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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Has the Disney Princess Empire Hurt Your Daughters?

Is There A Crown In Her Future? Your Children, Reality and The Disney Princess'

Walk in any big toy store today and you'll find an entire aisle dedicated to the Disney Princess 'franchise.' This week Disney, Target and award winning actress and author Julie Andrews want you and your daughters (and perhaps your sons if you're brave enough) to celebrate the first annual Princess WeekPrincess Week starts April 22 and runs through April 28.  The princess-ification of girlhood and/or childhood has once again come to a toy store near you!

As a woman who writes wedding blogs for a living, I am well aware that the princess fantasy is alive and well, and many girls never grow out of it. Some of them live healthy mental lives, others will be waiting for prince charming forever. Some are perfectly content without a prince charming.

As long as a girl or woman recognizes the difference between having a healthy fantasy life and reality all is well. It's when your reality becomes expecting your life to be like the life of a Disney princess that you run into difficulties.

We all need to take control of our futures and take them where we want them to go. It doesn't mean we can't have our very own version of 'Prince Charming,' just that not every girl's 'prince' is of the Disney variety.

Has Disney has gone overboard in presenting most girls with unrealistic expectations, fantasies they'll never be able to live out. Who am I to say? I wanted to be a lion when I grew up (this was pre-Lion King), so unrealistic expectations are not unknown to me.

I was fortunate to have a mother who stood up for my right to make choices (even though she obviously knew it(me actually being a lion) was never going to happen.) (Read my post "Becoming Your Dream.) What she did want was for me to grow up with the characteristics of a lion, the strength, the pride, the personal power (oh and great hair would be nice, doesn't every mother want her daughter to have great hair?)

I have two daughters, both in their 30's now. I let my daughters choose what they wanted to play with growing up. That being said they had a huge number of Barbie dolls (most of which resided in a recycling bin on our enclosed front porch sans clothing and with hair that badly needed a brush!) But they also had a variety of other toys that had nothing to do with princesses or Barbies.

But some of their dolls lived on shelves in their rooms, the equivalent of a princess' castle compared to the peons who lived on our porch. A few lived in Barbie Dream Houses in my living room. The odd thing was the dolls that got played with, who were the best loved, lived on the front porch. They had adventures outside, unlike their counterparts in the house. Why were they sans clothing on the porch? Their clothes, like my daughters', were ALWAYS in the wash! The Barbies on the porch were their Velveteen Rabbits...well worn but loved.

Sometimes these Barbies rescued the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (who my daughters always thought had 'problems' because they resided in the sewars). They were constantly rescuing Ninja Turtles! Some of those Barbies really kicked butt.  While their clean and pretty counterparts never got dirty, they rarely got played with either. They were the great 'untouched.'

One night I heard my youngest daughter earnestly explaining to the 'fancy' Barbie in her room that she was just like the other Barbies outside, but she'd made a different choice for her life! Out of the mouths of babes! Their 'porch' Barbies or their princess dolls, it's all came down to a matter of CHOICE.  Choice is what I want for my daughters.

As parents we have the ability to take the 'princess mania' and turn it into lessons on women with power. Sometimes it's power within their own personal lives, sometimes it's power in a professional life, sometimes it's a combination of both.

Not every princess waits for the same Prince Charming (or any Prince Charming at all.) We can give our girls options, choices. Kind of like the books for kids where they can choose how the story progresses on their own.

I say "Give a girl a princess doll and one day she may grow up to rule the world." Not such a bad thing to teach our daughters (or our sons)! What I want for my daughters more than anything else is a choice, their choice, of what their future will be.

Read more about the Disney Princess Week and opinion at The Huffington Post's article by Lori Day and co-written by Michele Sinisgalli-Yulo of Princess Free Zone Or pick up Peggy Orenstein's New York Times Bestseller "Cinderella Ate My Daughter. These offer valid points of view on 'princess mania' in our society and how it effects our daughters (and yes, our sons).

Be sure to visit one of my favorite blogs, Princess Free Zone. Please comment on what you think about the Disney Princess 'franchise' and how it effects your children, or doesn't. Disagreement welcome, rudeness not.

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