While prowling through the detritus at the closing Borders in Downtown Crossing recently, I found a book called "Cinderella Ate My Daughter." Who could ignore such a title? So, judging the book by its pink cover, I bought it (at 70% off, thank you very much). The author, Peggy Orenstein, contends that the rise of the "girlie-girl" Princess culture has significant negative ramifications for girls because it ends up fostering premature sexualization and narcissism, and other nasty stuff. I couldn't possibly accurately summarize it here, but it was definitely food for thought. She does pull some punches, but I found her chapter on Toddlers in Tiaras riveting.
The book has been out for a while, so I'm not here to review it, but it did get me thinking. Ever since I was pregnant with the Duchess, I have been petrified that she - and her little sister Honey - will develop an eating disorder, start cutting themselves, take drugs, or run wild and make their mama cry. Making this worse have been moms of boys, who have no problem admitting to me that they are glad they don't have to deal with any of that. (Even the book's author says virtually the same thing). But I hadn't thought about how "princess" stuff would feed into that.
Even more confusing is the fact that the Duchess isn't really a princess. Indeed, I never really liked the term princess anyway - in my mind, "princess" is an ironic term used to describe stereotypical teenaged girls of a certain socioeconomic group that have very entitled attitudes toward money and possessions. I called my daughter the Duchess as a riff on the princess thing, plus there is a famous historical duchess who shares her name, so I thought it would be cute.
The Duchess is not really into dress up or fancy dresses, unless they are blue, her favorite color. But she is not a tomboy a la Shiloh Jolie-Pitt, either. She loves to play with dolls (and even "nursed" them when I was nursing honey), but is equally happy to play with trains or trucks. Her favorite birthday present was a pair of rainboots that say "Fire Chief" on them. She loves princess bandaids, but hasn't watched any of the shows or movies. Her favorite TV show, God help me, is the sickly-sweet Caillou. She will not let me put her hair in ponytails but will occasionally wear a barette. And the Duchess flat-out refuses to wear anything but pants, but will wear cute little tops with them.
I really didn't do anything in particular to encourage or discourage "girlieness." (Indeed, I only found out about the aversion to skirts and dresses and adorable Mini Boden tights after I bought a bunch and took the tags off). And I can't say that I have been one of those moms who encourages a healthy disrespect for authority - I am all about listening to mama. I like to think that she will always make up her own mind about things, but maybe I am heaping a lot of expectations onto a three-year-old brain.