A Princess or a Knight: Which One Did You Want to Be?
As my kids are getting older and I'm diving deeper into personal development, I'm realizing more and more about how society "infects" us with the roles we are supposed to play.
My daughter, Ella, is 3.5. Over the past couple of months, she's been coming home asking for Elsa hair after daycare. We have Elsa products at home too, which adds to her request.
Now for those of you who haven't been bombarded with the Frozen movie products, Queen Elsa is a main character who breaks free from having to be the perfect daughter and, initially, the perfect princess.
While this sounds like a great place to start for a kids movie and female empowerment, it isn't entirely the case.
When Elsa breaks free, she all of a sudden has this luscious head of white blonde hair and if her blue eyes got any bigger, they'd consume her entire face. She wears a form fitting dress and even wiggles from side to side when she walks. I mean look at that figure! Damn!
My daughter sees Elsa products everywhere. All the girls want to be Elsa.
Anna, Elsa's, younger sister, is rarely a choice for girls above age 3. She has brown hair, with 2 braids and doesn't wiggle when she walks. What? No wiggle?
Here's what bothers me so much though. While Disney has inundated us with the perfect princesses forever, I've only recently realized the impact this is having on my daughter, likely my son for how women "should be", and me as a women since I was filled with them as a child too.
All of these roles of who we're expected to be fit nicely with how women should look. After years of perfectionism, I see that the ideal perception of women simply isn't helpful.
And don't get me started on Barbie! Oops, too late.
I loved Barbie as a little girl. I used to collect the Christmas ones. This was and still is normal in many households. We have some Barbie like dolls in our house too.
But really, I only truly opened up my eyes to how the princess world takes a hold of us after reading Untamed by Glennon Doyle and also after a recent Sunday in our house.
Here's what happened and why Barbie is now involved.
On Sundays we have a movie morning where, as a family, we watch a kid's movie. This was always something my husband and I looked forward to when we were struggling to have children. Just the X number of us sitting, snuggled together on the couch with a movie (emoji heart).
Barbie was the most recent film of choice by our kids. In the movie, Barbie is the perfect older sister. She's always prepared. She's unbelievably helpful, caring and mother-like to her 3 younger sisters. She also has fantastic ninja, jungle tree climbing and swinging capabilities equal to that of Tarzan. I mean holy shit!
All 4 doll characters are beautiful with 3 having long gorgeous blonde hair and big eyes, and 1 having brown hair - you know to avoid discrimination - and did I mention, also massive eyes. Like what's with the huge doe eye thing? Really?
In the movie, the 2 middle sisters kept complimenting Barbie on, well, basically everything. How wonderful she is. She's such a great older sister. She always has all the answers. She's so helpful.
It was like watching the perfectionism part of my mind going see, the TV kids movie says you're supposed to be stunning, blonde, blue doe-eyed, helpful. care-taking, and athletic, because you never know when you're sisters will get trapped in jungle quicksand and you have to swing from the trees to save them. Geez Kylie, get with it and ninja up already!
What was good is the youngest sister discovered she was very capable and managed quite well on her own.
But poor Barbie had to be everything in this movie... just in case. Heaven forbid she let someone down. And Barbie thrived in the role, because of course that's total reality right?
Warning sarcasm approaching. We as women love giving up every ounce of ourselves for others, carrying a clown bag of "just in case" things, worrying about what others might need, want and think. Plus with all the care-taking we do so adoringly, we have oodles of time left to practice our flips, turns, swings, leaps and bounds. Yeah, we're total freaking super charged super heros ALL. THE. TIME.
Not! Well, except for that last part. I believe we do have super hero capabilities, because we do take on a lot of shit that's expected from society and often we do it with a smile on our face, when really we're picturing our hand smacking the requester. It takes super power strength not to toss that slap out... and of course meditation time. Smile.
Seriously though, it's sad that women had been stuffed into a box of shoulds, which is only reenforced by the media and flipping kid's programs. It fuels the negative voice in our head to shame us back into our "place" as women.
I think of my son too. He's 5. Not only was he watching this movie and getting fed misleading information about women, he will also be subjected to other stories about what it is to be a boy and man.
Boys win. Boys are tough. Boys are brave. Boys rescue girls like a knight in shining armer (in 80% or more of Disney books and movies, although luckily this is changing).
My son is highly sensitive. Right now, society struggles with highly-sensitive boys, because it means he doesn't fit the typical rough and tough idea of what a boy should be. He's emotional and sensitive, traits society says belong to girls and women.
He'll have to work to accept himself as different from what society expects. As will my daughter, because she's bold and less emotional.
While she does have big blue eyes and blonde hair, go figure, we're not raising her to be everything for everyone. We're raising both of our kids to be themselves. To not shrink to fit in an uncomfortable box, but to stretch, grow and expand until the box isn't even a spec on their radar.
But you see, even with this approach to supporting them in becoming a person who makes themselves truly happy, we, and they, still battle with societal influences. They'll likely be here forever. The question is whether or not we decide to keep feeding into them.
Truth be told, the princess (and unicorn) theme is still active in our home. We've just been working to make sure it doesn't become a longterm belief of how a woman is supposed to be. And now that we realized even more what impact it's having on our daughter, we'll pay closer attention to it.
In the end, it's up to us as parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, teachers, etc. We're the ones who continue to feed the words we're served directly into a kid's mind. We can decide at any moment to stop with the need for too much of the princess and knight expectation. Instead, we can encourage kids to discover what makes them truly happy and build on their strengths, rather than forcing them to create ones that don't fit with who they really are.