird costume. And it shouldn’t be this hard. Really, the only thing we can do is hope that the costumes go back to the way they were when I was little, when you could be a Princess or a Baseball Player and not look like you were out to be anything else but that. And more appropriate. NOTE TO PEOPLE WHO MAKE THESE COUSTUMES: we are not 25. We are 11. Start making costumes like it. AND FAST.
What a gem. Thanks, Ruby!
Oops I posted this twice but don’t want to take this down in case it’s the link that gets around. So please see newer version above!