Where are the heroines, the champions girls can look to so that they are inspired to make the world, and their own lives, better? As they get older, they will encounter more (and more complex) role models: powerful real world women, literary characters, philosophical ideals. But for very young girls, where can we turn to excite their imaginations to do good, to be good, to be brave, to be kind, to be powerful? Boys, it seems, have always had icons. Who do the girls have?
The world is full of princesses. My house is full of princesses. The other day we had extra girls in the house, and that meant we had even more princesses (though it wasn’t all unicorns and rainbows, since one of the games they decided to play was “Dead Princess”, and I didn’t even want to ask where that one came from), so in an act of defiance my wife designed a craft activity that would see the girls constructing headbands and chest badges using superhero logos. We had Batman, Superman, Spider-Man…and Wonder Woman.
“No Buffy?” I wondered, even though I know Buffy the Vampire Slayer is still a little dark for the four year olds to appreciate. There was Wonder Woman, though. And Elastigirl would have been an easy addition, though the logo was never printed. But is this all we can do? To stem the tide of princess idleness, must we throw superheroes at the girls?
It would be easy to do, in our house, since my daughter is always asking to watch Spider-Man, or Batman, or some other superhero cartoon she sees popping up on Netflix, inspired both by the visual depiction and by the boys in her pre-school class who already leap about slinging webs and laser beams at each other. Out of some apprehension over violent imagery, I’ve resisted, telling her “No, they’re too punchy.” But the craft project was different, and targeted especially at one of the visitors who is enamoured of superheroes, and who does indeed watch the cartoons I’m still afraid to let mine see. It made me wonder: If superheroes are all we can do, and if I don’t encourage their adoption here in this house, am I leaving my best tool on the bench? Am I abandoning my little girl to the frilly pink wolves?
Maybe sports is another answer. Maybe if I talk more about hockey…but speaking of violent imagery…
Or maybe I am the problem, and my fear of frills is not a canary in a coal mine, indicating something is wrong in the air, but is the very thing that is wrong. Maybe I should be embracing the frills. Maybe dads seeing pink not as Other, but as Self, makes the world, and their own lives, better. A shortcut to outrage, a ford to fear-mongering, is to point at the princesses and say “They are the problem! They are doing this to our daughters, making them vapid, making them superficial, making them easy marks for predatory men later in life, spoiling them, making them weak, making them unable to care fore themselves!”
Princesses are scary. But maybe dads who fear princesses are scarier.
Still, I can hardly wait until she’s old enough to watch Buffy.