Thursday, December 20, 2007

Princess Josephine

We have, so far, kept our child sort of far away from the Princess cult. Still, it's difficult to determine what role models are really appropriate. I'm not sure what idolizing Miss Piggy will bring, but I can fairly say that at least she (literally) overpowers her object of affection (poor Kermie) and Dora, despite the weakness of the books/movies, is an active adventurer - unlike the primping princesses who do nothing but glam it up.

Still, Piggy and Dora are both pink, and so our daughter likes to be Pink, and she loves the princesses when she sees them. Last night, I was woken again at 4 am because Jo had lost one of her pink shoes that she was sleeping in, and could not return to dreamland without that missing shoe. I helped. I understand. It's hard to lose things in the middle of the night.

In other Jo news, she also performed for us last night. She did some tap dancing (stomping) and pretended to be a mermaid. She really can crank up the charisma when she wants! She made some cakes out of drums and blankets decorated with candles (bells) and sang happy birthday. Her imagination is blossoming! I almost hate to get her any play food or toys, because she does so well inventing things out of other things.

But we're not so good on the sharing front yet. We had missed a few advent calendar chocolate window openings, so we caught up last night. When we got to the third chocolate, I said to Jo, "Can mama have one? Can you share with mama?"
"Come on, Jo. Share. Save one for Daddy. Share with Daddy!"
"No," she said, popping the chocolate in her mouth. "Share with JO."

So I've lost the battle. I won't give up on the war. Promise.


ChrEliz said...

I'm not at all concerned about the sharing thing (I figure they will all learn in time, and you're awesome at teaching and modeling how to be a good person...) I am very concerned (for all of our girls) about the Princess thing. I loved the Ehrenreich article, and I am raising my pitchfork in total solidarity with you to fight the Princess cult(ure). I do not allow any Disney Princess logo items in this house, period. Caroline has goreous generic princess gowns, and a cape, and I'll get her a crown, etc., but I tell her stories about Princess Caroline and Princess Josephine and Princess Finley doing good deeds and being strong and funny and kind and self-sufficient. I don't see anything wrong with pretending to be a pirate or a princess or whatever, but I will not allow some commercial entity to plant its own ideas and images in my child's head any more than is absolutely necessary. Every time I see licensed character anything, like, in the grocery store, I tell Caroline, "Oh look honey, here's where they're trying to get us to buy things we don't need or that cost way too much, just because they put a picture of a cartoon character that kids recognize on it. Let's see what they're trying to sell us now. Granola bars? What does that have to do with Hello Kitty? Weird. If you want a granola bar, we can buy this all-natural brand. If you want something with Hello Kitty, we can buy a Hello Kitty pencil and you can draw your own pictures of kitties. But we don't need to go buying all these foods and sippy cups and plastic junk with Hello Kitty on it, just because the people who make this stuff want to try to trick us into spending our money on these things we don't need. Let's save our money and think of the things that we REALLY would like to save up for!" I really say this stuff to Caroline. And I've been saying it for three years, and she's internalized it, and now when we get to the cereal aisle (or whatever) she makes jokes about how this product has nothing to do with that cartoon character, and look what they're trying to sell us, etc. I'm not opposed to getting her one doll, or figurine, of a character, but I ask her to look at the Hello Kitty and then a regular cat, and I ask her to choose for herself which one she thinks is cuter or more cuddly or whatever it is she wants it to be. If she chooses the character one, fine. But I do not get toothbrushes, jackets, etc. with this stuff on it. I also don't have licensed character books in the house (except Clifford, in whose case the storybook character, simplistic as he is, preceded the mass marketing, same with Curious George, and Madeline, etc...) Books without any literary value, why have those on the shelf? I don't think about this stuff very much, just like being a vegetarian, you just make the choice and then you live it, and only occasionally are you faced with a situation where you have to confront the choice and figure a way out of having something happen that you don't want to happen. But I think it is absolutely worth the vigilance. Caroline knows who these characters are, she loves to 'play princess' but in her own creative storytelling way. She doesn't watch TV (we're more or less a no-TV household, because of many reasons, but in large part because it gives the commerical world a huge foot in the door of my house that I'm not willing to offer up, and I'm trying to raise nonmaterialistic, creative, independent-minded kids.) When I do allow TV, a few times a year, I seek out 'alternative' choices like Richard Scarry videos (not without their own problems, mostly rampant sexism, but that's another story... we consider those to be teachable moments...)

Friends ask me sometimes if it's hard work to keep these influences out. I think it is actually easier to abstain from this stuff than it is to limit it. My wise boss says (about food, but it applies here too) that abstinence is often easier than moderation. I agree here.

I loved Miss Piggy as a kid, by the way. She cracked me up.

I'm glad that there are other people who are swimming against the tide on this stuff, Amy. Don't give up - it really is worth it. I have an 11 year old niece to prove it. She's amazing. My sister took a similar approach and my god, my niece is nothing like the little pop tarts that are running around dressed like hookers and devoid of any original thoughts, original ideas of beauty, oversexualized, teetering around on heels and wearing hot pants, etc. Age eleven. Makes me want to puke. If my kids want to buy overcommercialised crap when they're older, dress like sluts (hey, I do sometimes, ha!), etc., that's great. But I don't want them to be mindless slaves to the mainstream commercial culture. I want them to make up their own minds, even if it means disagreeing with me and repudiating what I stand for, but until they are older, I get to shield them from this garbage that is out there so they can create their own stories, and develop their own imaginations. Live their own childhood dreams instead of blindly feeling the need to plug into someone else's script. (I hate hearing little girls play princess by asking, "Which [Disney] princess do YOU want to be?" Ugh, how *boring*, why don't you make up your OWN story, and act it, invent your own adventure, be your own princess or pirate or dragon or pioneer?) My daughter, blissfully not influenced by Disney at all, does that all day every day, and it's a blast to watch her in action. I know I sound smug and supercilious, but I really do think it's gross that nearly everyone just consumes what's dished out, and serves it up to their kids. I think we can do better than that. These ideas are not popular, but I'd rather be interesting and original and creative than popular, and I'd wish that for my kids, too. Sorry to go on and on, and sorry to be all up on my judgmental high horse, but I'm just tired of hearing how "impossible" it is to resist this Princess crap at all, or even to limit it or moderate it, and how "inevitable" it is that Disney will take over the house and our daughters' psyches. Bull$#!+.

Love the blog post. Thanks for the opportunity to rant. ; ) Rock on sistah, you're a hell of a fun mama with whom to be on this parenting journey. Hang in, fight the brainwashing! Be strong!

Anonymous said...

ChrEliz, just stumbled against your comment on the Princess culture - I totally, totally agree I will NEVER let my kids be influenced just by this ridiculous obsession most girls seem to have. In my opinion to put popular disney characters and popstars on cheaply produced lunchboxes, sippy cups and yogurts makes kids materialistic. I may sound extremist but my kids will become followers in this sect.
It's good to finally find others who understand my approach to parenting.
Maggie :)