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On Baby Girls (and Boys), Fairy Tales & The Princess Paradox

This image was making the rounds on Facebook yesterday and it got me thinking. (Dangerous thing.) While it may seem that Disney has gotten the memo on creating better role models for our young girls with heroines like Megara from Hercules, Rapunzel from Tangled,  and Mulan (but even then – she had to dress like a man), I am seriously re-thinking showing my littles the classics. Or how I show them, rather.

Maybe it’s early for me to start tying knots up in my brain thinking about such things. To be honest, I think about these things often. Even before I had a baby girl. Because such  statements as seen in the picture right over there? They are true. And they impression our boys just as much as our girls. Because surely we can give our young lads a more realistic representation of women. No matter how much of a downer those quotes are, no matter how much they may muddy the mighty, golden awesomeness that is Disney.

Listen. I loved these movies as a kid. Who didn’t? I can also honestly say that some (many), ever so subtly (subtle if you are a young lass, not so — if you are older), fashioned ideals in my young brain. Ones that I didn’t live up to. Ideals of what I should look like, how I should act, what love was all about, etc. Sure, there was (is), also the magic and courage and music and awesome animation to speak of.

This false imagery, (as far as the fact that women’s waists are not smaller than their heads), these epic fairy tales — their delivery starts at a VERY young age, which is why I’m worrying about it already. I was watching these movies surely, as quick as my attention span would allow for such entertainment. As quick as my mom could pop one in to have a moment or two of sanity. Or get something done. Of course I did not think about what I was watching and what message I was getting, (then), consciously in such intellectual terms as expressed in that picture. Let us not debate over such semantics.

Are these princesses all about the girl power, really? Sure. With equal amounts of  being gorgeous and tying up your entire self worth to a man. No thin, healthy women I know have bodies looking like any of those princesses. Not a one. And don’t even get me started on Pocahontas and how it radically romanticizes indigenous culture. Or how it entirely warps historical facts. Her bravery as depicted in the movie, the great songs and awesome animation should not, or cannot be worth hushing the truth of such continued misappropriation of Native culture and history.

Ultimately, it’s up to me right? As a parent. To let my children take in magic and beautiful artistry, and wonderful stories. To enjoy it with them. To introduce other, far less glamorized fairy tales and entertainment. To open up dialogue with them when the fairy tale isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. To point out the stuff, that if un-discussed, may plant the seeds I’m so worried about. There’s enough out there in media today. EVERYWHERE, that harvests those seeds and fertilizes them at constant warp speed. As if on steroids. As the video below will attest to.

http://vimeo.com/28066212

I can only hope that all of my efforts as a parent won’t be lost in the mass machine of media. That my little girl may adore pretending to be a princess, but not a helpless one. That my little boy will understand that war is not the answer to everything and that play weapons (or any for that matter), are not the bees knees. I think, that for myself and the mister, as parents — it’s all we can do to not be so extreme as to shelter them from Disney movies. I’d rather help them process it in a healthy way. I’m just saying it’s more than daunting. This life-task in the face of the mighty and never-ending. At times seemingly, impossible. I watch the children of some of the best parents I know, fashion their weapons out of tree branches and  kitchen utensils. Skip dessert and eat like a bird at 5, voicing that they are, ‘watching their weight’. Oh, my brain. Oh, my heart.

Heavy thoughts during my baby’s 1st year? Well yes. Naturally. You?

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