My husband and I went to the store and got our two year old her halloween costume. We came really close to getting her the princess costume because we knew she would like it. Her mother, however, had stomach turning knots that would not stop stirring. Yes, I value freedom above all, and I want to respect her desires but there comes a time when I also need to evaluate the message she is getting about princesses.
There are princesses and then there are princesses, I am well aware of it. When we went to the book fair this year I was thrilled to find a toddler version of The Paper Bag Princess, the amazing feminist princess tale by Robert Munsch who in the end does not marry the prince, because even after she saves him from the dragon, he thought her dress was inappropriate for her bride to be.
My daughter loves to hear about the dragon but she also loves how at first the princess is wearing a dress. So I’m not too worried about her, because she will enjoy all kinds of things, not just princesses. However, it is still my job as a feminist mother, or as a feminist that I aspire to be, to put a check on the objectification of women and the portrayal of women in traditional roles. What is wrong with that? To borrow from Bailey Shoemaker Richards, because she wrote it better than I would on her blog post about Princess Week on SPARK (Sexualization, Protest, Action Resistance, Knowledge), the princess concept marketed by Disney and the like promote: “consumerist packaging of conformity in behavior, dress and appearance, and limiting ideals of normalized white girlhood placed in almost identical stories of princesses becoming princesses and/or getting married.”
What my daughter wears has to be comfortable with her but also with me, and though I believe in freedom and fostering her own interests, I believe in balance as well. So ultimately we decided on Super Girl, it’s pink with pink boots so it’s girly and feminine and it also teaches her that girls can also kick butt and save the world. My husband and I have been patient to accept her wearing costumes even though we don’t exactly celebrate halloween, but we knew one of her grandmas would pick a costume for her. So this time we took it upon ourselves to make a decision on what she will wear and I feel comfortable enough that it was the right decision. Next year we might not be so lucky, she might demand a princess dress and we shall oblige, however I will make sure to let her know that princesses are largely make believe and no one has the right to tell her she is not pretty enough or thin enough or that she can’t play sports or be an architect because she’s a girl.